Fast and Liberal Times at Ridgemont High
I've been cooped up at home, sick, for the past few days, which is the only time, really, when I wish I had cable. I mean, c'mon, how can you be sick without cable? At least there's TBS and I got lucky enough that this week they're broadcasting lots of 80's classics. Including THE 80's classic: Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
Where do I begin? The movie is, of course, awesome. It's like a period film from this distant time in history that, uh, I actually remember really well. The weird part was how grainy and poor quality the movie was. Other things dated it, too--but in an awesome way: the girls wearing socks with their high-heel pumps, and the guys wearing package-hugging gym shorts with polo shirts. Forest Whitaker with a 'fro and looking like he's barely sixteen. Sean Penn putting on new Vans sneakers for the prom, with absolutely no irony.
But what really dated Fast Times for me was a plot twist that I'd actually kind of forgotten about. The part where the Jennifer Jason Leigh character, Stacy, gets an abortion. Stacy has impromptu sex in the pool house with the high school lothario, Damone. Interestingly, we don't see any of the sex--in fact, we barely even see them beginning to make out before the scene cuts away. He never calls her back, and she has to hunt him down after school some time later to tell him she's pregnant. It's not even a question of whether she'll get an abortion, it's just a question of who's going to pay for it. Damone flakes out completely, and Stacy ends up having to take care of things herself. We see her getting dropped off at the Planned Parenthood, we see her in a hospital gown on the operating table--we even see the doctor reaching between her legs which are lodged in stirrups.
Can you imagine any mainstream, blockbuster teen movie today depicting a teenage abortion so explicitly? Can you imagine an abortion in the plot of, say, Mean Girls? Or rather, can you imagine any major Hollywood studio in 2006 taking on the risk of picketing, death threats, insensed lobbying from the Christian right, and the media frenzy that would surely ensue if it chose to even allude to a teen getting an abortion? Let alone a teen getting an abortion on her own without telling her parents?
Fast Times came out in 1982, almost 25 years ago. We don't typically think of the beginning of the Reagan era as a particularly liberal time. And yet, at the time, Fast Times wasn't all that provocative. By today's standards of sexual explicitness, the movie could have been rated a G.
And yet it's a chilling reminder of just how much we have regressed, culturally, in those 25 years. Roe v. Wade hadn't even been in effect for 10 years at the time. Abortion was still relatively new. But now, over 30 years after the decision that made abortion legal, the idea of an all-American high school girl getting an abortion has once again become unimaginable.