It’s been 30 years since Ferris Bueller took the day off. The film is one of my favorites of all time, and Ferris and Cameron are both some of my favorite characters in all of fiction. They’re sort of two sides of a coin, and both are highly relatable to me. They’re both really flawed in a lot of ways. Ferris especially has a lot going against him. He lies constantly, pulls off truly heinous stunts (all of which are sort of enviable for their successful panache), hacks the school computer system to doctor his records, and generally does all sorts of things that are technically idiotic. Cameron on the other hand is just pathetic. The guy would rather lay in bed complaining about being “sick” than actually getting out and doing anything. Did you ever notice that both Ferris and Cameron pretend to be sick for different reasons? One so that he can have fun, and the other so that he can’t, respectively?
Anyway, I think there is a lot of good to be said about these characters as well. Ferris is a true inspiration to me in ways, because he knows how to have a load of fun without being mean spirited about it, or with the use of any drug. While in some ways he flagrantly rejects responsibility, he actually seems to be a fairly responsible person at heart. He insists on taking the blame for the destruction of the Ferrari (which Cameron maturely refuses), and emphasizes his intention of marrying Sloane. Ferris’s wisdom in the bigger picture is something to aspire to. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and what ultimately matters.
The famous line from the film that sums up its message is spoken by Ferris: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I think this is erroneously taken by some to mean that you should live every day like Bueller’s day off, partying it up and doing things that push boundaries. I think this is mistaken. Even Bueller doesn’t live that way every day, and part of the reason he takes that day off is to enjoy himself a bit before his life changes, and it becomes more difficult to do something like that. I think what Bueller is actually saying is that you should enjoy what’s around you wherever you are in life. Instead of being a mopey Cameron who lazes days away in self-pity, you should take advantage of all the wonders around you while you can. I think the message of the film is actually not too far away from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, in which (spoiler alert) a dead woman looks on people who are alive and laments how little they treasure the many extraordinarily beautiful things they are able to do and see. When she asks if anyone truly values the life they live, the response is “No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”
Maybe Bueller is a saint or a poet. Or maybe he’s just an ordinary fellow who is able to recognize the extraordinary in life when he sees it. The most foolish sort of people can’t see what pleasure can be found in simply attending a baseball game, going to an art museum, eating at a French restaurant, or driving a beautiful car. They take these things for granted, and would rather complain of the most menial discomfort rather than savor the fantastic. Cameron tells Ferris before the parade scene that he hasn’t seen anything good all day. Actually, most of the things they had done up until that point would not be on the short list of fun things to do for a lot of people. It’s the way that Ferris sees things differently that allows him to have a ball whether he’s studying great art or watching the Cubs. In a world of people that only think getting slammed, looking for the next lay, or taking a vacation is the only way to get out and “have some fun,” Bueller challenges us all by having a legendarily fun day doing what is perceived as the mundane.
Finding the fantastic in the mundane? Perhaps Bueller is a saint of sorts after all.