As in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.
My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!
B is for Bueller. Ferris Bueller.
I must have watched the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at least a thousand times as a kid. The story of a privileged teenager from the Chicago suburbs who decides to ditch school and really make it count is one of my favorite homages to the city, and colored much of the way I knew it growing up.
I was 8 years old when the movie first came out, and although I can’t recall the first time I actually watched it, I’m pretty sure most of my peers had a similar experience. While John Hughes wrote a lot of ’80s movies about teenagers in the fictional Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois, the suburb I lived in (Elmhurst) struck me as fairly similar to Ferris’s world of nice houses, nice families, and droning teachers who could put you to sleep talking about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.
There wasn’t necessarily anything to rebel against, except the whole idea of being forced to attend school on such a beautiful day. Especially when the excitement of the city of Chicago called to you, and a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California was just sitting in your BFF’s garage…
While I may never have impersonated Abe Frohman, the Sausage King of Chicago, in order to get a table at a fancy restaurant, nor stolen anyone’s fine automobile (much less posed as a parent on the phone with my high school’s principal), I did admire Ferris’s chutzpah. Not to mention his old-school phone and answering machine tricks. Kids today will never have to be so clever in order to get out of gym class!
Hell, do they still insist on mandatory gym classes anymore? Back in my day, the only way you could get out of them was by joining an after-school sport. Luckily, bowling and badminton counted, as did being involved in the school’s marching band. I actually got varsity letters for these activities, proving what a total nerd I was.
I think part of Ferris’s charm is the fact that while he’s shown breaking all kinds of laws (stealing a car, impersonating a celebrity, hacking into the school’s computers to change his number of sick days from 9 to 2…), his basic desire to skip school is a pretty harmless one. Who hasn’t wanted to cut class? Who hasn’t actually done it, when they thought they could get away with it?
Furthermore, he doesn’t indulge in playing video games and hanging out at the local pizza joint, as his school’s principal believes. Instead, he’s enjoying Chicago’s rich arts and cultural scenes, as well as attending a sporting event (Go Cubbies!), admiring the excellent view from the top of the Sears Tower, sampling some of Chicago’s fantastic food, and commandeering a parade float to pay tribute to the city’s German immigrants. In short, he’s getting a different kind of education while he’s skipping school… and isn’t that actually a much better way to learn about the world around you?
This is a quote I can identify with, from an AMC interview with John Hughes, who wrote and directed the movie:
“Chicago is what I am. A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny–nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”
And enjoy it, they do. Or, anyway, I still do. Whenever I feel a little bummed, I love watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to see all the little bits and pieces of Chicago that make the city so special, and remind myself that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
P.S. In case you were wondering, Abe Frohman isn’t really the Sausage King of Chicago. But apparently a dude named Adolph Luetgert was, back in the 1890s – until he was accused of murdering his wife, anyway. I guess it’s true what they say about not asking how they make the sausage…
Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z
Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win!