Ferris Bueller’s Day of Life Lessons: Part I

Recently, a get-together at my apartment resulted in a heated debate at 1am. I consider any party that doesn’t end this way a failure, so I was reveling in the alcohol-fueled clash of opinions—because what’s better than a bunch of smart people trying to argue after ingesting booze? The topic of debate: whether it’s better to read the book before seeing the movie, and if it’s worth reading the book if you’ve seen the movie already.

I could go off on a tangent for days about my opinion here—especially since the book in question was Harry Potter. Y’all already know how I feel about Harry Potter. (I went to Harry Potter world over Christmas break. My cat is named Minerva McGonagall. I’m going to the UK in a week and will seek out all HP-related places. You read between the lines).

But I’m more interested in the Debate Inception going on—the debate within the debate. The subtext of our discussion was whether or not RE-reading books or RE-watching movies is worthwhile. I won’t hide my opinion from you guys (because clearly that’s what I’m here to do), I love re-reading and re-watching. I think you always get something new out of the experience, no matter how many times through it is. I believe YOU are different with each watching or reading, so your interpretation is different.

I’m getting chills.


Ferris Bueller, You’re My Hero

fake parents

So, on to my pop-culture tidbit du jour. When I was a kid, my sister Em (who is 11 years older than me, which I find relevant here for some reason) exposed me to perhaps the greatest entertainment experience of my young life: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was the early 90’s, so it was taped on VHS from a showing on HBO, and was followed by a Billy Joel concert.

It should really still come packaged this way, let’s be honest.

I loved everything about that movie. I’ve seen it probably upwards of 50 times—I watch it every time I’m sick, I watch it when I need something on in the background, I watch it because I can quote every single line of dialogue. Every. One.

And I still laugh every time Ferris plays the “bodily functions” disk on his keyboard. Yup, I’m 5 years old.

Before I get lost in an unfettered love letter to this movie (and John Hughes because—uh—genius) I’ll cut to the real reason I’m writing about Ferris. As any artist or comedian knows, the best creation is that which reflects real life. I have a deep appreciation and love for this movie because there were—ARE—so many aspects of it that reached deeply into my life and spoke the truth of it all.


Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?


The movie just oozes with characters who are relatable—the genius of John Hughes. Who doesn’t want to be Ferris? Goofy and carefree, confident enough to hijack a parade float and sing “Twist and Shout” (I still did not know for several decades that this parade is because of the extremely large population of Polish people in Chicago—SEE??? You view it differently every time!).

Who hasn’t been Sloan Peterson, sitting in an excruciatingly boring class, wishing your brain would just shut off for a while? I can even relate a little to Mr. Rooney, now that I’m a teacher, on his endless quest to prove that this mischievous student is up to no good.

I’d like to think I’m way cooler than Ed Rooney though.

But the two characters I can most relate to were always Ferris’ sister Jeanie and his best friend Cameron Frye. I would have love to be Ferris, I think every teenager dreams of that boundless self-confidence and fun-loving spirit. But my reality lay in the insecurities and frustrations of Cameron and Jeanie.


Jeanie? Is that you? I can’t see that far…


Jeanie’s the younger, brattier, under appreciated Bueller sibling. Ferris gets away with murder because he’s cute and charismatic and fearless. Jeanie could be bleeding out her eyes and still have to go to school—as she colorfully explains in the first scene. Jeanie also spends a large chunk of the movie obsessed with convincing everyone that her brother isn’t really sick, only to be thwarted over and over.

Jeanie Charlier

At the climax of the movie, Jeanie meets Charlie Sheen (I don’t think his character has a name, and really it’s just Charlie Sheen playing Charlie Sheen, so we’ll stick with that). In the best of his lines, as she complains about Ferris’ antics, Charlie Sheen tells her “Your problem is you. Maybe you should spend a little less time worrying about your brother and a little more time worrying about yourself”.

Jeanie then tells him, in beautifully honest hilarity, to put his thumb up his butt.

As one of four siblings, I could immediately relate to Jeanie’s desire to be seen and heard. To be recognized not as “the sister of Ferris” but as her own interesting and valuable self. I think any teenager or twenty-something can relate to this struggle. Ferris knows who he is, or at least thinks he does, but Jeanie does not. She’s so consumed with hating her brother’s cheerful likeability that she hasn’t figured herself out yet. I’ve spent a good deal of my young adult years (and some adult ones) this way, comparing myself to others and wondering why I wasn’t as cool as…, as smart as…, as pretty as…and ultimately wasting a lot of time.

