Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bueller’s Musical Genius Doesn’t Take a Day Off

By: Lexi Frazier
January 31, 2017


The genius of the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  is that Ferris takes what may have been just an ordinary, humdrum day and gives it a twist, or in this case a “Twist and Shout.”  No scene better epitomizes this carpe diem theme than the parade scene, during which Ferris manages to sneak his way onto a parade float and dazzle Chicago urbanites with a show-stopping performance of this Beatles hit. This song sets an upbeat, carefree mood that ripples through the sea of spectators, leaving not a soul unmoved by its infectious rhythm. Everyone, from the lady German dancers to the marching band to the construction workers to rock star Ferris (with his hilarious, spot-on lip-syncing), all unite in an electrifying display of excitement. At the song’s end, the crowd erupts in applause, balloons soar into the air, American flags wave frantically, and the viewer is left comically entertained by the idea that one boy could stir up such a frenzy.

Since Ferris proves throughout the film to be a spontaneous, charismatic, free spirit, this fun and lively song serves to characterize him. Rather than being background music, it is significant that the song is at the forefront of the action and that everyone on screen is singing along. Prior to this song, Ferris is on the German-themed float lip-syncing a calmer, low-key, and ironically funny “Danke Schoen.” This provides contrast for the upcoming “Twist and Shout” number, where the volume, tempo, and overall energy of the actors are extremely amped up, evoking a happy, ecstatic mood for the viewer.  The volume increases throughout the song as the triumphant brass instrumentation of the marching band and the joyous voices of the crowd join in. This both builds the viewer's enthusiasm and conveys a sense of unity, showing that everyone needs to cut loose sometimes. As with many larger-than-life musical numbers, there are parts of the scene that make it unrealistic. From the entire premise of Ferris taking over the parade without objection from any authorities to the choreographed dance troop on the stairs, the likelihood of such a musical masterpiece taking place is far-fetched, but that’s part of what makes it so hysterically epic.

The selection of this particular song for the scene makes an ethos argument because “Twist and Shout” is by the Beatles, the undisputed most legendary boy band of all time. Thus, choosing a song by such renowned artists, who have sold over $170 million in the U.S. alone,  makes a statement about the quality of the song (and, by extension, the scene it accompanies) and appeals to devoted Beatles fans worldwide.

Lunsford states in her book Everything’s an Argument, “If you strike the right emotional note, you’ll establish an important connection.” Since “Twist and Shout” was such a popular song at the time, it makes such a pathos argument because a lot of people had already formed a positive emotional response to this familiar tune. Music has the power to transport us to another time and place, which explains why familiar songs, such as this one, can provoke strong emotions.  Thus, using music to strike an emotional chord makes people feel connected to the film and overjoyed to recognize a favorite tune.  

Finally, this song appeals to our sense of logos through its lyrics. With words like “Shake it up baby, C'mon twist and shout,” the song encourages the idea of shaking up the routine, seizing the day, rebelling against authority, and adding a dash of spontaneous fun to life. These implications are consistent with the message of the film. Ferris and his friends will be graduating soon and moving on; they will never be this young again. Hence, Ferris refuses to waste this precious time in school, so instead he fakes an illness so that he may make the most of his fleeting youth and truly seize the day. And seize it he does! Rather than listen to the monotonous voice of his teacher call out “Bueller” in the classroom, Ferris rocks the city of Chicago on a parade float! Ferris teaches us all the importance of grabbing life by the horns and making the ordinary extraordinary, and this carefree, vivacious song reinforces this lesson. It’s just as Ferris says in his iconic monologue: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


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