The Big Picture
- Audiences now sympathize with Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seeing him as the true protagonist and relating to his pessimism and doubts.
- Alan Ruck’s roles as Cameron Frye and Connor Roy exhibit the theme of neglected sons of wealthy men, struggling with their fathers and seeking approval.
- Cameron and Connor represent tragic figures, experiencing mental anguish and feeling unloved by their families, highlighting the universal desire for acceptance and love from one’s father.
Still standing as a modern classic 37 years since its release, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off depicted a glossy lifestyle for the ideal carefree high schooler. The titular character magnetically performed by Matthew Broderick had an equally compelling foil in his good friend, Cameron Frye, played by Alan Ruck. Ferris was cool and suave. Cameron was uptight and awkward. Ferris stopped and sniffed the roses. Cameron would rather let the roses die of dehydration. Audiences were designed to detest Cameron, but as time passed, and as the prime viewers of John Hughes‘ film aged considerably, Cameron became far more sympathetic, raising doubt about whether Ferris Bueller was the main character after all.
Fast-forward 32 years later, Alan Ruck starred in the acclaimed HBO comedy-drama Succession, about the power struggle and palace intrigue of a media empire spearheaded by Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Throughout the series, which concluded with soaring praise, Logan’s children pry for control of the corporation, Waystar Royco, following their father’s reign. The oldest Roy offspring, Connor Roy, sees Ruck playing another disillusioned broken soul with a loser-like quality. While the eldest, Connor is the closest resemblance to The Godfather‘s Fredo in his Corleone-aspiring siblings. When observing Succession, created by Jesse Armstrong, from a humanist perspective, it is clear that Connor is the most sympathetic and tragic figure of the series. The question arises, did Alan Ruck play the same character twice in a span of roughly years?
The Roy family is known for controlling the biggest media and entertainment company in the world. However, their world changes when their father steps down from the company.
- Release Date
- June 3, 2018
- Jesse Armstrong
- Drama , Comedy
Cameron Frye and Connor Roy Both Struggled With Their Father
This proposition was raised by none other than Ruck himself on the podcast Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso. As the host describes, Ruck ostensibly played another “neglected son of a cruel wealthy man,” decades later on HBO following Ferris Bueller. The actor elaborates, theorizing that Connor Roy, as a teenager, would experience similar mental anguish as Cameron Frye. Ruck said:
“He had an absentee father. He had a mother with mental challenges. He was in and out of boarding schools. He spent a lot of time alone, and so, like Cameron, he had all the things that money could buy, but he didn’t have people who were okay with him just as he was.”
The linchpin for this discussion stemmed from the scene in which Cameron, suppressed by his father’s micromanagement, finally lashes out and destroys his prized Ferrari. In the heat of the moment, he gives a monologue that unleashes his pent-up rage. “I got to take a stand,” the character proclaims as he and Ferris attempt to roll back the odometer on the car in a bid to conceal that it was ever driven. “I put up with everything. My old man pushes me around! I never say anything! Well, he’s not the problem. I’m the problem.” As expected of a John Hughes movie, this scene represented the double-edged sword of teen rebellion. Ferris represents it as a source of audience admiration, while Cameron’s expression is uglier, and by nature, more authentic to the psyche of adolescents coming of age.
Cameron Frye Embodies Teen Angst in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
While their personalities could not be less alike, Cameron and Ferris share a similar upbringing concerning social status. They are raised by financially well-off families in the suburbs of Chicago, and in Cameron’s case, by the scale and design of his home, chic, and possession of a high-end sports car, he practically has the world at his fingertips. He has just about any resource available, yet, in a cruel case of irony, is Scrooge-like miserable. Ferris lives out an ideal high school fantasy as he ditches class, dates the pretty girl, watches a baseball game at Wrigley Field, pulls shenanigans on the deplorable principal, and lip-syncs Beatles songs at a parade.
