Coming of age with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

John Hughes made this film in 1986, nine years before I was born. That’s correct, this is the unsought entry of a twenty five year old with no real credit to analyze Hughes at all as it was written while drinking Dr. Pepper and listening to “LoFi beats to Chill and Study to”. But besides praising the film, I want to outline how its themes and internal world cater to a worldview, specifically in regards to mental health, that I feel is important for others in my generation to think about.

I first saw this film when I was eight years old. And I won’t pretend to have understood it. (Eight Year Old taking notes on an etch a sketch). It’s ostensibly a travelogue. And it’s engaging to watch three teens live in bliss as they parade around Chicago in a Ferrari enjoying the freedom of their youth. It’s fantastic, but comparatively more realistic and eyeopening to a kid who is at other times watching Disney Channel Originals. So when I first came across Ferris Bueller, it was my first glimpse of escapism in the human experience.

As I repeatedly watched this film and had more birthdays, my attention shifted to the characters. I spent my teenage upbringing admiring the cool slyness of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) and his magnetic persona. He’s written as the epitome of cool. And as he is the titular character, I watched it over and over like a superhero movie trying to encapsulate his powers. After all, every kid wants to be cool, it’s all good.

Then i reached the age that he was in the movie, a high school senior. I was making decisions, life was more complex than an 80s drama. I had experienced loss, emotional confusion. I was more capable of criticism and I had a less myopic viewing of this film. And it takes no genius to realize this about the story, an abundance of high minded reviews will condescend you about how the story is in fact about the supporting character, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck). He is in actuality, the one to watch and encapsulate. And it’s because of Hughes’ world building that I didn’t see this as the primary message. Cameron is the one with the emotional conflict, he shows signs of depression and anxiety coping with a difficult home dynamic and pressures of society as he approaches entering the world after high school. The film is filled with entertaining plot. The near busts and evasions distract you from this much more in depth storyline. It’s perfect. Cameron comes off as the foil, always presenting concern to the cool guy’s pursuit of fun. It’s a camouflaged character dynamic that I now think about almost everyday.

I’ve become so inspired by male depression portrayed in film and literature. We all know the stigmas and social conditions towards masculinity and mental health so I won’t list the problems. But this movie perhaps captured it with the only story tool able to convey the matter, scale. Depression is something all people, not just males, must size down in order to participate in this hectic game of life. It is always forced to be the smallest part of one’s story as it could possibly be. And John Hughes does exactly this with Cameron Frye. It’s fascinating to examine his juxtaposition to Ferris, a guy all men want to be, while Cameron literally and figuratively sits in the backseat.

The story’s iconic climax of broken garage glass gives Cameron the emotional outlook to his solace. And his own characteristics are credible for his triumph. But what inspires me most about the film is to be able to examine the friendship of Ferris and Cameron and their dynamic. Ferris, granted with the ancillary need for transportation, pushes Cameron to outgo himself. It was with this realization that I left high school on a high of emotional transformation. I no longer solely admired the guy rebelling the establishment and kissing the girl, but I became a person in pursuit of disintegrating reticence in my peers. And while other films have given me similar and perhaps higher hanging realizations, this one provided me with the life changing value of friendship and how imperative it is to mental health and supporting those in need of a push.

And as I’ve strived a lot to make myself a resource to all, ‘close’ is a word of criticality. Unintended to claim myself as a self indulgent savior of my peers, I often find myself conversing with acquainted guys around me about depression or other issues as it’s more than welcome and certainly necessary. But a problem that arises is I fail to forge a friendship dynamic like the one described above. It takes a unique rapport to achieve the same kind of breakthrough. So I challenge those who might feel like a Ferris looking at a Cameron to make the same call.

I am forever grateful to have grown up on this film. Stories are good what else can I say.

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