The ‘real’ Ferris Bueller mourns John Hughes

Posted by · 11:22 am · August 13th, 2009

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day OffIf anything good can be said to have from such a sad event, the premature passing of John Hughes has at least inspired an unusually high standard of obituary-writing. The personal connection still felt by an entire generation with his films has manifested itself in a number of heartfelt, idiosyncratic tributes from a wide range of voices.

As someone too young to have experienced the Hughes teen phenomenon first-hand — I was in diapers when he made his directing debut with “Sixteen Candles” — I’ve gained a lot of understanding this week as to why his work means so much to so many, and why that makes him an important filmmaker. While I’ve enjoyed several of his films, I’m looking forward to revisiting them from this perspective.

Meanwhile, the most interesting tribute I’ve read yet comes from an unlikely source: Washington lawyer Edward McNally, who grew up and attended high school with Hughes, and is rumored to be the inspiration for Hughes most beloved creation, Ferris Bueller.

McNally spends some time dwelling on the parallels between his and Bueller’s teenage shenanigans, including skiving off school (he bunked 27 times in one semester, to Bueller’s nine) and joyriding in his dad’s sportscar (ineptly reversing the odometer afterwards). But the real substance of the article comes when he delves into the influence “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” continues to exert on his own life, and in the broader cultural spectrum.

Of course, McNally mentions Barbara Bush’s famous quoting of a Bueller mantra in a 1990 college graduation address, but I particularly liked his supposed application of the film’s philosophies in his own profession:

Whether or not we inspired Ferris, there’s no doubt his Day Off in 1986 left a lasting legacy for me and many others. Some trial lawyers attempt to channel “The Art of War.” Or lessons from the life of Genghis Khan. But the Tao of Ferris has its own wisdom. Hughes had Ferris talk directly to the camera. To us. He says, deal with your fear. Believe in yourself. Make sick days count. And: Do you realize that if we played by the rules, right now we’d be in gym?

In my service as a federal prosecutor and as a defense attorney, one key lesson from Ferris is his repeated message to his despondent buddy Cameron. Your current situation doesn’t have to be your fate. There’s always another way.

Great piece. Read the rest here.

→ 4 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

4 responses so far

  • 1 8-13-2009 at 11:42 am

    Stuart said...

    Did he really define an entire generation or just that sector of the population that’s prevails in the media (white, middle-class)? I wasn’t born at the height of Hughe’s popularity, but I’m having a hard time believing his films didn’t speak about an entire generation and not just a specific demographic.

  • 2 8-13-2009 at 11:44 am

    Stuart said...

    Sorry, shoulda proofread before posting.


    Did he really define an entire generation or just that sector of the population that makes up a large portion of the media (white, middle-class)? I wasn’t born at the height of Hughe’s popularity, but I’m having a hard time believing his films spoke to an entire generation and not just a specific demographic.

  • 3 8-13-2009 at 2:12 pm

    a-mad said...

    I disagree that he spoke only to a specific demographic. I grew up at the height of Hughes’s prolific film output. I saw Sixteen Candles when I was 14, Breakfast Club and Ferris when I was 17, Pretty in Pink when I was 18…. you get my drift. He spoke to teenagers of all races, and especially all classes. Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful were specifically written to address how difficult it was to be a teenager and deal with the trauma of class divisions in high school – the haves and the have-nots, those who conformed, and those who were different.

    I also don’t feel his films were specifically aimed (or embraced) by only white middle-class kids. Its true that most of his main characters were caucasian, but I don’t ever remember teens of other ethnicities feeling like his films never spoke to them, either. The films he wrote seemed to deal with universal problems that any teen may have dealt with at the time.

    Aside from the challenges facing teens that he often tackled in his films, he also nailed everything about that era. The clothes, the music, the attitude. He nailed it. That’s another reason why you have so many people the last few days exclaiming such things as “he spoke to me!”, “he understood me!” or “he defined my generation!”…. He had an uncanny ability to capture “time” as we knew it back then, and for that, he’s been justly recognized in the wake of his death.

  • 4 8-13-2009 at 2:38 pm

    RichardA said...

    I am as far as one can be from the kids of john hughes movie except for the age…i was in the tail end of that generation. And I can relate to them, very much.
    See, a movie transcends.