A few years back, a buddy and mine were recalling some of the great 80’s movies. Fast Times at Ridgemont High came up and my buddy immediatly turned sour. He said he could not stand that move. I for one was shocked because I think that movie is a classic.
I am an Italian-American and proud of it. My friend, who also had Italian ancestry and was very proud of it, claimed that the movie portrayed Italian-Americans in a bad light. His reasoning was that the movie made Jeff Spicoli and Mike Damone, two Italian-American characters, appear like insensitive idiots. I thought at the time that it was just another one of his stupid theories. This guy was the king of off the wall theories that he would just throw out there out of nowhere. I have the DVD and I watched it once again awhile back. Not sure why, but today I started thinking about the movie and my friend’s theory. I think he was really onto something. Let’s take a closer look.
Jeff Spicoli, portrayed by Sean Penn
The reasons he is an idiot in the movie:
1. He never held a job, choosing instead to consistently smoke pot all day. He had no life and hung out smoking until there were times that he “couldn’t even feel his own skull.”
2. He was a crappy student. He always showed up late to class and his clothing style at school was questionable. I remember a scene wear he showed up to school wearing a flannel button down with no shirt underneath and a bagel tucked into the front of his pants. On at least one other instance he ordered a pizza to his classroom, without his teacher’s permission, to learn about Cuba (maybe the pizza delivery guy was Cuban) and have some food. Yet another time he went along on a field trip when he wasn’t even in the class to see cadavers because he thought dead bodies were “gnarly.”
3. He borrowed a friend’s older brother’s sports car, smoked pot and drank beers behind the wheel while speeding, and crashed it into a pile of concrete blocks, totaling it. He then proceeded to try and fix it with his father’s, who was a television repair man, cool set of tools. Of course, he couldn’t fix it, so he resorted to lying and saying a rival football team trashed his car. This led the car’s owner, an already unstable defensive lineman, to have an enraged, frothing at the mouth performance against that team, leading to numerous injured players, one of which was twitching and having convulsions. These events were all set into action at the hands of the devious Italian-American, Jeff Spicoli.
4. In the epilogue we learn that after high school he would save Brooke Shields from drowning, which is a good thing. Then he later would blow the reward money he got for saving Brooke on hiring Van Halen to play at his birthday party. Thus, Spicoli was broke again.
Mike Damone, portrayed by Robert Romanus. Never heard of him, there is a reason. He was an actor whose illustrious career consisted of TV guest star appearances include Weird Science the television show and CHiPS. That was about it for his acting career.
The reasons he is an idiot in the movie:
1. He was a high school loser that ranked amongst the most awful of All-time losers. The kid spent high school scalping rock concert tickets at school and at the mall with a keyboard scarf slung around neck. He was a master at sales though, sometimes trying to talk impressionable young girls into going to Cheap Trick concerts when they didn’t even like or know of the band. He also was a bookie, a very stereotypical Italian-American profession, and tricked his clients who didn’t understand the unfair odds he was laying against them. To top it off, he often would tell his clients about the spread only after the bet had been made. (Can you say future mafia man?)
2. He helped his friend get up the nerve to ask out a girl he was crazy for using the “Mike Damone 5 Point Plan”, only to sneak around and sleep with her behind his friend’s back with a quickie in a pool cabana. Later, when she told him she was pregnant, he responded with a “you wanted it more than I did!” (what a gentleman). He agreed to pay half the cost of an abortion and give her a ride, but ended up standing her up and giving her none of the agreed amount. When she called to see where he was, he had his mother tell her that he was helping his father in the garage.
3. In the epilogue we learn that Mike Damone would end up pumping slushies at a 7/11, unlike the non-Italian Hamilton who foiled a robbery and made assistant manager. Racist or just a coincidence?
Maybe I am making too much out of it, but just think about it…