Monday, November 29, 2010

FBG - Ferris Bueller's Day Off Generation

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Part 1

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a cute 1986 film but not one or our generation’s classics, was a good buy recently on the $5 shelf. It was interesting to view the “special features” section which included a number of both vintage and contemporary commentaries by those involved with making the film. I’ve always enjoyed this movie if only for its impertinence which somewhat mimicked that of our time; but I have never considered it the icon in the same way some others consider it.

It struck me that there may be a deeper story in Ferris Bueller. Remember when, during the recent health care debates, Obama made the quip that it might be time to "give granny a pill” when she got too expensive to care for? That comment reminded me of a notorious 3000+ word piece written by Paul Begala for an Esquire magazine in 2000 entitled, “The Worst Generation.” Begala’s contemptible rant railed against our generation. If you want to read his harangue, you can easily find it using a Google search using key words: Esquire Begala Worst Generation

I mention these thoughts only to introduce a notion that I think there is a real hatred for us and our times that rests in today’s 50-somethings—those born roughly from 1955 to 1965. Something seems to have affected this generation of 50-somethings that has yielded a thoroughly loathsome group of people that really hate us. As for me…I’ve never given them much thought. Maybe that’s what has them stirred up...few of us gave them much thought.

Did you notice about 25-30 years ago when these 50-somethings started coming on line as new adults in the late seventies to mid eighties and were staffing the local fast food drive through windows? It was about then that you had to start checking your bag because if you didn’t, you invariably got home only to find that you had been shorted—you could no longer trust getting your correct order at the drive through windows.

The problem was wide spread enough that the national press even coined a name for it…”scamming,” and published a number of articles about the growing problem. Some of the stories I recall reading involved interviews with the youngsters of the time telling of their various scams, and they were proud of their cleverness.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Part 2

If you haven’t read Paul Begala’s harangue about our generation yet, please take a moment to do so here

Begala’s rant provides a fundamental statement of what I believe is a seething hatred so many in his generation believe about you and I. Couple that thought with the drama playing out now on the national stage noting that what passes for leadership consists largely of people of his generation.

Carrying on with my Part 1 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off introduction of the thought (See Part 1 first), the film starts with Ferris working a scam on his parents—he fakes being too sick to go to school. Next, Ferris scams his friend, Cameron, to induce him to take his father’s very expensive Ferrari out on the day’s lark, then he scams the school to get his girl friend out early, next he scams the exclusive restaurant for preferential seating, scams a Chicago downtown parade for a place miming the lead singer on one of the floats, and closes with a series of quick dodges to preserve his full day of scams.

The stars of the film are a trio of neatly dressed preppies of that day, shown barging around in a stolen Ferrari and conducting a series of scams.

As interesting as the film, are the reminisces of the cast, producers, director, and others that are contained in the “special features” section of the CD. One after another, they wax fondly about the film, its execution, and the premise—everyone involved in the film are the from Begala’s “generation” born roughly 1955 – 1965; among them Matthew Broderick (b.1962), Barak Obama (b.1961), and Paul Begala (b.1961). And they hate us—Begala terms us that “garbage barge of a generation.” What a thoughtful little fellow.

Wrapping this Part 2 up, it’s very interesting to note that in the crowd rousing scene the song that got everyone up and partying was “"Twist and Shout”—one of the anthems of our generation…and few, if any of us even knew what a Ferrari was. But an an "Eat Me Float"? Chances are we knew various versions of those:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Part 3

The Ferris Bueller generation (FBG’s = those born 1955-65) are actually the second half of the baby-boomers where we were in the leading edge of the bulge. We were fortunate to have lived in an interesting era during our youth, but I would say that it wasn’t quite the euphoric experience the FBG’s seem to think it was. The music was great and we’ve been blessed that it was good enough to stand the test of time…maybe that’s what has Begala and his pals ticked off. But then again, take a look at the picture above…who would you have rather have had as your friends? Otter, Bluto, and the gang or some gaunt little preppies?

