Monday, February 9, 2015


"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986)
Written & Directed by John Hughes

   Have you ever had a film that you're very familiar with suddenly play so differently to you that it made you re-think the whole thing?
This happened to me recently with "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".
Like many of you, I have seen this film a lot since it first came out in 1986.
For me, it's "Comfort Food Cinema". Nothing particularly important, but fun and nostalgic.
   The last time I watched it, I had an interesting theory: What if Ferris was only visible to certain people?
The more I thought I about it, the more it made sense. Before sharing my thoughts, I decided: Better search the Net to see if anyone else has already had this idea.
Type: "Ferris Bueller Theories" into your search engine. You'll discover many blogged ideas that Ferris is never actually in the movie. He is a character that exists in Cameron's head. Each theory I read went into different explanations. Most people compare the film to "Fight Club".
Great. Not only is this NOT an original idea, I'm apparently the LAST guy to think it.
   "The Fight Club Theory" is not exactly what I thought, so I am going to share with you what I felt was happening.
My theory is that Ferris Bueller is a Ghost, or more appropriately: a Guardian Angel.
   Here's my pitch: Ferris was very sick once. He never got well and died. His sister Jeanie feels she has lived in his shadow ever since.
The film begins with Jeanie Bueller pretending to be sick to play hooky from high school. This act works, as she has been doing this a lot lately. She has done it so much that  Mr. Rooney (Dean of students) has noticed. Rooney spends his day tracking down Jeanie to expose her for the fraud that she is. In the meanwhile, she fantasizes that Ferris is still alive, playing sick and being hunted by Rooney. (We will return to Jeanie's Day Off in a bit...)
(Cameron and Sloane's Day Off...)  
   Our main story is about Ferris Bueller's best friend in life, Cameron. He and his mother are verbally, mentally and potentially physically abused, by his father. On the same day that Jeanie has her "day off", so does Cameron. He steals his father's Ferrari, picks up his friend Sloane (Ferris's ex) from school and visits various places in Chicago. All of this while the ghost of Ferris guides the pair through their journey as a guardian angel.
   During their busy day, Ferris, Cameron and Sloane do not behave like teenagers. They do not smoke, drink, swear or have sex. This is because Ferris was not a teenager when he died. He was much younger.
   Every thing they do that day, is something they have done before with Ferris, when he was alive:
Among them, visit the Sears tower, eat at a fancy restaurant, attend a Chicago Cubs game and check out the Art Institute of Chicago.
   Some of these excursions were school field trips that the trio attended as youths. When they are holding hands with a group of children at the Art Institute, this moment is not actually happening. This is a memory of a field trip that they had as children.
   At the end of their day, Cameron comes to a cross roads in his life. He kills the object that his father loves instead of his mother and himself: The Ferrari. By deciding to stand up to his father when he comes home from work and no longer live his life in fear, Cameron becomes a man and Ferris is no longer needed. Ferris leaves.
   As Ferris says goodbye to Sloane, he looks at her watch, discovers the time and knows that he must get home. Jeanie is about to be caught by Rooney.
Sloane's: "He's gonna marry me someday" line is a memory of something she once said, long ago, when she had puppy love for the young Ferris Bueller.
(Now, back to Jeanie's Day Off...)
   When Rooney finally confronts Jeanie, she has a fantasy that she is covering for Ferris. This is the moment that she lets go of the pain that her brother's death has given her. At this moment, Jeanie throws Rooney's wallet. This awakens her dog, which attacks and kills Rooney. As Rooney's spirit is leaving his own death scene, a school bus full of students pull over to offer him a ride. The school bus is the cue to the viewer that Rooney did not survive the dog attack, as it is many hours after the school day has ended. This bus is his personal Hell. After all, what could be worse for Rooney than forever being on a crowded school bus full of students who hate him.
   Before I move on, I would like to point out that Ferris quotes John Lennon in the film and also performs "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles.
Based on song lyrics and interpreted symbolism of some of The Beatles album covers, many people have an ongoing conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney is dead. If you are not familiar with this theory, that's a whole other box of worms for you to open.
   By giving nods to The Beatles, it suggests that we are supposed to believe that Ferris is dead like we are supposed to believe that Paul is dead. The member of The Beatles that Ferris quotes was the only member of the band that was actually dead at the time that the film was made.

   There you have it. My big "Ferris Bueller is a Ghost" theory.
Now, you ask me: Do I really believe everything that I just shared with you?
No. I do not.
I created a cockamamie theory out of a trail of clues that I thought could make a familiar film a new experience if someone watched it with these thoughts in mind
   The reality is this: For my theory to be true, John Hughes would had to have done this on purpose. I don't think that he did. I think John Hughes was faithful to being himself: a writer and director that made fun comedies about teenagers in the 80s.
   The mistake that I made when writing this, is that I broke the first and second rule of
Ferris Bueller's Ghost Club:
You do NOT TALK about Ferris Bueller's Ghost Club!

 (Artwork by Isaac Keith Martinez)

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