Cameron Frye: John Hughes’ Alter-Ego?
1: The girlfriend who watches ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ over and over again, as if it contains hidden treasures about the nature of Being that will only be discovered by multiple viewings.
2: The nerd who sees Ferris Bueller as some kind of role model; unreachable, superheroically attractive (I mean, singing ‘Twist and Shout’ on top of a float and bringing the whole of Manhattan Chicago to its feet? Has there ever been anything as cool?) (Of course the answer is yes, but when you’re eleven years old, your horizons are both expanded by your belief in fantasy, and limited by experience.)
3: The lonely, overweight, unhappy guy who devotes himself to selling shower curtain rings, and teaches a cynic to get in touch with his inner human while finding himself a new family.
4: The kid who learns to stand on his own two feet by turning his house into a burglar-intimidating castle.
5: The young guys who deal with their fear of women by creating the perfect female in a lab.
Now, I was a little too young to see the Hughes teenage films when first released; but Ferris Bueller had a life on home video that lasted long enough for me to wonder. The notion of taking a day off school just for the hell of it collided with my Puritan-seeped Ulster Protestantism; but I like to think that my regular abandonment of study periods in favour of going for a walk was at least an echo of Matthew Broderick’s archetypal centre of attention. Having said that, while re-telling myself the typical Hughes narrative, in the hours since his sudden death was announced yesterday, it became clear that Bueller is far from his favourite character.
Hughes is with the underdog – the mousey girl who thinks she’ll never be in love, the fat guy who needs a friend, and perhaps most of all, the thinking nerd with the difficult home life, who wants to be a good friend, and get his dad’s attention. Take a bow, Cameron Frye, friend of Ferris, whose experience after the credits roll intrigues me more than almost any other character I grew up with. What happens to you, Cameron, when your dad comes home to find his sports car wrecked? I always assumed that you would get your ass kicked. I didn’t want that for you; I hoped that the destroyed Ferrari would become the ashes from which you and he could build a new relationship. But I don’t think that’s what happened. I do think that the broken glass and mangled chassis became the ground from which you became an adult.
Nostalgia for John Hughes films can work in a number of ways – we can feel regret at getting older, we can romanticise the past (let’s not forget that the reason we liked his films was rooted in how much we didn’t like being kids), we can smile a wry smile at the memories of stupid things we did, or courageous. For me, I think of Cameron Frye. Not, himself, the coolest guy in the class; but the friend. Not, himself, the sports hero; but the fan. Not, himself, the king; but just happy to be in the palace grounds. So used to being terrified of what the authorities might do to him when he makes a mistake that his only possible response to complete screw-uppery is to decide he’s going to take it like a man, and in the process, become one.