I recall observing the FBG’s emerge from college in the late 70’s to early 80’s and thinking at the time that they were in a huge hurry to acquire big houses, fast cars, and whatever else they thought would enhance their personal sense of worth. You and I likely followed our parents’ examples and started out modestly, then built ourselves up when we could. But they, the FBG’s, seemed to be remarkably detached from the reality that it usually takes time and work to build a substantial life that may or may not include some of the trappings they so much wanted.

The FBG’s also came across as lacking integrity and willing to screw others to have their way. In observing them operate, it was clear they considered a lie as useful as the truth if it furthered their ambitions...and more troubling they seemed utterly devoid of conscience. During a circa 1980 casual conversation with a VP of a large regional employer, I asked it he was seeing anything like this in his interviews of potential new recruits from the ranks of late 70’s to early 80’s college graduates. He emphatically replied, YES—they expect to be managers and VP’s in a couple of years!

I know it’s both risky and unfair to generalize about an entire group…so, bear with me as I continue to generalize. I think people develop their life-long sensibilities by the time they reach adulthood. And I think that by reviewing the history of their times, their popular music, and their taste in movies an amateur psychologist might form a fairly illuminating opinion of what kind of people populated a group when they became adults.

Think about that for a moment…our parents went to war and saved the world; we went to war and (for better or worse) changed the authoritarian order of things; and courtesy of our parents and ourselves, the FBG’s weren’t burdened with war and have worked on perfecting the art of the scam during their entire adult lives.

The last part of this series of thoughts will sum things up. As you have probably surmised, I don’t like the FBG any more than they like me. I think they are whiners without soul, without good judgment, and when their lives are summed up there will be absolutely nothing memorable about them or their times. Think about it for a moment: Do $50,000 4-wheel drive SUV’s make any sense whatsoever on smooth roads where they’re most frequently used?

And will anyone really recall the music of their generation…Boy George and Cyndi Lauper?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - Part 4

To finish my little FBG (those born 1955-65) rant…I think these mutts were like our younger brothers and sisters…old enough to see and understand some of the things we were experiencing, but not old enough to participate in them. And when their time came, what was left for them? By my recollection, not much. Leisure suits…18% interest rates, jobs were scarce…if you recall, those were the beginning years of the great Southwest S&L debacle. By the way, we had to deal with that stuff ourselves.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we drew a good hand, just as there is little doubt that the FBG’s drew one that was not as good. However, any generation must deal with the hand they're dealt; the FBG group shouldn’t expect anything different. So, why do they continue to whine and blame their troubles on others, especially us? Who knows? One thing is true…it’s their’s now…business, government, education. How are they doing?
Of course, not all of them are reprobates…Santorum (b.1958); J.C. Watts (b.1958) are good guys. There are more, I’m sure. But then there is Osama (b.1957) and Emanuel (b.1959). What do you think of them?

What am I bitching about? When you identify a particularly vile bastard, take time to look up his or her birth year. Chances are it will fall within the range 1955 - 1965. Today they are 45 – 55 years old and they are taking leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. How are they doing? Both sectors are in shambles and this group of cry babies are either whining that they inherited their problems, or going to the basement to hang themselves, setting the autopilot south to the Gulf of Mexico, bailing out and trying to fake their demise. I didn’t say they aren’t creative.

The FBG’s have grown up in some kind of delusional world of their making that I really don’t understand. They have bastardized our language to form a code of their own: functionality; send a message; teachable moment; take a deep breath; enhance; online experience; solutions, solutions, solutions—pizza solution, toilet paper solution, global, scalable…a lot of it came from the Silicon Valley techies.

In the early 1990’s I noticed what seemed to be a gathering surge of something odd in the atmosphere around us. As it considered the obvious lack of professionalism in the adolescent Clinton administration, a 1993 WSJ editorial asked, “Are There Any Adults in Charge”? The decade wrapped up with America’s second Impeachment of a president and the rupture of the “dot com” bubble taking a lot of our retirement money with it. Nearly a decade of Executive Branch negligence almost certainly contributed to the successful 911 attack.