Ferris Bueller carries himself with an admirable blithe outlook on life where the present moment pushes aside the past and future. Cameron, on the other hand, acts like he has undergone a treacherous life with no redeeming value. The impact that his father, who is never seen in the film, imprinted on his psyche is monumental. Cameron Frye is not the only person, fictitious or real, whose paternal oversight is conveyed through tough love. The difference is that his pampered, uppity lifestyle was no match to grapple with a domineering father.
Connor Roy Watches the Family Drama as an Outsider in ‘Succession’
While it was desperate and anxiety-riddled, Cameron was at least strong-willed enough to assert his right to respect. In an even harsher display of pathos, Connor Roy is universally overlooked and disregarded by his family. As a half-brother to the core Roy siblings, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook), Connor can only help but watch his family direct the future of the media empire without his consultation. In the eyes of the family and the viewer, he is a charity case. On the outside, Connor is proud of his independence from the family, comforted by his romantic partner, Willa (Justine Lupe), and has ambitions of running for President on the heels of his online fandom which he coins as “Conheads.”
Despite the veneer of a carefree, lavish lifestyle, any observant viewer can decipher the inherent sadness within Connor. In this modern-day riff on King Lear, Connor is clearly a casualty of war. Unlike his half-siblings, he does not have a financial and power interest in undermining his father’s throne as the CEO. He is a far friendlier and more benevolent presence than Kendall, Roman, or Shiv. Yet, he is granted the shallowest amount of love and affection from Logan. For the Roy patriarch, throughout Succession, family and business are inseparable. Since he does not respect Connor’s killer instinct, he shorts him on love.
In one of the most sobering moments of the entire series, Connor’s wedding is soured by the heartbreaking shocker of Logan Roy’s death. Not only is he the last sibling to discover the news, but he also reckons that the tragedy of this event is mitigated by the fact that he was never truly loved by his father. A talk-heavy series, Succession rarely aims to leave viewers in awe through visual storytelling, but the final shot of the already-iconic Season 4, Episode 3, “Connor’s Wedding,” is a breathtaking encapsulation of the character’s pathos. Despite his father’s death, Connor continues with his wedding ceremony in front of a mostly-empty crowd. Suddenly, the acceptance of absentee paternity becomes immensely more harrowing than the desire to be loved by one’s absentee father.
“I think our writers have definitely sent everyone off in the appropriate manner,” says Ruck about the series finale.
As Years Pass, Cameron and Connor Appear Far More Sympathetic
A recent phenomenon of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off cites that Cameron Frye was the true protagonist of the John Hughes film all along. Even more subversive, online theories of Ferris Bueller as a precursor to Tyler Durden of Fight Club, existing as nothing more than a figment of Cameron’s imagination, have circled. No matter what perspective you follow or any theory you believe, general audiences have become more sympathetic to Cameron in subsequent years. If viewers weren’t laughing at his misanthropy, they were likely turned off by it. However, as viewers progress in age, he is more relatable than the dream-like idealist of Ferris. Deep down, everyone has pessimism, doubts, guilt, and regrets. Everyone has a strain of Cameron Frye.
It is reasonable to suggest that Connor Roy, Ruck’s additional laughingstock character, might receive a sympathetic reclamation from audiences in the years to come. The reality of Logan Roy holding great responsibility for causing his oldest son’s bumbling ways hits viewers like a ton of bricks. As the corrupt soullessness of the Roy family is exposed, it’s clear that Connor is the most tragic character Succession. Relating to the subjects and circumstances of the show is a tall task, but longing for approval from one’s father, which is what every Roy child seeks out, stabs at the heart of everyone watching. Nowhere is this characteristic more prominent than with the insecure, and ultimately empty, Connor Roy. In an Alan Ruck multiverse timeline where Cameron Frye and Connor Roy encounter each other, they will finally confide with each other with their deepest and darkest insecurities.
Watch Succession on Max in the U.S.