Disgruntled high school student Jeanie Bueller definitely isn't going to win any Miss Congeniality contests, but after a police station run-in with a wise junkie and a scary glimpse at her future, she learns that the secret to happiness entails getting her priorities in check.
The Queen of Mean
Jeanie Bueller is sassy. Jeanie Bueller is rude. Jeanie Bueller is just plain mean. Every encounter with another human being seems to test her patience. When another student starts a collection to buy Ferris a new kidney, Jeanie not only chastises him, but also swats the collection can out of his hand. "I'm sorry?" he says uncertainly. "You should be," she retorts.
Her ire isn't reserved exclusively for her peers, though. When she attempts to powwow with Dean Rooney in his office, Grace's greeting suggests preexisting tension. "Why, hello, Jeanie," Grace says. "Who's bothering you now?" Jeanie's conversation with Grace reeks of attitude, and when Jeanie leaves, Grace makes it clear she's not a fan. "What a little asshole," she comments.
Jeanie's a creature of self-created isolation. If she weren't so mean, she wouldn't feel like an outcast. Similarly, if she could tear a page from Ferris's book, instead of feeling mega-jealous of her brother, she wouldn't be a frustrated loner.
Parents of the Year—Not
Jeanie isn't treated with much affection. At school, she earns her peers' scorn by being a grade-A jerk. Off campus, it's a different story.
She's definitely not Tom and Katie Bueller's favorite child—no sibling stands a chance next to Ferris. Witness the way they indulge him when they think he's sick: They treat Ferris like a baby, right down to actual baby talk. (Always gross.) Dad calls, and Mom even comes home to check on her high school senior son. A bit extreme, no? Therefore, we're prone to believe Jeanie when she says that, if she were sick, she wouldn't be similarly fawned over.
When she calls the police to report an intruder—a.k.a., the passed-out dean of students in her kitchen—the cops haul her in for making a phony report. On top of that, when her mom picks her up, she doesn't seem to even entertain the notion that her own daughter may have been telling the truth. Thanks a bunch, Mom.
Shauna, We Salute You
Next to Cameron, Jeanie grows the most over the course of the movie. There are two reasons why: First, there's her junkie guru. After an initially hostile exchange (classic Jeanie), she confesses to the strung-out boy in the police station that she hates her brother because he gets to ditch school when everybody else has to go. "You ought to spend a little more time dealing with yourself, and a little less time worrying about what your brother does," the junkie advises.
The next time we see Jeanie, she's sucking face with the junkie and telling him her name is Shauna. We think it's safe to say she's not worrying about her brother anymore.
Rooney can also take credit for Jeanie's evolution. He's a walking—or more accurately, limping—embodiment of what not to become. When she sees Rooney at the end of the movie, bruised and broken after a day spent hunting her brother, she glimpses her own future. She realizes that pursuing Ferris and being a bitter teenage tattletale—a kind of junior Rooney—only leads to ruin.
In the end, it's unclear whether or not Jeanie's completely left the dark side, but she's definitely learned to lighten up a little and take charge of her own happiness.