Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Netflix: this dark fan theory is about to change the way you view this 80s favourite forever

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Fair warning: once seen, this unsettling fan theory cannot be unseen. 

Thank god for Netflix, eh?

While many of us naively hoped that coronavirus quarantine measures would end next week, the UK government has now said it is too early to consider an exit strategy for the lockdown. Indeed, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has said shifting the focus from social distancing measures could mean “we won’t get through the Covid-19 peak as fast as we need to”.

As such, we’re all hunkering down and preparing to spend even more time indoors. This means that, yeah, we’re continuing to burn through our Netflix watchlists like nobody’s business. Whether it’s must-watch TV dramas like Unorthodox, true crime documentaries like Tiger King, retro classics like Beetlejuice (easily the most relatable movie on the streaming platform right now) or horror films like The Platform, there’s something on there for everyone.

At the moment, though, everyone is apparently watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

As in, yeah, the 1986 movie about a teenage boy (Matthew Broderick) skipping school so he can make the most of a glorious summer’s day in Chicago.

Directed by John Hughes, oh he of The Breakfast Club fame, the film – which arrived on Netflix earlier this month for the first time ever – is 100% a feel-good classic. There’s car chases, mistaken identity gags, romantic kisses in front of famous artworks. There’s a musical number (or two), plenty of visual humour, a standout appearance from Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey, and lots of breaking the fourth wall.

Above all else, though, there’s a beautiful friendship between the film’s titular character and his best bud Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck). Or… or is there?

Buckle up, buttercups, and prepare yourselves for a truly mind-boggling Ferris Bueller fan theory.

What if the entire plot of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was Cameron Frye’s dream?

Oh yes, we’re talking about the Fight Club/Ferris Bueller theory. And, while it sounds nuts at first, there’s a lot of evidence to back it up.

For example, the film may be named after Ferris, but there’s no denying that the plot is almost entirely hinged upon Cameron. As in, yes, the very same guy who starts the day as meek and self-pitying, but ends it with plans to stand up to his domineering father for the first time ever (after wrecking dad’s prized possession, a cherry-red Ferrari). 

Think about it: without Cameron, Ferris can’t leave his own house – let alone put his grand plans for a day off into action. Indeed, the first 30 minutes or so are focused on Ferris persistently phoning Cameron and gently encouraging him to take the plunge.

Well, maybe ‘gently’ is the wrong word. 

The key takeaway from the above scene? Well, when Cameron mutters to himself that he’s dying, his phone immediately rings next to him.

He picks it up, only for Ferris to inform him, without any preamble whatsoever, that Cameron is “not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.”

Eventually, Cameron allows himself to be talked round. Not only does he decide to take a day off, but he also provides transportation and helps free Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane Peterson (played by Mia Sara) from school. 

Throughout the day, Ferris partakes in a number of increasingly crazy activities – while Cameron is seemingly dragged along for the ride. Come the end of it all, Ferris remains unchanged – the fabled high school hero – while Cameron has evolved from anxious loner to… well, to the kind of guy who knows what he wants from life, and who isn’t prepared to take any shit.

No wonder so many people believe that Cameron dreamed up this imaginary best friend to get him out of a rut, eh?

As one Redditor explains: “This theory explains the more fantastic elements of the film. For example, the whole city of Chicago rallies around the ‘sick’ Ferris… perhaps his fantasy is based on what he imagines life to be like for the “popular” kids at school – everything is easy and the world revolves around them.

“When Cameron accidentally trashes his father’s Ferrari at the film’s climax, he realises that he needs to stick up to his father and take responsibility for his own life. At this point he ‘disposes’ of Ferris [and gives him a happy ending]: Ferris safely returns home, where he can break the fourth wall for eternity.”

Another adds: “Sloane does exist, and is like Marla in Fight Club. Aka Cameron doesn’t realise she likes him, and thinks she only likes him when he’s being Ferris.”

A scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
A scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

The darkest twist to the theory, though?

“Cameron and Ferris are the same person: Ferris Cameron Bueller formerly Ferris Cameron Fry,” writes one Redditor.

“Ferris/Cameron’s parents got divorced several years ago after F/C’s father cheated on and abused his mother. She finally left him and after a few years of emotional recovery met and fell in love with her new husband.

“The parents share custody of F/C and Jean but because of the trauma of the messy divorce and the difference in how each parent treated him, F/C slowly developed two distinct persona one for his life with his mother and one for the time with his father.”

This same Redditor explains that the Ferris side of the personality is “extremely personable and independent… the primary personality the whole world sees”. The Cameron side, meanwhile, is the result of “years of neglect… withdrawn, psychosomatically sick all the time and constantly depressed”.

They finish by saying: “The whole movie is the journey for Cameron to accept the Ferris side of himself. This happens at the end when Cameron destroys the car after both personalities combine, imparting aspects of both to the new one.”

Need further convincing? Well, the Ferris/Fight Club Theory has even inspired a clever mash-up trailer.

Check it out:

Of course, there are some flaws with this theory. For example, there are multiple scenes which focus solely on Ferris. And why do the teachers acknowledge that both Fry and Bueller exist?

On the other hand, though, there’s no denying that the shoe fits. It explains why Ferris is so quick to read Cameron’s moods, predict every sentence his friend is about to say, and able to hijack the city’s parade with nary an eyebrow raised.

We guess the only solution is for you to watch it, right now, and let us know your thoughts. We’ll be waiting…

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Images: Netflix

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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