May 3, 2010

"My favorite thought-piece about Ferris Bueller is the 'Fight Club' theory..."

Do not read on if you have not already seen "Fight Club." The way the secret in that movie is revealed is the most thrilling cinematic moment ever for me. Watch "Fight Club" tonight. Watch "Fight Club" as a double feature with "Ferris Bueller" and then come back here and discuss the incredibly cool theory. Or if you're a properly prepared member of our popular culture and have seen "Fight Club" and "Ferris Bueller," then read on and join the conversation now.

The quote is from MetaTalk via Throwing Things:
My favorite thought-piece about Ferris Bueller is the "Fight Club" theory, in which Ferris Bueller, the person, is just a figment of Cameron's imagination, like Tyler Durden, and Sloane is the girl Cameron secretly loves.

One day while he's lying sick in bed, Cameron lets "Ferris" steal his father's car and take the day off, and as Cameron wanders around the city, all of his interactions with Ferris and Sloane, and all the impossible hijinks, are all just played out in his head. This is part of the reason why the "three" characters can see so much of Chicago in less than one day -- Cameron is alone, just imagining it all.

It isn't until he destroys the front of the car in a fugue state does he finally get a grip and decide to confront his father, after which he imagines a final, impossible escape for Ferris and a storybook happy ending for Sloane ("He's gonna marry me!"), the girl that Cameron knows he can never have.
Ha ha. Brilliant. (I've never seen a Metafilter comment with that many "favorite" votes — 381, including mine.)

I wonder what other movies are susceptible to the "Fight Club" theory.

AND: For law fans, here's the AskMetafilter thread aimed at listing all the crimes Ferris Bueller and his friends commit during "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

62 comments:

Robert Cook said...

I enjoyed FIGHT CLUB when I saw it on its original release. I figured out the big secret before the reveal. Am I unusually perceptive, or was it more and more apparent as the story progressed? I'd like to think the former, but....

Rialby said...

Star Wars

Poor farm boy orphan slays aunt and uncle - seeks way to justify his crime

Night2night said...

Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Working guy goes to facility which implants memories of him saving the planet and getting the girl (he does, but the movie has the act of memory implanting causing his true memories to restore themselves).

GMay said...

I didn't make it to the end of FC for whatever reason that escapes me at the moment, but I'm aware of the big twist.

Gotta say, I like applying it to FBDO though. Good stuff.

For some weird reason, 'Reign of Fire' is the only other movie that pops into my mind right now as one this might apply to. And I didn't really like that movie.

Daniel said...

I just rewatched Fight Club on Saturday. I have a friend who said he knew in the opening scene, when Ed Norton says "I know this because Tyler knows this." (The other big clue is when Norton beats himself up in front of his boss, and says it reminded him of his first fight with Tyler.) Me, I didn't get it until the end -- and I love that. What's the point of guessing the ending ahead of time?

Great movie. It goes a little off the rails with Project Mayhem, but I will forever be captivated by "bitch tits" (why would they be called bitch tits? The term provides no indication that they are on a man. Ann, thoughts? Your area...), flipping through the IKEA catalogue (prescient, that one), Chloe's amyl nitrate, "I am Jack's medulla oblongata/inflamed sense of rejection", making soap, and a million other scenes.

Leigh said...

Rialby, if you came up with that on your own, get out of whatever job you are in and get to writing plots ASAP. That is so simple and so hilarious all at once (and with it, we can just throw away the prequels in their entirety, as I am want to do).
You may want to check this list, titled "Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better", it gives decent explanations as to why Taxi Driver, Total Recall, and the Minority report are all imagined by the protagonist.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If only the first rule of Ferris Bueller were that you don't talk about Ferris Bueller.

Daniel said...

Night2night, that's Phillip Dick all the way. Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep (aka Blade Runner) is about a guy who is either a bounty hunter hunting android's or an android hunting people -- and we never find out.

Briane P said...

As is the case with most of the truly important questions, Cracked has the answers:

http://www.cracked.com/article/18367_6-insane-fan-theories-that-actually-make-great-movies-better/

Henry said...

