Noted internet alcoholic Stephen Green takes the pseudo-intellectual Alan Siegel to the woodshed for Siegel’s pompous and error filled critique of the John Hughes ’80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Here’s my take:
Siegel is simply revealing his own egocentrism in his review. In the guise of lambasting Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he is really shouting, “This movie isn’t about me! It doesn’t make people think about me and how I should be more important!”
Siegel wants people to care more about the political issues Siegel is publicly identified with and by extension to make Siegel more important. Virtually all leftist criticism of art comes down to this dynamic. They like art about themselves and art that makes them feel more important. It’s kind of disturbing how deeply the modern American Left has absorbed the world view of the fascist and communist wherein politics was the only valid purpose of art.
I think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a great movie because it explores universal human themes.
You could redo the movie’s story in almost any culture and people would relate to it. The movie explores the universal themes of the desire for freedom and the envy against those who have it. We all desire to be the kind of smooth operator that Bueller is. We would all like to have his charmed life. We would all at times like to escape the rules and roles we must follow. We all empathize with the characters like his sister who resents Bueller’s charmed existence because she follows the rules but he gets the greater rewards. We all envy those who do what we only fantasize about. (In my personal experience, people who have a strong negative reaction to characters like Bueller are individuals with envy issues.)
The movie is clearly not intended to be taken literally. After all, Bueller’s escapades border on magical realism. Clearly they are amusingly symbolic. Bueller is the suburban avatar or perhaps the secret love child of the coyote spirit. He is rule breaking and mischief without serious consequence. We both adore him for his abilities but also resent him out of envy.
I agree strongly with many of Green’s commenters that Cameron is the actual protagonist of the story and I think that Cameron’s plight is highly subversive to the leftists’ narrative. Siegel gives the game away when he says:
Hughes’s other movies may not channel Dickens, but they’re at least populated with teenagers who’ve had it rougher than Ferris.
By evoking Dickens, Siegel is clearly meaning “rougher” to mean material poverty but Cameron’s plight is one of material wealth and emotional starvation. Cameron has all the material benefits that leftists fantasize they can give the poor, but Cameron is still miserable to the point of suicide because of his emotional deprivation. The moral is that money doesn’t make you happy, family and friends make you happy. The moral is that it’s better to come from a poor but loving family than it is to come from a wealthy but unloving one. (All modern scientific research agrees, BTW.)
This is a highly subversive subtext for leftists because it undermines their whole redistribution argument. They claim they will make people happy by redistributing material wealth even as they work to destroy the bonds between individuals. The last thing they want to see is a miserable wealthy character because they claim to make people happy by making them more wealthy.
Siegel hates the movie because it subverts his arrogant and egocentric world view. It isn’t about him so he hates it. End of story.
In this Siegel represents modern leftism, perhaps all of historical leftism, in a nutshell. He is so self-absorbed, and so certain that only the things that he cares about are truly important, that he can’t evaluate a work of art from any other perspective than of how it advances his own political agenda. It’s the Left’s world and the rest of us are just annoying bit-players or stage props. If you don’t cast the limelight onto people like Siegel, you’re just in the way.