Chapter 3!

If you would like to read Chapter 3, you can download it by clicking here.

I have to admit, I'm starting to run out of steam, and this chapter was a bit of a struggle, but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. It's still a rough draft, but it's all there for the most part.

Since it ended up being a condensation of what was originally slated to be Chapters 3 & 4, the new title is:

“When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies” –
Parents, Teachers, Principals and Other Complications
Making Your Life Your Own

Here's an excerpt from the section on Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
There are several more remarkably asinine authority figures that Ferris encounters on his day of hooky, but he finds his ridiculous adversary in Principal Edward Rooney. Jonathan Bernstein calls Ferris “the Bugs to Ed’s Fudd, the Road Runner to his Coyote (81).” Ed Rooney is arrogant, clumsy, vindictive, rude and hopelessly uncool, but his most significant flaw is that he underestimates Ferris Bueller. While Ferris and co. are seeking out the finest that Chicago has to offer, Rooney is staking out the local pizza parlor and prowling around outside the Bueller residence. It never occurs to Rooney that his arch nemesis, juvenile though he may be in age, could be a man of culture. This is a common fault of adults in teen movies: they have predictably condescending notions of the teenage mindset. But Rooney is not simply flawed, like that beleaguered coyote he is downright cursed. In the short period of time he spends trying to break in to Ferris Bueller’s house he steps in the mud and loses his shoe, splits the seat of his pants, gets attacked by the Bueller’s preposterously vicious rotweiler, and amasses enough parking tickets to have his car towed. In short, everything Rooney does brings him suffering and humiliation, while everything Ferris does brings delight and easy triumph. Roz Kaveney helps to define the opposition of Bueller and Rooney: “It is typical of the clash in Hughes’ work between conservatism and anarchy that Ferris’ recklessness is admirable and successful, whereas the reckless disregard for limits of Dean Rooney has consequences (42).” It is the screenwriter’s moral imperative that Rooney must always lose and Ferris must always win. This makes for cartoony fun, but it also hints at a more philosophical side to the conflict.

Jonathan Bernstein provides some more insight, by refining our notion of the adult and teen archetypes in the works of John Hughes. “All representatives of adult authority were characterized in the Hughes canon as cringing, vindictive, foul-smelling, prehistoric, bewildered and spiritually undernourished (52),” while “His teen leads were smarter, hipper, more sensitive, more articulate, and at all times, morally superior to their adult oppressors (53).” Aside from the superficial trappings of youth and adulthood, Bernstein highlights the moral and spiritual elements of the distinction. In his short essay, “John Hughes Goes Deep,” Steve Almond quantifies this distinction: “By definition, the adults in a Hughes film are beyond hope of transformation. But it is his central and rescuing belief that teens are capable of change (11).” Redemption is a privilege available only to the young, while the old are doomed to be set in their senescent ways.

Almond’s essay – light on nostalgia and heavy on analysis – is the finest entry in the Hughes related anthology, Don’t You Forget About Me. While writing about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he characterizes Ferris as a “raging, narcissistic id who gets away with” (7) everything. But while Ferris lives the dream, his best friend Cameron is trapped in reality. “…Ferris, of course, leads a charmed life. His existentialism comes cheap. For Cameron (as for the rest of us), the experience of pleasure is an ongoing battle against anxiety (7).” Almond goes on to refer to Ferris and Cameron as two nodes of a “psychological dyad.” So if Ferris is the “raging, narcissistic id” that makes Cameron the awkwardly self-conscious ego. Rooney is therefore by implication a narrative personification of the haughtily domineering superego. On one level, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an “escapist farce,” but on another level it is a metaphorical representation of the ego’s struggle to find balance between the impulsive sensual desires of the id, and the authoritative demands of the superego. In that sense, Ferris is the movie’s red herring – he may be the focus of the action in the film, but actually it is Cameron who makes the hero’s journey.

As Cameron observes of his friend, “As long as I’ve known Ferris, everything works for him. There’s nothing he can’t handle. I can’t handle anything. School, parents, the future. Ferris can do anything.” Ferris is invincible, while Cameron is anything but. It is notable that Cameron makes the preceding statement about Ferris, while his best friend is in the midst of a non-alcoholic bacchanalian revelry of his own instigation; Ferris sneaks onto a float in the Von-Steuben Day parade, uniting all of Chicago in song and dance. The scene elevates Ferris from the status of inspired prankster to something godlike. Dionysus, the patron deity of the bacchanale, is also known as “the Liberator,” and Ferris is largely responsible for Cameron’s liberation.


You Gotta Have Faith... Don't You?

I just finished writing about Pump Up the Volume, which has me wanting to increase the interactivity around here a bit. Can anyone think of teen movies that deal explicitly with religion? The only ones I can come up with are Saved! and The Craft (which is obviously a stretch). I'm curious why religion is almost completely unrepresented in teen film. Any thoughts?

Oh yeah, there's always School Ties!



Sorry I haven't been posting so much as of late. I've been hard at work on Chapters 3 & 4, which have melded into one big chapter. I just finished several paragraphs on Risky Business, which end in a short discussion of the travails of the high school prep. I found this great NYTimes op-ed piece online, which I wanted to share. Enjoy this excerpt (or follow the link):

Part of what made the insular preppy world so alluring was its assurance, which was part and parcel of its conservatism. Preppies hung onto not just furniture and names but also customs and especially shares in Exxon bought back when it was called Standard Oil or something equally quaint. The culture was also conservative in the sense of accepting these things without question. Your true preppy, it seemed in 1980, was a stranger to self-doubt: can we think for a minute about the whale as a design motif on clothes intended for grown men?

Today, though, I think the unself-consciousness that used to distinguish the preppy world is gone. When anthropologists study a tribe, however respectfully, they change it. Preppy clothes had been a uniform by which you recognized the guy to sit next to on the train to New Haven. Like all the best uniforms, they were a visual language, instantly not only identifying but also, more subtly, placing the wearer.

Nantucket red pants came from Nantucket. Period. No Nantucket, no pants. The more faded they were, the more hours you'd spent on the water. They were better than an "I'd rather be sailing" bumper sticker because only the right people could read them.

And then, suddenly, in the 1980's, everybody looked like the guy on the train to New Haven. Imagine how they'd feel at West Point if all the tourists were in uniform too: cadets might begin to wonder about uncomfortable things like claims to legitimacy.


Chapter 2 for Downloading

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