I just watched The Squid and the Whale on DVD. Squid is obvious Fight Club material, especially considering two of the lead characters are novelists and the third is a plagiarist.

But really, I just want all the lead characters to get punched in the face by Tyler Durden. The end.

Tibore said...

"I wonder what other movies are susceptible to the "Fight Club" theory."

Deep Throat.

... oh... uh... well, maybe I shouldn't expound on why... (*blushes*)

themightypuck said...

Fucking brilliant. Rialby wins thread.

Expat(ish) said...

Well, Blade Runner, obviously. The always brilliant has provided us with at least five endings, all slightly different, plus two sets of directors commentaries that contradict each other. Yes, I do own it in three formats and six different cuttings, why do you ask?

I got my 14 year old to watch it - could not have been more bored by it. Sad.

I would also nominate the awesome and under appreciated Brazil by Terri Gillian.

-XC

Chris said...

"[...] after which he imagines a final, impossible escape for Ferris and a storybook happy ending for Sloane [...]"

This reminds me of the ending of Brazil.

themightypuck said...

Brazil is a great movie. I got my 30plus year old Lifetime Movie addicted girlfriend to watch it and she loved it. It can't touch Star Wars though. And it can't touch what is probably the greatest comment ever to hit this blog (Rialby--hi5)

Scott M said...

Count me as a fully prepared member of pop culture. You have to be somewhat of an encyclopedia on the matter if you expect to hold fast on a rock station morning show.

I'd have to watch it to be sure, but that theory doesn't hold any water for the simple fact Ferris was the target of hate for characters that had nothing to do with Cameron (Mr. Rooney and Jeannie). So, in conflict with this theory, Ferris was a real person occupying real space in a real family separate from Cameron.

Scott M said...

@Daniel - Blade Runner

Didn't Ridley Scott let the cat out of the bag on that one a couple years back? He never should have. More fun not to know.

Lem said...

Saving Private Ryan..

After surviving the gruesome Normandy invasion, Captain Miller cooks up a mission to spend the war on a countryside expedition looking for a private Ryan.

Scheevel said...

Isn't "Youth in Revolt" just that...Ferris Beuhler meets Fight Club?

Paul Zrimsek said...

An Inconvenient Truth: Rich bastard tormented by carbon guilt escapes to a fantasy world in which everyone lives as wastefully as he does.

HDHouse said...

I'll never watch Ferris again without thinking of that angle.
Wow. Nice.

A.W. said...

they had a feature on cracked.com about movie theories that actually make their respective movies better. this one was listed, along with a few others.

my favorite is the theory that chewbaca and r2-d2 are in fact the hidden hand manipulating everything in the Star Wars movies, especially making sure Luke and Leia don't actually get it on.

LarsPorsena said...

Would would happen is you mixed Fight Club with Sixth Sense?

Stan said...

Metaphilm has a really good essay about Calvin and Hobbes and Fight Club with parallels. It's worth a read if you got the time.

http://metaphilm.com/philm.php?id=29_0_2_0

Sofa King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sofa King said...

Dirt-poor peasant boy catches pneumonia and hallucinates winning a candy-factory contest mixed with revenge fantasies. As he dies he imagines ascending to the heavens.

Kovacs said...

I don't think the big twist of "Fight Club" works at all. One can imagine the Fight Club movement starting because a couple of guys see two men waling on each other in a parking lot. It's preposterous, though, to imagine such a movement starting because a couple of guys come upon a man waling on himself.

As for the Ferris Bueller theory, why would Cameron imagine for himself a shrew of a sister and two clueless parents? How would that be an improvement over his own loveless home life?

Pogo said...

Winnie-the-Pooh works.

Christopher Robin is a lunatic.

themightypuck said...

@Kovacs. Is that a plot hole? I need to watch the movie again.

@the rest of you. Stop embarrassing yourselves. Rialby has defeated you all.

Trooper York said...

Poor Ferris.

He ended up marrying a horsefaced twat who doesn't let him talk at all.

