#638: Don’t Save Ferris

May 25th, 2016

The drums could be heard even before we got to Daley Plaza.

Next, we saw the high school marching bands, majorettes twirling batons, a float with a semi-Germanic array of dirndl-babes waiting for a historical re-enactor in a leopard vest/undershirt combo to lead the gathering crowd in a rousing rendition of “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.”

“Unfortunately,” I joked to the tour group I was leading. “They didn’t re-enact the part of Matthew Broderick’s career where he vanished.”

I do realize that Broderick has a strong career on Broadway, but for having just snaked a crowd of tourists through a live Ferris Bueller re-enactment, that’s a pretty keen ad lib.

Since I started doing walking tours, I have had to work around many surprise Chicago events. Random stuff that, through permits or public space, takes over parts of the city with as much right to be there as I have.

Fun runs, a Syrian refugee rally, an anti-abortion rally/Christian music concert, a Jennifer Aniston Christmas movie and an anti-GMO/anti-vax/save the honeybees rally screaming at a pro-GMO rally across the street are just a few obstacles I’ve had to guide the tour groups around.

They’re public streets in a weird city. You’ve got to stay nimble.

But I didn’t anticipate Ferris Fest.

Ferris Fest was a celebration of the 30th anniversary of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a 1986 John Hughes tale of a kid from the ‘burbs who used the city as his playground and ran back to his enclave when his fun was over.

It’s not a love letter to Chicago. It’s a metaphor for how the graduating class of Glenbard West spends their 20s.

The fest was a three-day slate of events ranging from tours of a Virgin Hotel room done up like Ferris’ bedroom to a “Shermer High School” dance in the ‘burbs to bus tours of filming locations to a re-creation of that vaguely German ethnic parade that Bueller stormed and instantly talked an entire city into a choreographed dance number because the only point of that movie is that the magic white boy is magic.

In addition to re-enactors playing Ferris, Cameron and his really attractive girlfriend whose name I don’t care about enough to Google, the Twist and Shout Ferris Fest parade also brought in actual actors from the movie: Ferris’ parents, one of the parking lot attendants who stole the car, the maître d’ who buys the Abe Froman story and the school receptionist who says “They think he’s a righteous dude.”

Although I will always salute any event that celebrates Edie McClurg (I think her scene as the car rental agent in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” deserves its own parade), Ferris Fest just made me sad.

There’s a level of nostalgia that’s comforting, like a soft pillow. With this, the pillow is being shoved over an invalid’s face while a balding Gen X-er in a “Sausage King of Chicago” T-shirt screams about the inheritance.

What mystifies me most about this smothering nostalgia is that “Ferris Bueller” is, at best, fine. There are some funny moments, but the main character’s arc is that by the end, he enjoys how awesome he had been the entire time.

Meanwhile, his supporting cast’s character developments are (A) one realizes how lucky she is to be dating the main character, (B) one realizes she should be more like the main character and (C) one realizes a character who never shows up on screen is an ass and promises a dramatic confrontation we never get to see.

And God punishes the school truancy officer for doing his job.

It’s crowd-pleasing enough to cover the bases and has a certain nostalgia to it, but at the end, the highest praise I have is that it’s acceptable when there aren’t other options. Celebrating “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” with the absolute fervor that this Gen X cosplay entails is to me like someone held a festival for how much they like Kraft American Singles.

Chicago is a beautiful, vibrant, wonderful city that, for some reason, chose to celebrate a movie that shows how great the world can be if you’re a magic white boy with a car.

Support 1,001 Chicago Afternoons on Patreon

Look at a Tribune photo gallery from the parade

Read the history of the Daley Center block from 1836 to 1971

And a focus on 1909-1931

Now watch one of Edie McClurg’s finest moments

You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.

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