Ferris Bueller: Eighties Trickster

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Ferris Bueller: 80s Trickster

In folklore the trickster is vastly important; they are often times both the hero and the villain in their stories. Their classification is also one of the most specific in storytelling, needing to be a mediator, a shape shifter, and display amorality to be classified as a true trickster. Every culture seems to have their own version of the trickster; the Norse had Loki, the people from Ghana had Anansi, and the Greeks had Prometheus. Just as it is in folklore, films often utilize the trickster archetype and none more so than John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris displays the classic characteristics of a trickster; he mediates between parties of people, applies “shape shifting” by the way of disguises, and displays quite a bit of amorality throughout the film. These actions call to mind the myths of Loki and Anansi as they both have stories that possess similar elements to Ferris’ adventure.

As the classification demands, Ferris has moments when he acts as a mediator, “shape shifts”, and behaves quite amorally. Over the course of the film, Ferris acts as a mediator between all types of parties: between different cliques, students and administration, adults and teenagers, high brow and low brow alike. “Well, he's very popular, Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.” (FBDO, 14:40-:55) He flits between the defined social distinctions and charms everyone he comes into contact with. His parents’ financial status allows for him to be in possession of technology that grants him access to the school’s records, permitting him to change not only his number of absences but also to seemingly do the same for other students. When he interacts with other students, how infrequently it is on screen, he does not seem to care very much their age or social status in the high school pecking order; he treats all of his peers equally. Though he isn’t seen interacting with them often, it is implied from all the reactions to his ill health that he is much loved by the student body. Of course the regard is not limited to his fellow students; it is all manner of people who seem to send their well wishes to him. The police force sends their concern with his mother when she is at the station to pick up his sister, the sign out in front of Wrigley Field displays the message “Save Ferris,” and the English department at his school sends flowers for his quick recovery. While he doesn’t shape shift in the traditional sense (i.e. he does not change his actual physical appearance beyond clothing) he does disguise himself through careful application of his wit. To spark his whole day off, Ferris fakes being sick because “how could he possibly be expected to go to school on a day like that.” He puts on quite the performance with his parents initially (FBDO :30-3:15) and continues to do so throughout the day via telephone calls and elaborate set ups to convince his parents that he was in fact within the house all day. This disguise was so successful that rumors were quickly spreading around the community about how grave his supposed situation was, to the extent that students were raising funds for a supposed kidney transplant that he needed. He also disguised himself, with the additional help of his best friend Cameron, as his girlfriend’s father to allow Sloane to be excused for the day. He achieves this success by timing two different phone calls to Ed Rooney, one from Cameron pretending to be Mr. Peterson and another from himself requesting his sister to be allowed to bring home any work that he missed. The second call was to prove to Mr. Rooney, Dean of Students at his high school, that the first call was not a fake call from him, rather to seem to be truly from Mr. Peterson. This ruse is followed up by the boys picking up Sloane from school using Cameron’s father’s 1961 Ferrari 250...
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