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Dorseydon's Fast Times at Ridgemont High PageDorseydon's Fast Times at Ridgemont High Page

After recently watching Fast Times for the 20th time or so, I have decided it must be one of my favorite movies of all time. When I'm in a group of friends, I will inevitably claim to enjoy more high-brow movies, but I don't find myself rushing to the television set to watch reruns of them. So, here on the Internet, before all of the world, I admit to enjoying this 80's comedy.


Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe, a writer for Rolling Stones magazine went undercover at Clairemont High School in San Diego to write an article for the magazine, which later led to a novel and to the movie. His finished product led to characters which are entertaining, yet somehow realistic.

Sean Penn's Spicoli character has become the stereotype for the California surfer dude. Many writers have borrowed from the character originated in Fast Times. Spicoli was likable. After all, he saved Brooke Shields from drowning. My favorite line, "Man, there's no birthday party here for me."


Mr. Hand, played by Ray Walston, actually read off the grades of student papers as he passed them out. A gruff but caring teacher. I enjoyed most when he immortalized Spicoli's "I don't know" response. All teachers should be like Mr. Hand. Credits to his character for showing up at Spicoli's house.


Amy went on to direct Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. My favorite line from Clueless is when Alicia's father asks her date, "Do you drink?" When he answers, "No, thank you", Dad responds, "I wasn't offering you a drink, you moron, I wanted to find out if you drink!"


The venue for the Ridgemont mall, has recently closed for repairs. It was damaged after the 1994 earthquake and business has dropped.


Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh

One shop displayed in the movie was Licorice Pizza, so named because of the color and shape of records sold there. Now, you can't even buy records anymore.

Fast Times addressed teenage pregnancy, but did not mention AIDS. This terrible disease was not known by many when Fast Times was made.

Linda remarked that you can't even get Cable TV in Ridgemont. Cable TV is now widespread.

Pac Man. The videogame craze is still popular, but Pac Man is old news.

Pay Phones. Amy Heckerling's movie Clueless featured the main characters carrying cellular phones. In Fast Times, the kids used pay phones.


Mark Rathbone at his alma mater, Clairemont High in San Diego, with junior varsity hoopsters.

Cameron Crowe based the characters on actual people he met while working undercover. The guy who Mark Ratner's character is based on, Mark Rathbone, went on to write Windows for Dummies and other popular computer books.


Fast Times' colorful cast totally omits Asians and Hispanics (Phoebe Cates' character is Anglo). Forest Whitaker plays a Black jock who is feared by Damone for no apparent reason. A White kid in amazement asks, "Wow, does he actually live here?"

So, the Black kid is only a jock, the nerdy kid appears to be Jewish, the stoned out surfer and the ticket scalper have Italian surnames and the convenience store robber has dark features.

With all of its depth in exploring characters, Fast Times fell victim to the normal casting stereotypes typical of many Hollywood films. Forest Whitaker has proven himself to be a talented actor and director and deserved a character with more depth. To portray an African American as a dumb jock is too common in Hollywood.

Amy Heckerling later directed an attractive Jewish actress, Alicia Silverstone in the movie Clueless as the character Cher Horowitz. The screenplay (and credits) carefully avoided references to her last name and Cher's character had no hint of Jewishness. I feel that Hollywood prefers to cast Jews as nerds.

Italian Americans have suffered from association with negative traits. Damone was a shady character whose commitment to friendship was easily broken when confronted with the opportunity to visit Stacy's House.

With all its stereotypes, Fast Times was still an enjoyable movie. However, the product from Hollywood would benefit from avoiding the pitfalls of stereotyping.


TNT frequently airs a heavily censored version of the movie which documents sex, drugs and rock and roll. The edited version carefully eliminated the sex and drugs and added footage which doesn't seem to advance the plot. Some of the classic lines from the original movie are substituted with the following:

Spicoli: "You Nerd!"

Lisa: "I don't want to use it as a tool."

Brad: "Mister, if you don't shut up, I'm going to kick 100% of your face"

Jefferson: "Don't fool with it!"

Brad: "I hope you had a hell of a break, Arnold!"

Linda: "I have another version of the letter where I call him a jerk."

Linda: "Stacy, he's nothing but a pig."

Spicoli: "Aww, those guys are nerds."

Jefferson's brother: "My brother's gonna slip. First he's gonna slip, then he's gonna kill us."

Spicoli's brother: "It's time to get up, you booger!"

Drug references were eliminated from the television version, so TV viewers missed many classic Spicoli lines such as "I'm so wasted" and references to "buzz" as the state of being high on marijuana.

Fast Times was a part of the drive-in generation of movies. However, unlike many others, such as Porky's, Fast Times seemed to have a conscience. Spicoli was clearly shown to be wasting his life away by ignoring the books and using marijuana. Stacy's rush to pre-marital sex led to pregnancy and seemed to be leading to her ruining her reputation. Linda, who bragged about her experience with a college-age boyfriend who conveniently missed her last high school dance, stayed out of trouble. She kept her face buried in the books and seemed to give out romantic advice as a cover-up.

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