Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The philosophy behind 80's teen movies - Ferris Bueller's day off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - 1986

Matthew Broderick (Ferris), Allan Ruck (Cameron), Jeffrey Jones (Ed), Mia Sara (Sloane)


High school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides to skip school on a nice spring day by faking an illness to his parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett), then encourages his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and his pessimistic best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) to spend the day in Chicago as one of their last flings before they head off to different colleges. Ferris persuades Cameron to let them use his father's prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible to drive into the city.  Only two people are not convinced by Ferris's deception: his often sarcastic sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), outraged at Ferris's ability to defy authority easily, and the school's Dean of Students, Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who believes Ferris to be truant.

Ferris and his friends arrive downtown and leave the Ferrari with two garage attendants, who drive off in it, and take it for a joyride a short time later. Ferris, Sloane and Cameron enjoy many sights of the city, including a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, visits to the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as well as taking part in the Von Steuben Day Parade, considered the German-American event of the year, where Ferris lip-syncs to "Danke Schoen" and The Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout" while riding on a parade float.

At the end of the day, Ferris and his friends retrieve the Ferrari, but discover on the way home that nearly two hundred miles have been added to the odometer. This sends Cameron into a panic.  After calming him down, Ferris comes up with a plan to run the car's engine in reverse inside Cameron's father's hillside garage, hoping to undo the mileage on the odometer. When they realize this is not working, Cameron unleashes his pent-up anger against his father, kicking and damaging the front of the Ferrari. Despite Ferris' offer to take the blame, Cameron still plans to "take the heat" and admit his actions to his father.

Ferris walks Sloane home, before realizing he must get home within five minutes. He then races through the backyards of his neighbourhood and succeeds in getting home before his parents.

Psycho/Social/Philosophical analysis:

It's easy to understand the reason we identify with the movie and it's main carachter. Despite  being irresponsible and promoting transgression,  Ferris fulfils, with his little adventure, a desire that exists within us all.  Most of us watch the movie hoping Ferris gets away without being caught, and love the "happy ending" of the film, when that is exactly what happens. As once said by the philosopher Sheryl Crow: "All I wanna do is have some fun, I have a feeling, I'not the only one". Miss Crow is definitely not the only one, neither is Ferris.

Because of its message, this film could have been written and produced by german philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, it synthesises much of what Mr. Nietzsche preached.  For Nietzsche the world is not reason and order, but rather irrationality and disorder.  The only true reality comes from living and experiencing life through living the moment.

The success of "Bueller's Day Off" comes from the simplicity of its message. Ferris only follows an instinct that exists within us all and picks one day to "challenge the system." For Nietzsche, morality (follow the rules) is the easy path to follow, it is comfortable to choose this path and abstain from the full authenticity of life.  At some point, however, the experience of living the moment becomes necessary, this is what is shown in the movie (we cheer for Ferris because we believe he "deserves" to live that moment). When the movie ends, we get the impression that in the the next day everything will be back to "normal", and Ferris will resume acting the way society expects him to.  It may be true, but the memories of that day will be with him forever.

Besides the strong connection with Nietzsche, the film also reflects the thinking of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterised by "ataraxia" — peace and freedom from fear — and "aponia" —the absence of pain — and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.  Modern followers of Epicurus include jamaican philosopher Bob Marley who once said “love the life you live, live the life you love.”

In "Bueller's Day Off," Ferris shows us that "yes, we can."

This is the second text of the series "The philosophy behind 80's teen movies", to read the firs one, based on the movie "Can't Buy Me Love", click HERE


  1. Love this! Can't wait to see which movie is next. Sixteen Candles? Breakfast Club? Pretty in Pink? - all my favorites.

  2. YES WE CAN!
    ..Pure genius.. Still a classic film today..