Bueller. Ferris Bueller. #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs 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.”

"Life. Copenhagen central train station." image by Flickr user Bill Smith.
“Life. Copenhagen central train station.” image by Flickr user Bill Smith.

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…

Additional Resources

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Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

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San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

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  • Laura Roberts

    Thanks, Rebecca! I’ve also heard that John Cusack made “High Fidelity” as a love letter to Chicago, though I’m not sure it quite works… I mean, it’s mostly a movie about horrible breakups and self-absorption, so that’s weird.

  • Amy Putkonen

    So many things to comment on here! First of all, I graduated from HS in 1986 so this movie is a homage to my generation. I loved it. Secondly, my daughter is now in HS and she just got done with gym. It was actually WORSE than when I was in school! If she missed a day, she had to make it up and they actually cared how hard she worked. It was her hardest class, for sure. As you maybe can tell, she isn’t a real lover of physical fitness! When I was in school, if you showed up you got an A. I never really skipped school except on Senior skip day. I was a bit of a geek. Nice post. I love your idea of selling your A-Z from last year. I was thinking that it might be fun to put mine into a book when its done. Why not?

    • Laura Roberts

      Wow! I thought it was bad enough when I was a kid, as Illinois was one of maybe 3 states that still had mandatory PE classes while it seemed like everyone else got away with that sedentary lifestyle. In retrospect, it was probably good that they forced us to stay active, especially since our gym classes were a little more varied than the usual basketball, volleyball, baseball, and the ever-awful “cardiovascular fitness days” where you just had to run laps for an hour. I remember doing some archery, getting to jump over hurdles, and even some gymnastics.

  • JazzFeathers

    I hav enever seen this film, though I remember seeing the trailer back in the day.
    It sounds a lot like a 1980s movie, if you ask me. they don’t do this kind of storie anymore ;-)

    The Old Shelter – Jazz Age Jazz

    • Laura Roberts

      Oh, it’s definitely an 80s movie — you will see by the clothes they’re wearing! Plus the city has changed a lot since then, too. I love John Hughes flicks, but they are from a much different era.

  • Kristen

    I love this movie! Now you’ve got me singing, “Deeeow bow bow. Chickachicka. Oooooh yeaaaahhh.” I wonder if I spelled that right?

    • Laura Roberts

      Haha! It’s also funny because almost none of the music in this movie is American… pretty much all of the music they picked for the soundtrack was Brit pop, but that song is actually by a Swiss band named Yello.

  • Maggie

    Ferris! I love this flick! Thanks for pointing out that Ferris & his pals do amazing things with their day off – the art museum scenes are some of my favorite pieces of cinematography.

    • Laura Roberts

      Absolutely! Part of why the Art Institute is so fun is looking for all the paintings and sculptures from this movie. And then trying to find some that you’d include in your own version of the movie. ;D

  • Bun Karyudo

    This is a movie I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen, although I’ve had ample opportunity over the years. Perhaps I’m afraid that it would be a bad influence on me, even as an adult. The thought of taking a day off is tempting, no matter what age you are. Unfortunately, the thought of not getting fired also has its appeal.

    • Laura Roberts

      I think the real point of the film is not so much that you should skip school (or work), but that whenever you do have a day off, you should seize the day and get as much out of it as possible. And that is a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse!

  • A. Catherine Noon

    What a great idea for a theme! I, too, adored Ferris Bueller – probably because I didn’t have the courage, while in high school, to rebel like that. I waited until college. When I moved here to Chicago as an adult, I had fun wandering around the city and seeing things that were featured in the movie – and I even got to work for a few years in an office right across the street from the Sears (now Willis) Tower!

    Thanks for visiting me as part of the challenge, and happy blogging! Your blog-in idea is fabulous!

    • Laura Roberts

      Thanks, Catherine! I need to reschedule our location for the blog-ins, since Janet’s didn’t have wifi, but otherwise they should be fun. :D

      I was also the nerd in high school who would never have ditched… at least until I got to my senior year, when my family moved to Cincinnati of all places! Since I didn’t know many people at my new school and was already attending half of my classes at the university, I became much more blasé about ditching (though still never bad enough that I got into trouble with either the school or my parents).

  • Akilah

    What a cool topic! I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and watched FBDO from beginning to end, but I do love a harmless teen flick. I also love that it’s a love letter to Chicago and you’re writing love letters to Chicago. YAY Chicago!

  • Molly

    I adore this movie, but it’s been a while since I’ve watched it and quite frankly, I forgot it took place in Chicago.

    I have a feeling I’m going to want to watch it again after following all your challenge posts.