Picture this: a perfectly reasonable music-oriented discussion turns into a rant about a band (usually Green Day) who’s committed the ultimate sin of “selling out.” If you’re a thoughtful geek, this likely drives you crazy; what’s wrong with a musician opting to present his or her art to as many people as possible, giving them something to connect with in life?
The notion of selling out has always driven me a little nuts – which is why it pains me to say that, in a new advertisement to be run during this weekend’s Super Bowl, Matthew Broderick has sold out one of his most beloved characters, affable high-school charmer Ferris Bueller.
In the ad, Broderick co-opts all of Ferris’ classic tics, faking a fever to avoid a film shoot and enjoying a wide variety of activities on his day off. The catch? He’s doing all of it in a Honda CR-V, which, thanks to a very sharp advertising accounts manager, is now the perfect car to experience that fast-moving entity called life, lest you not stop and look around once in awhile and miss it. The TV spot’s making some fans very happy – nearly 5 million people, as of this writing, have viewed the ad on YouTube, doubtlessly recalling the summer of 1986, when John Hughes’ excellent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off hit theatres and Yello’s “Oh Yeah” was the ultimate party anthem for a minute or two.
It’s hardly the first time an iconic actor or character was utilized to sell a product. My early teens were punctuated by humorous ads where Mario used the power of milk to beat a particularly challenging level and OnStar delivered much-needed assistance to Batman. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this sort of thing.
What is bothersome, however, is when there’s an obvious disconnect between the icon and the product in question. Twelve Super Bowls ago, audiences scratched their head as Progressive Auto Insurance touted a seat-belt safety campaign with the help of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a character whose connection to seat belts remains nonexistent.
Likewise, Ferris Bueller means something to a lot of people – those perfect moments in life where the sun’s shining and you haven’t got a care in the world and you can pal around with Mia Sara and Alan Ruck to the beautiful strains of The Dream Academy covering The Smiths. Writer/director Hughes really touched a nerve with characters like Ferris, a point that his untimely death in 2009 drove home. There’s a reason that, crappy NBC show aside, we never heard from Bueller after the last credit rolled: nothing in the character’s life could ever be as sublime as the moments we saw. Perhaps that’s why it’s 49-year-old Broderick slinking around in the van instead of Bueller, but to even suggest that kind of a moment takes for granted (as at least one other Super Bowl commercial does, too) that pop culture can be a sacred treasure, not an excuse to sell things.
“Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter,” Bueller tells the audience early on in the film. “-Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.” A shame, then, that Broderick and Bueller have fallen victim to one of the least savory -isms of all: consumerism.