It’s hugely exhausting, comparing yourself to others all the time and constantly trying to be like them. I’ve been procrastinating on writing a new post for this very reason. I had such a phenomenal reaction to my first, how could I live up to it? What if what I chose to write about the second time around wasn’t as good? I know other excellent writers, am I as good as them? What did the people WANT?!?!

I might become a one-hit-wonder—of bloggers!

(This seems a silly fear because I’ve previously written 2 blogs that got very little attention and that I quit writing after only a few posts. I will instead consider myself like Eric Clapton or Phil Collins—flitting from band to band and finding some success with each. I’m definitely as cool and talented as Clapton and Collins. Just call me Claptins…Collton…Claptosito…ok I’ll stop)

I wrote 3-4 “maybe” posts that I didn’t love much, so I didn’t post them. Then I wrote this one because I wanted to. Ferris Bueller is a movie I love, that I wanted to talk about in connection with my own life.




But still, why should he get to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants? Why should everything work out for him? What makes him so goddamn special?

I feel insane pressure in this world of Facebook updates and Twitter feeds to do what other people want me to do. To BE whoever other people want me to BE. Even as a teacher and improviser–hell, just as a PERSON. It’s kind of an innate part of being a performer, though (and I consider teaching a kind of “performance”), you want people to like, enjoy, and connect to what you put out there. Anyone who’s done improv knows the insane pressure to make people laugh—and feeling of complete, confidence-shattering insecurity when the audience is silent.

I’m guilty of this in the relationship arena as well (yes, I said arena. Like Hunger Games style. How’s that for a psychological insight?). On one very memorable occasion in high school, a guy I was SUPER into said he liked when girls wore Roxy shirts. I therefore dragged my mom to TJ Maxx and bought a Roxy shirt, which I promptly wore the next day, and many days thereafter, in an attempt to grab his attention. My logic wasn’t that sound at 14.

He did tell me he liked my “Survivor” logo-inspired hoodie from Salem, Massachusetts a year later though!

I’m still guilty of this type of behavior. Trying to say the funniest quip or line among improv friends. Trying to wear something cute to impress someone I like. Trying to be the most inspiring, Dead Poets Society teacher. But it’s no coincidence that my most well-received blog post was the one I was brutally honest for. That my best date was the one I spent less than 30 seconds “fixing” my hair before. That the funniest lines I say on stage are the ones I blurt out without thinking.

That the best opportunities in my life have happened when I wasn’t TRYING so damn hard.


If I’m going to get caught it is NOT going to be by a guy like that

abe froman matred

They don’t tell you as a kid that just being yourself is one of the biggest struggles you’ll deal with. Many people run pell-mell in the opposite direction and I think some are sadly afraid to be themselves—because maybe they don’t know who that self is. I keep bringing improv into this because I think it’s particularly easy to notice these habits on stage. It’s incredibly vulnerable to put yourself out there on stage, at the risk of belly-flopping—but the worst feeling is never going out there at all.

While Ferris had a highly elaborate mannequin-on-string system for not getting caught on his day off, he spends the day simply chasing after fun. He sees and opportunity and grabs it because it will be fun and exciting—borrowing the Ferrari, singing in the parade, running around Chicago. He plunges forward with reckless abandon—this is what Jeanie envies in him and why I relate to her.

Jeanie seems to realize this by the end of the movie—that she can give in to that reckless abandon too. She’s the one who stands up to Rooney and gets Ferris out of trouble, with that fantastic little wink at the end that, face it, no one saw coming. In our hyper-aware age of stating our opinions to the world 95 times a day, it’s so easy to lose sight of what you really want and who you really are–especially when you feel alone and unappreciated in the world. But I like to think Jeanie comes to the conclusion that I’ve come to—it’s always better to just be yourself. Play the music you want, be nerdy about the things you love, say whatever comes to your brain on stage, wear the clothes you want to wear, eat gluten if you freakin’ want to.

Then, at the very least, you’re enjoying yourself, even if no one else approves.

Plus, Jeanie got the car, Ferris just got a computer. And she went Dirty Dancing with one Mr. P. Swayze.


This will be a “to be continued” for me. My connection to Cameron Frye leads us down a completely different primrose path (kudos to anyone catching all these references throughout by the way) and this is already quite long. I’ll post the second half later this week before my long international hiatus.


As always, I hope you liked this and got something out of reading it. But as I previously mentioned, I just wrote it for me.


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