“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This very famous, oft-quoted (especially in high school yearbooks) life observation comes not from Confucius but a fictional ’80s teenager playing hookey.
Although dated in its clothing and pop culture references, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , directed by the late, great John Hughes, remains a beloved film and cross-generational favorite many years later (even spawning some sequel rumors earlier this summer) because of its timeless theme of rebelling against social norms. In his own way, Ferris Bueller is the teenage liberator. He is our subconscious, inner child and id — everything we want to do or say without fear of consequences.
The film was not the first to break the “fourth wall,” but it remains one of the most recognizable uses of the technique. Ferris directly encourages his audience to live life, get into trouble and learn from their mistakes while they still can. Every time he hatches a crazy scheme, Ferris addresses his audience, keeping them along for the ride.
In just one day, in fact, Ferris (and we, the viewers, through him, in the movie’s two-ish hours) learned some of life’s biggest lessons:
- It takes a lot of time, commitment and planning to get what you want.
- There are always going to be people who are jealous of your independence and want to bring you down.
- You cannot learn everything in a classroom.
- Looking at art and reading about it are two very different things.
- Social status gets you a seat at a restaurant faster.
- Having a friend explore life with you is more enjoyable than doing it alone.
- Putting a car in reverse does not roll back the odometer.
- Never have a glass garage.
- Stay fit; some day, you might need to run if you’re pressed for time.
(And, of course, a not-so-important lesson: Everyone loves the song “Twist and Shout” in a parade.)
While Ferris is definitely one of the more irresponsible heroes in movie history, we can still learn a thing or two about responsibility from him, including that it’s actually more work and energy to not get caught than to do the “right” thing. What the film doesn’t really show (which I think would be hilarious) is Ferris’ preparations the night before his day off. He must have spent the entire night rigging the dummy and recording himself, as well as countless hours of his life trying to rig the school computer system to dismiss his absences, all for one day of glory.
Amusing, yes, but imagine what he could have done by putting as much effort into something productive as he did into rebelling — more sleep, less stress, and he probably could have been school president or something (after all, pretty much everyone thinks he’s a righteous dude) — but then we’d have a film more like Election (1999). Not to sound cliché, but Ferris gave me the confidence that I really could do anything if I put my mind to it (him, and my parents, but Ferris was cooler).
Today, the film lives on in myriad pop culture references, from Family Guy and The Simpsons to Easy A and a band named after a water tower message. Perhaps what’s elevated Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to its cult status (moreso than Hughes’ other films) is that it differed from his normal plotlines of sad, confused teenagers looking for love. Ferris Bueller wasn’t confused at all — in fact, he was too smart for his own good, one of those characters who we all strive to be because he makes it all look so easy.