The Theme of Sloth in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


Dante categorized sloth as “insufficient love” while he grouped lust, gluttony and greed as “excessive love” and wrath, envy and pride as “misdirected love.”  Sometimes this “insufficient love” reflects an unwillingness to place anyone or anything above our own comfort.  In other cases it may reflect an insufficient love of self reflected in low self-worth and insecurity.

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off three friends skip school to have a day of fun in Chicago.  Ferris is optimistic and completely secure in his parent’s love and in his own abilities to engage the world.  His neurotic friend Cameron worries about everything. He believes that he is not a priority to his father. Cameron feels insecure, inadequate, and powerless and it makes it seem pointless to get out there and live life.

He doesn’t do anything unless Ferris pushes him. He doesn’t want to commit himself or have to defend his decisions so he lets others make decisions for him.  In one scene he is so conflicted he gets in and out of the car several times trying to decide whether or not to skip school with Ferris.

Cameron’s indecision

Cameron lets Ferris set the plan then worries the whole time about the decisions. He lets Ferris decide. He lets his father decide. Cameron doesn’t feel he actually has a say in what happens to him.
In one scene Cameron stands in an art gallery and experiences a crisis moment. As he stares at the Seurat painting “Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte” and focuses in on figure in the center of the picture he realizes that she has no face. He identifies with his own sense of worthlessness. His father is important. Ferris is important. He’s just Cameron.

Meanwhile Ferris joins a parade and sings from a float, making a dedication “To a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today — Cameron Frye, this one’s for you.”  Cameron and Ferris are having the same day but experiencing it differently.  Ferris engages the people around him and delights in everything he experiences; Cameron can only see his own misery. Cameron can’t let himself enjoy the day the way Ferris does. Ultimately Cameron Frye’s day off has been about seeing his state of paralysis and working up the courage to break out of it.

Low self-worth can make any effort seem like a waste of time.  Nothing we produce could possibly benefit anyone enough.  Nothing we might say could convince anyone of anything.  Insecurity breeds inaction.  Believing we have nothing of valuable to contribute, we sit back and let someone else do it because they can do it better anyway.

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