The first rule of Ferris Bueller....you're fucked dude.

themightypuck said...

Genius is so rare and so little appreciated.

Geoff Matthews said...

Harry Potter

Poor abused boy dreams up a magical world where his real parents were powerful and rich, where his real mom died to save him, and he's whisked away to an exclusive school where everyone has heard of him and where he defeats the most POWERFUL WIZARD EVAH!

Pogo said...

Isn't the Fight Club twist a variant of "It was all just a dream..."?

Little Nemo in Slumberland for grown-ups.

Methadras said...

It's the dream theory plot. It's been done a lot. It's pop culture existentialism.

DaveL said...

I don't know about movies, but there was a quite well-argued article that showed that Fight Club was about Calvin (Narrator) and Hobbes (Durden) grown up, with Marla as Suzie Derkins.

Scott M said...

Young boy, not wanting to be a carpenter like his stepfather, runs away and slums around Rome for 20 years before returning followed by 12 hippies schlepping fish and bread.

Scott M said...

Part 1 of the above mentioned movie ends badly, but sets up a sequel.

Johann said...

What was weird from the Cracked link, was that they thought the kid lived at the end of "Radio Flyer". I had always presumed he died; and Hanks at the end (well, at the beginning too) gives it away with the line about history. I didn't realize that was even a conspiracy.

David said...

Re: Fight Club

I didn't get it AT the end either. Film totally baffled me.

Slow Joe said...

"It's pop culture existentialism."

That's exactly right.

It's interesting, but it's not really that novel. I think it works very well for Cameron Fry and Luke Skywalker, but it mainly works because Star Wars and FBDO are excellent presentations of a banal plot, leaving the interest and hope and availability for you to insert an actually clever plot.

There's nothing clever about Star Wars, though the first one was made pretty well. There's nothing clever about FBDO, but the film was masterfully made. When something is perfect and empty, you can see subtlety that isn't there, not that anyone is seriously arguing this existential crisis was intended by the film.

I can just imagine a scene at the end of FBDO where Cameron frantically realizes Sloan doesn't even know his name, and he wrecked his dad's car, and he's insane. Or Luke sitting by a campfire in the woods dancing teddy bears around next to the burnt corpse of some guy he pretended was his absentee father.

Hopefully technology advances enough that amateurs can computer generate those scenes and tack them on.

Paul Snively said...

Re: Bladerunner and Ridley Scott spilling the beans: it doesn't matter. If you have the 5-Blu-Ray (yes, really) everything-you-could-ever-want edition, you'll find that it contains both Ridley Scott spilling the beans AND various other people, including the screenwriters, disagreeing with him. The beauty of Bladerunner is that it works whether Deckard was a Replicant or not.

jamboree said...

I guessed the Fight Club ending almost from the beginning. I think it's clear that Ferris is a produce of John Hughes imagination in that same way. "Ferris" as an "event" existed in the Breakfast Club as well.

Hughes '80s kids are a little more Beatlish than they would probably be in real life - Ferris most of all.

Expat(ish) said...

@Paul Snively...

I have BR in VHS (original and directors cut), VCD (original), DVD (original, directors cut, final directors cut), HD-DVD (five disk set).

I once watched the VHS (original) next to the DVD (original) and they are not actually the same - the original release is shorter.

wait, I'm imagining anyone cares!

-XC

John Hawks said...

It does have the advantage of explaining the whole "Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago" sequence.

Seven Machos said...

I always thought Ferris Bueller's Day Off was the perfect metaphor for the Clinton presidency.

Name said...

The "Fight Club" theory is not new.

Steven said...

Am I unusually perceptive, or was it more and more apparent as the story progressed?

I don't know, it seemed pretty damn obvious to me well before the reveal.

Good Lieutenant said...

FC was teh awesome, as was FBDO.

