Jim Duffy: Ferris Bueller’s warning to today’s young generation

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Real life moves quickly, warned Ferris Bueller, so don’t be distracted by social media too much or it could pass you by, writes Jim Duffy.

Bueller … Bueller … Bueller …! Yes, I just loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the movie. It was one of those right-of-passage movies along with The Breakfast Club, that changed how I thought and perceived the world. But, only this week I was flabbergasted to discover that many twenty-somethings have never even heard of these movies never mind seen them.

They’re missing out on so much, but no-one has alerted them to the fun and knowledge that jump out from this genre of film. It’s time to change that. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when we have great films about growing up that still hold magic today and can still communicate a message.

A young family member this week was updating his LinkedIn profile as he was about to ping some people on the social media platform to inform them about his availability for a job. I thought this was great.

He was using the site to sell himself in as a decent candidate for an internship. It wasn’t exactly a cold call, but a warmish tap on the shoulder to prospective hosts. Most industrious I thought. He asked me for a headline that he would pop into the title text for the message.

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I thought for a while, then said: “How about ‘Watch out Ferris Bueller!’” I expected a rousing “wow” or “nice one”. But all I got was: “Who is Ferris Bueller?”

“You’ve never seen Ferris Bueller?” I taunted. It appeared not. I was genuinely amazed. After all, we’ve all seen Matthew Broderick annoy, outwit and devastate Ed Rooney, the dean of pupils, right?

When I was at school, there were two ways to take the day off. One was to “dog it”. By dog it, I mean play truant. A phrase I never understood as if you invite a kid to play, then they will right? So playing truant must have seemed like fun to many. I must admit I never dogged it as I didn’t see the logic here and in any case, I quite enjoyed school. But a few in my class did play truant and, every now and then, took a Friday off. The second way to get the day off school was to pull a sickie.

And this is what Ferris Bueller did with great aplomb. He totally conned his parents into thinking he was sick, albeit his sister Janie was having none of it. He then sailed really close to the wind when winding up Ed Rooney, who for some reason just did not like Ferris.

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Alas, it did not work out well for Rooney but, as you would expect, our little hero won the day. The movie is a metaphor for disruption and has magnificent quotes. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Even more poignant today, I would suggest. What about The Breakfast Club then? Everyone has seen that, surely? The film with the worldwide hit theme song by Scottish legends Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me – and that amazing cast of young actors? With Molly Ringwold, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy just to name a few, this movie was a classic in its day. A bunch of kids who did not know each other in school and would not have even talked to each other, all couped for a whole day in detention. Yes, detention on a Saturday folks.

If that had been allowed at my secondary school, I know a whole load of boys, me included, who would have spent 50 per cent of their weekends back in the school assembly room writing meaningless essays. And what a day it turned out to be for all the characters in The Breakfast Club. Both movies were directed by the late John Hughes and spoke to a whole generation. They were about teenagers and young people discovering who they are and rebelling against the system, social class and parental expectation pressuring young people to select certain subjects and friends, achieve specific grades and leave these institutions ready for the next stage of their education.

Mind you, that was not going to happen for John Bender, played so well by Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. He was going home after his visits to the club to an alcoholic father who used cigarette butts to burn his arm in order to teach him some discipline. No change here then as we still have weirdos who treat their kids as dolls as we have seen only this week in California.

Both movies have lessons for us parents, teachers and guardians. But, both movies were screened at a time when there was no social media. Ferris at no time can be seen checking his Instagram account. The additional pressure on young people as a result of the need to see and be seen in the virtual world has ramped up. Indeed The Breakfast Club today would have consisted of five young people texting, tweeting and Facebooking for hours with no interaction between them, while they hid their phones from Mr Vernon. Not much of a movie.

I’d love our young people to watch and enjoy and learn from the these two films I like. But, as they sit glued to iPhones and Androids, thumbing away, what else is this generation missing out on? My own daughters doesn’t talk to me anymore. They text me or message me on Messenger. I guess that’s ok as at least I am in their mind’s eye, especially when they want money. Things have changed. I only hope that today’s young people take heed of Ferris’ words and don’t miss too much.