Wasted Youth in Fast Times at Ridgemont High

After watching the clip of Fast Times at Ridgemont High in class, I decided that I’d have to give this 80s movie a go. It looked like fun—and for the most part it was. I had just finished watching the tumultuous 1st episode of the new season of Teen Mom 2, so I was in the mood for some high school drama.

The Ridgemont mall, central to the movie (the opening shot is repeated at the end of the film as a framing device), is a refreshing venue outside of the school scene. The film spends quite a bit of time in this commercialistic zoo of teenaged horn-dogs for good reason. The mall mirrors the constructed organization of school groups: a lonely movie-ticket clerk who yearns to work on the other “cooler” side of the mall, young flirty pizza girls, a lay-low ticket scalper with bad advice, and a stereo salesman stud.

Just wondering…in the 80s, was it common to play videogames shirtless in the mall? My dad said he didn’t remember…dubious.

I love the rampant misconceptions and insecurity in the film:
Stacy has concerns about being good in bed.
Linda’s response–“What? You either do it or you don’t”

Rat has concerns approaching a girl.
Damone’s response–“Move across the room. Don’t talk. Just use your face”

Want to learn more? Here’s Damone’s “5-point plan”

 

I love our “single, successful guy” Brad, who, on both occasions of uttering this line, is doing a task most would consider undignified—flipping burgers and cleaning profane graffiti off of the bathroom mirror.

Speaking of graffiti, it’s a popular mise-en scène element in film’s setting. In particular, “wasted youth,” appears in the background of Stacy’s first date, the night she looses her virginity. This term could be interpreted in multiple ways. Is it akin to Carpe Diem, a plea to savor your youth while you can? Or is it a disapproving judgment of wild, “fast” teenagers.

 

After Damone comes inside Stacy and then abruptly leaves her, I couldn’t help but love the next shot—the pizza girls aggressively hacking up a giant log of salami. Delicious.

Good lord, Mr. Hand reads grades out loud as he returns them to his students. How terrible! It does remind me though of my traumatic 8th grade algebra class where we were arranged by class average.

I HAD NO IDEA THAT WUS=WIMP+PUSSY. If that’s true, then thanks Fast Times for the important information.

“Hey Bud, Let’s Party!”

The Fast Times at Ridgemont High clip we watched in class today peaked my curiosity! As soon as I got home, I set about trying to find a free version of the film to watch on my computer (I succeeded! It’s on Vimeo, for those of you who may want to watch it!). I have to admit, however, it was not exactly what I was expecting. At risk of offending some of you, I have to say that I did not think this was a particularly good film.

Cars, sex, and rock n’ roll… These were the overriding concerns of the students attending Ridgemont High School, sex taking first place in their list of priorities. If the girls weren’t giving blow jobs to carrots in the cafeteria, they were carelessly talking about losing their virginity in the hallways. Now, I see nothing wrong with this aspect of the movie; for the most part, it closely mirrors today’s high school experience. Amy Heckerling’s portrayal of high school life is spot-on, actually. The way she shows the audience different facets of teenagers’ everyday lives – from gossiping in the school cafeteria, to working jobs at the mall, to sneaking off at night – leaves nothing to be desired. However, since the movie revolved around so many “main” characters (Stacy, Brad, Mark, Mike, Jeff, etc.), I felt that I did not connect with a single one of them. There were no backstories given for any of the characters, which made them and the movie itself seem shallow to me.

In addition, I did not understand the attraction of Sean Penn’s character, Jeff Spicoli. Yes, he was a stoner, and yes, his antics were funny – I mean, who orders pizza in class? But other than that, I felt that his character was the shallowest of them all. After watching the entire film, all I know about him is that he was a stoner, he liked surfing, and that he had a little brother named Curtis who he did not get along with. When compared to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another teenage-centered comedy, I find that this film loses simply due to the fact that it has such poor character developmentIf Ferris Bueller could strike a balance between comedy and character depth, why couldn’t Fast Times do likewise?

To complete what has now turned into a rant, I would add that there were many things about this film that were unrealistic. The biggest one was the obvious lack of parental figures. Bradley and Stacy Hamilton’s parents never seem to be home (I think we see their mom once, very early on in the movie); neither do we ever meet Jeff’s, Mark’s, or Mike’s parents. While the parents in Ferris Bueller are portrayed as clueless or aloof, at least they exist. In this movie, the teenagers might as well be living on their own!

I won’t deny that this movie was entertaining. However, a movie can be entertaining without necessarily being good.