Wasn’t it bizzare when they lavishly celebrated themselves as returning Desert Storm warriors with that 1991 NYC ticker-tape parade? The so-called war was a 100-hour event that left more to be done—that, of course, wasn’t their doing. Losses: 493 KIA – 467 WIA, or about one week’s Vietnam losses in 1968.

In the ensuing 20-years I’ve noticed that everything these prima-donnas touch has to be promoted as some kind of superlative…the greatest, worst, biggest, best ever, etc. Yet, in their hands entire airlines shut down in clear weather, power grids fail their customers by the millions, gas mains explode entire neighborhoods, and Interstate Highway bridges collapse as a result of neglected upkeep.

Well, as some of us have been known to say, "F**k 'em, if they can't take a joke."


Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Part 5

Risky Business was a 1983 film that launched Tom Cruise’s acting career and became another iconic film of the Ferris Bueller Generation (FBG). Regular readers will recall that I do not like the FBG. Where Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a story about scamming, Risky Business was a story about running a whore house out of the parents’ home while they were on vacation. Guido the killer pimp, prostitutes, and scams…with their late adolescent characters formed by films like these, no wonder the FBGs are unlikable today.

Be that as it may, this film has some cute scenes and lines. One of my favorites is the school scene with Nurse Bolik posted below. Maybe you had some of the same emotions about school as Cruise's character voiced…I know I did.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High & FBG

If you have read any of my FBG series then you may recall that I don’t like the FBGs, those born from 1955-1965; the 45 to 55 year olds of today.  Known also as Gen-X, these people have, in my opinion, excelled at little more than becoming a generation of whiners and worse.

I’m adding Fast Times at Ridgemont High to a couple of other films, (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off & Risky Business) that I think chronicle this generation of people pretty well.  I do like this 1982 film which was released when we were about 37; then again, who couldn’t have been smitten by Phoebe Cates’ part in it; in fact, that may have diverted my realization that this film fits in with the other FBG films and may be the best descriptive example of all.   

The screenwriter actually went back to high school for a year in order to better understand that particular crop of youngsters before he wrote his script.  The result was a fairly accurate snapshot of teen life circa 1982, just before they started taking their places as young adults in our society.  At that time the 17-27 age group were born from 1955-1965…they were the FBGs.   

Actually, this film is even more illustrative of that generation than are the other two.  It accurately depicts their after school and weekend jobs in local malls and their peculiar tribulations.  It may be the earliest film to depict that aspect of life, since the large regional malls were only built in the early to mid-1970s.

My recollection of 1982 for us was of outrageous interest rates, a dead housing market, the mid-west rust belt, huge unemployment numbers, an abandoned Gulf coast oil patch, the exodus of American manufacturing to foreign sites, and the first personal computers.

For the FBG youngsters, there were few substantial opportunities and AIDS made its appearance about then…that effectively sounded the last gasp of our Sexual Revolution period and, their music was synthesized crap.  All things considered, it wasn’t a great time to come of age, so I can sympathize with their unfortunate situation.

It was probably during those years that these people started turning their ire on us.  From their limited point of view, we had it all—nice homes, great music, fancy cars, new families, jobs or professions.  Many of them were our younger siblings. 

Of course those years were difficult for us also, but in different ways.  I recall thinking that I was glad I wasn’t one of them.  I couldn’t have gotten excited about working in a fast-food joint, or trying to get involved with their music, or facing that job market as a young adult.  

On the other hand, I employed a number of youngsters at that time and a couple of my in-laws were that age and from what I observed of them, they were lacking.  I didn’t see in them the spark that we had, nor did I see any sense of willingness to pay their dues and work up to better things.  They were in a hurry to achieve what we had achieved and for reasons I never quite knew, fully expected that they could skip the hard work.

Most of our government and business leaders are now FBGs.  How are they doing and what kind of people do you see?  Here is one of them…as an FBG employee, he tangled with an Arby’s meat slicer and lost.  


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