the first rule of fight club is you must hijack a parade

A few weeks ago, I came across an a-ha sort of article that listed “proof” that all of Quintin Tarantino’s movies are linked not only by characters, but by events that have skewed what is apparently an entire fictional world of his own making.  There’s a ton of proof there and I recommend you do some Google research to check it out.

I then saw a few other articles about theories in regards to other movies. Almost all of them, with the exception of the Tarantino one, seemed like big stretches.  But one in particular caught my attention and I have been hung up on it ever since.  It’s the theory that will forever alter your thinking on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The theory is this: In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there is no Ferris.  The entire thing is in Cameron’s head.

Ferris is, in essence, Cameron’s Tyler Durden a la Fight Club.  Yes, it may seem like a stretch (and likely is) but here’s some evidence borrowed from a few online sources as well as a few from my own noggin.

First thing’s first.  I recall when watching this movie for the first time that there was no way that Ferris and his crew could cram so much sight-seeing into an entire day. This is made all the more impossible by the fact that they attend a Cubs game…and a baseball game lasts an average of about two and a half hours (give or take).  Also, keep in mind that some of the days’ activities were carried out while there was a parade in town, clogging up traffic.

Oh…and about that parade. Remember that this is a school day. A weekday. What sort of parade is this?  And where was security to get Ferris off of the float as he was singing? Makes one think the parade might not make much sense…as if it were in the mind of someone seeking fame and a good time.

Take these things…the art museum, a parade, lunch at a swanky restaurant, a ball game and all of the other sights they took in. They were able to get so much done because it was all done in Cameron’s head.  Yes, Cameron actually went into the city (the odometer on the car tells us so) but likely didn’t do all of these things.

Why would Cameron invent such a world?  Why would he create Ferris? Well, maybe because Cameron is admittedly a boring person. And he hates his father. This being said, sure, we see Ferris convince Cameron to borrow his dad’s car…but if we apply the Tyler Durden approach to this, it sort of makes sense that an “invented” Ferris would be a great scapegoat for Cameron taking the car.

A key example comes in the scene where Ferris successfully gets Sloan out of school. When they pull up in the car, Cameron is hiding in the back, under the car’s collapsed covering (this is understandable even if this theory doesn’t apply..he simply doesn’t want to get caught).  But just listen to how the dialogue is spoken: Cameron repeating a chant-like denial as Ferris gives a suave and irresponsible argument.  Is this the core of an internal debate with yourself or, for that matter, the  angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, or what?

Take another look at Ferris.  His life is the exact opposite of Cameron’s. Cameron is dull; Ferris is cool and exciting. Cameron has wretched parents who loathe him and each other; Ferris has parents that love and coddle him. (The existence of Jeanie, Ferris’s sister sort of throws a curve ball to the theory, I admit…but one internet theory states that she is Cameron’s reasoning…the stability that tries to keep his Ferris mentality in check).

After all, is it really so hard to believe that someone like Cameron would invent multiple personalities? Consider his freak out after Ferris has convinced him to pick him up for their day off together.  And his near drowning of himself.  And how he talks (and sings) to himself.  He’s a little too into doing voices (as he’s speaking with Rooney on the phone). There are a few hints in the film that indicate Cameron might not be “all there.”

Let’s linger on the near-drowning in the pool, too. In the trauma of the trouble he knows he’ll be in, Cameron doesn’t actually fall into the pool; he imagines himself drowning, only to be saved by Ferris. It’s a pretty intricate picture of the relationship if we see it as a Tyler Durden sort of scenario. This is backed up by Cameron’s reaction once Ferris has saved him.

But that’s enough about Cameron.  Now let’s look at Ferris.  When we meet him, he speaks directly to the audience, looking directly into the camera and having a conversation.  Sure, this is part of the charm of the movie, breaking the 4th wall and whatnot, and he does it through most of the movie. He actually goes out of his way at one point to tell us, “This is where Cameron loses it.”

But what if  what we’re seeing is not Ferris speaking to us, the audience? What if this is Cameron’s imagined Ferris speaking to Cameron? What if we’re seeing how this imagined friend speaks to Cameron?

Yes…an imagined friend and not a figment of his imagination.  By serving as an imaginary friend, a created Ferris also supplies Cameron with the fantasy of one day besting a principal that he apparently hates. So not only does he get to escape via the fantasy of skipping school for a day out on the town, but he also gets to imagine the bumbling Principal Rooney being frustrated by trying to track down Ferris. It also supplies him with a false sense of love as the entire town unrealistically rallies behind a sick “Ferris” over the course of a single day.

This does bring up a stumbling block: does Cameron see himself as Ferris or is Ferris indeed an imagined friend with an imagined life with loving parents that Rooney becomes obsessed over catching?…a friend that Cameron sees himself as never having because his personality is so bland? It’s the same with Sloan…he imagines her as the type of girl he could never get. Is Ferris perhaps a friend he’s longing for but feels he could never have?

Last thing…the end of the movie.  When they need to roll back the numbers on the odomoter, Ferris actually makes the suggestion of cracking open the panel to roll the numbers back by hand. It’s an 80s teen movie, so this is probably doable. So why didn’t Cameron let Ferris give it a try, seeing as how he’d rolled over for all of Ferris’s other suggestions throughout the day?

Maybe because the suggestion, while good, is beyond Cameron’s mechanical abilities. Had Ferris been real, Cameron would likely have let him try this little trick. But since there is no Ferris, it’s not an actual option as Cameron doesn’t physically know how to crack the odomoter open.

Then, of course, we see the destruction of the car, caused by Cameron’s own actions.  This act seems to be therapeutic for him in a way and once the car takes the plunge to the bottom of the forest floor, Cameron goes into a stupor of sorts.  Presumably, this breaks whatever fugue that caused him to invent Ferris (and, presumably, Sloan…as the type of girl he thinks he can never have). This can be seen when Cameron refuses Ferris’s help in explaining things to his father. So, essentially, when Cameron’s fugue is broken, he basically sends  Ferris and Sloan away; he wants to deal with his father and his consequences on his own and without any excuses.

Like I said…I honestly don’t think John Hughes created this movie with this intent. But if you watch it with this lens, it really does get spooky at times. Hell, even the little trek Ferris takes back through the neighborhood on his way home can be seen as Cameron ridding himself of Ferris and giving his imagined friend the send-off he deserves.

A lot of what-ifs and stretches for sure, but still fun. What are your thoughts?



  1. You know, I think there are a lot of stumbling blocks to that being the actual INTENTION of the movie… but I like it, and next time I watch this I’m going to be thinking of it the whole time. (And I do like to watch it regularly. I mean, who doesn’t?)


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