Here's a stab at it:

Bettlejuice - Michael Keaton's character represents Adam & Barbara's denial about their situation (they're dead and are now ghosts). They have to come to terms with the chaos and difficulties of existing in their new arrangement with their living counterparts - and that includes living with them and not trying to expel them. Bettlejuice was the intermediary and was actually the manifestation of their confusion, chaotic emotional state, their need for peace and symbolic of the obstacle keeping them from truly moving on from this plane of existence to the other.

And if that doesn't work, maybe Qui Gon Jinn from the terrible Star Wars Ep. 1 prequel is the stupider, less rational manifestation of Obi Wan Kenobi.

Name said...

A moister farmer on Tatooine is attacked and beaten by Tusken Raiders receiving severe head trauma causing him to hallucinates being rescued by a father figure who takes him away from his oppressive environment.

T 0 3 1 A 5 said...

How about Animal House?

Kent Dorfman (Flounder) manifests a panoply of split personalities, wrecks his brother's car a la Fight Club, lives in an old condemed house on the edge of campus, and as Dean Wormer tries to expell him from campus, he unfolds Project Mayhem during the town parade.

So, how 'bout it?

DocJeff said...

The Fight Club theory of The In-Laws

NY dentist Dr Sheldon Kornpett, unable to cope with the pending marriage of his only child, escapes to a vivd world of intrigue that takes him on a violence-filled romp throughout New Jersey and Central America. Ex-CIA agent Vince Ricardo, Sheldon's alter-ego, weaves fantastic tales of espionage all the while drawing Sheldon further and further into a plot to plunder the monetary system of the United States. All ends well when Sheldon (and Vince) arrive by helicopter just in time for his daughter's wedding.

PoliTech said...

Avatar,

Disabled Marine dreams of being deployed on the scientific mission his dead twin brother was going to participate in, despite having no training or background in the sciences.

Maybe there was no twin brother at all and the Disabled Marine simply dreams of purple nurples and the purple ten foot girl who sports them.

Asleep in his wheelchair, while "Dances with wolves" plays on cable TV in the rec room of the managed care home ...

J said...

Interesting theory but I don't buy it because of the alternate storyline of Ferris Bueller's sister being jealous with the fact that her brother can pretend to be sick ditch school without any consequences.

That storyline converges with Ferris' day in Chicago at the end of the film.

There is no final hint or clue that alerts the audience that this is just a daydream or vision that is typical in films with similar plot twists like 6th Sense or Fight Club.

I really do believe that Cameron existed and wasn't part of Ferris' imagination.

s01o17h60 said...

I've skimmed all the other posts & didn't see this movie mentioned: "Risky Business" It fits the dream theory precisely, or am I missing something here?

The Monster said...

TV does this a lot:

An season of "Dallas" was just a bad dream of Pam's.

"Newhart" was all a dream caused by Bob Hartley eating sushi too late in the evening.

"St. Elsewhere" was a fantasy of an autistic boy inspired by a snow globe.

---
TW: "redne": I was born just north of the NE/KS border, and am related to the Redneck Recyclers. Go Big RED!

Barnabus said...

Jaws

After Ellen Brody says, "Wanna get drunk and fool around?" ...they do... and Brody passes out afterward. In an effort to escape his boring life as a sheriff on an island with no crime, he dreams up the whole thing. (Quint and the Orca probably roll past Brody's window on the way out at 4 am every morning anyway).

Name said...

A paraplegic ex-Marine suffering from PTSD imagines exploring a fantasy world in a physically perfect blue body.

Name said...

Ferris was really sick and it was a fevered dream before dying from his parents' indifference.

Name said...

A pot-smoking Kenyan Muslim living in Chicago dreams he's elected President.

cameron said...

Somebody should have mentioned Charlie Kaufman by now. Somebody should have said that Adaptation does this.

Kaffir_Kanuck said...

Young American Muslim man imagines he has a successful Christian black friend who becomes president of the US and advises him on how to reconcile with the East creating the no-fight club. In the end, the East runs project Mayhem actually goes into effect destroying Israel and the Christian Black President realizes the young Muslim man was him all along.

Scheevel said...

@Kaffir_Kanuck just trumped @Rialby
game...set...match