This is a great day. And I’m flooded with gratitude, as John Hughes’s masterwork played no small part in leading me to screenwriting. But why do we still care about it? Why exactly does it continue to take hold and resonate? Is it the joyride in a sports car? A rogue song-and-dance number on a parade float? Some improbable parental-deception tactics? Well, these things are exactly what the picture isn’t about. It’s about the soul-sickness of an abused and neglected teenager and the extent to which a hero figure is necessary to mitigate it, and we do the movie and Hughes’s memory no favors by forgetting this.
The aforementioned teen, of course, is Ferris’s go-to pal, Cameron, and the film’s staying power draws less from Ferris and more from Cameron’s formidable depth. Is it possible that Hughes was presenting something intricate about competition and rebellion in the Ferris/Cameron relationship? And did he purposefully cast a nearly thirty-year old actor, Alan Ruck, to provide the gravitas needed to effectively say something complex about adolescent self-image? Cameron, of course, is the emotional core of the movie, without which Ferris Bueller is less an idol and little more than a cartoon-cutout. But it may take more than a hero, perhaps even a fantasy projection, to help Cameron. One theory of the film goes so far as to say that Ferris Bueller doesn’t even exist. And it’s not at all stupid.