To really absorb this blog entry, I only have three requests for you: First, if you've never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, go watch it now. Second, if you've already seen the movie then watch it again with the "director commentary" on. Third, please note that some of the clips below contain rough, not safe for work language. If you're comfortable with those three requests... please read on...
Millions of GenXers like myself discovered Fast Times on video in the 1980s. It was raunchy, obscene, outrageous and hilarious.
The Real Deal
But most of all, Fast Times was an authentic look at teenage life -- through the eyes of teenagers. Screenplay writer Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) had a knack for capturing the reality of growing up in the 1980s, and moving on to adulthood in the 1990s.
While in his early 20s, Crowe actually spent time masquerading as a fellow teen in a high school. He observed and documented all the cliques we know and "love" -- jocks, stoners, loners, loud mouths, and more. The result was a book that later became the Fast Times movie.
A Timeless Postcard from the 1980s
When I first saw the movie as a teen, I was obsessed for two reasons: The laughs and Phoebe Cates. I knew the content was also pretty heavy -- drugs, lost virginity, betrayal, abortion. But again, I tuned in for the laughs and Phoebe. I was a teen.
Fast forward roughly 30 years. (Ouch. Has it been that long?) During a recent trip, I was stuck in a Florida home with no cable TV or Internet service for about five days. But I had a DVD player. And I spotted Fast Times in the DVD discount rack at a local retailer. It was time to rewind to my favorite teen flick -- or so I thought.
Sure, I laughed just as hard. I was reunited with the gang I loved -- Spicoli, Stacy, Brad, Damone, Ratner, Mr. Hand, Mr. Vargas -- and yes, Phoebe (er, Linda).
Fast Times, Through the Eyes of a Father
I watched the movie two or three times in a three-day period. It was mostly background noise as I worked on a few projects. The fourth time around, I turned on the director audio -- which featured commentary from Director Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe. Suddenly, Fast Times took on a whole new meaning for me -- especially since I'm now a husband and father of three sons.
From the viewpoint of Heckerling and Crowe, Fast Times was always about the times being far too fast for teens. Drugs. Sex with emotions you don't understand. Jobs that pay you money to do tasks you hate. Between all the laughs, life as a teen striving to pursue seemingly adult tasks -- for all the wrong reasons -- can be miserable.
Speeding Out of Control
And now, the Fast Times are even faster. As a society, our kids are armed with smartphones that deliver far too much power -- if left unchecked. The drug scene has pushed beyond alcohol and weed (bad enough) to include heroin (144 deaths on Long Island, my back yard, in 2013), prescription drugs like Oxycodone, steroids, and more.
Chances are, your kids suffer from a disease I call the 99-to-1 epidemic. Ninety-nine percent of the time they're growing up exactly as you hoped. But there's that 1 percent moment, at which time they potentially make a decision that ruins their lives and/or destroys lives around them.
The Fast Times certainly are getting faster. And that's why I may make a rather unconventional move. Yup, I may actually watch Ridgemont High with my two teenage sons in the weeks ahead.
My message: Every generation wants to grow up faster than their parents would like. But sometimes, speed kills.
We've all got to slow down. Remember to laugh -- a lot. Warn your kids to avoid the 99-to-1 epidemic. And when it comes to dating...
That's all for now. It's time for me to take my own advice. I've moved pretty fast most of my life. Forgive me if I'm slow to respond to any inquiries amid the Columbus Day weekend here in the U.S.
In the immortal words of Mr. Hand: "Aloha..." until I return to blogging on Tuesday.
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