Sunday, March 15, 2015

what are you people, on dope?

(Before moving on from sex and feminism, there is a notable detail I should share. Crowwe's screenplay was based on Crowe's book which was based on time spent under an assumed name at the high school he had attended not too many years earlier. That isn't the notable detail. There may be a Hollywood-type reason that movie Stacy is both sexually naive and sexually adventurous... I mean aside from it actually being possible to be both. In the book, its is a girl from out of town--Laurie Beckman--who receives the blow job lesson from Linda, not Stacy. Somewhere in the transition from book to screenplay, I suppose Laurie and Stacy got combined.)

But, I want to talk about Spicoli. This is from the book version of his arrival at Mr. Hand's class:

Jeff Spicoli, a Ridgemont legend since third grade, lounged against the doorframe. His long dirty-blond hair was parted exactly in the middle. He spoke thickly, like molasses pouring from a jar. Most every school morning, Spicoli awoke before dawn, smoke three bowls of marijuana from a small steel bong, put on his wet suit and surfed before school. He was never at school on Fridays, and on Mondays only when he could handle it. He leaned into the room, red eyes glistening. His long hair was still wet, dampening the back of his white peasant shirt.

"May I come in?

Siskel (1986) points out...

(Nice sidenote, I put "fast times at ridgemont high glamorizes drug use" in Google, got the previously mentioned Schlussel as the first result and my own blog as the third. Gotta love it when the blog tops searches right away.)

...that "Sean Penn's stoned character" got Fast Times at Ridgemont High's "biggest laughs right up until his memorable final line, 'Awesome, totally awesome!'" First, that line is not that memorable when lined up next to, say, "Just couldn't make it on time" or "It's a way of looking at that wave and saying, 'Hey bud, let's party'" or "That was my skull. I'm so wasted."

(Fourth Google result...)

M.C.Poertner (1986) at The Sentinel, describes how "Scott Thompson, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals"--because that is who should be deciding how movies are rated or advertised--"proposed a 'D' label for theater displays, billboards and other printed advertising for movies that 'glorify' drugs."

And, I'm just going to excerpt this thing for a bit...

This explanation would accompany the label: "This motion picture contains portrayals of the use of illicit drugs in a manner which may reasonably influence minors to experiment with illegal and harmful substances, it is therefore rated D."

"We believe that movies are having a dramatic impact on young people's attitudes about drugs," Thomson told the association's annual conference at the Orange County Convention and Civic Center. "Parents need to be aware of movies in which drugs are promoted."

Thomson had no statistics to substantiate an increase in student drug abuse. He said his proposal was based on speaking with principals throughout the nation, who complained that student drug abuse has increased since the early 1980s, when it declined.

He said children are influenced not only by friends who use drugs, but by "legitimate elements of society."

"The most insidious of these, because they reach youth so effectively, are motion picture producers," he said.

"During the past two decades this plague has spread downward from the adult population and college-age students into our high schools, junior high schools, and even into the elementary grades."

Three U.S. senators support the rating proposal and are expected to introduce legislation by mid-March, Thomson said. He declined to identify them, but said they were "middle-of-the road" and "widely respected."

Thomson cited such movies as Risky Business, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Easy Rider, Private Benjamin and Animal House as offenders.

So, there's that.

We couldn't possibly have a movie that includes drug use without suggesting that it is promoting said dug use... But, I don't need to be sarcastic about it. The idea that Jeff Spicoli would be a role model for anyone who was not already a stoner is just ridiculous to me. Well, stoners and class clowns who just want to be funny.

But, then reality got in the way of my argument. I made the mistake of asking a couple "stoner" friends of mine about Jeff Spicoli.

So, Mary Jane (not her real name) tells me, "Everyone knows spicoli from fast timessssssss ;-) and yes he is my idol." Bud (not his real name) claims, "I'd like to think I'm a better version of him... Not quire [sic] sure he is the idol, cool guy no doubt... he's got rad hair bro." So, Bud likes Spicoli's hair but isn't sure Spicoli qualifies as an idol.

Mary Jane jumps in, quoting the movie: "All I need is tasty waves a cool buz and I'm fine" and "Dude... let's party" and she added "Yea he is my idol."

I asked my friends if they characterize themselves as "stoners" so I could label them for the purpose of quoting them here.

Mary Jane: Depends what mood I'm in. But stoner can be all negative too.

Bud: Well, kinda why I don't like jeff is cuz he give stoners a bad rep to normal peeps.

In, you know, conservative English, Bud is saying that he does not like the character of Jeff Spicoli because he [Spicoli] gives stoners a bad reputation to, well, you. I would point out that during this final exam montage on my TV right now, Spicoli actually seems to be taking his exam, even if he is wearing sunglasses and from the look of Mr. Hand after removing them, he may be high. Other students are cheating. But, yes, let us worry about Spicoli and the message he's sending to kids watching the film... Nevermind that kids are not even supposed to be seeing this movie. Not in the theater anyway. Didn't stop me from watching it on TV, though.

Bud says: I would say I'm a stoner.

Mary Jane responds: Hmmmmm, I guess were are stoners.

Bud adds: but there is/should be a better word

Mary Jane: Seriously. like, laid back.

That might be too generic. Pretty easy to be laid back without being a stoner. But, I get the idea.

Mary Jane: All I can think of is pot head and it doesn't sound positive.

On that note, I gotta ask, is Jeff Spicoli a positive portrayal of a stoner? Does his presence "glamorize" drug use? To the first question, I would offer a soft yes. Spicoli seems like an okay guy, doesn't hurt anybody else in the film--well maybe some of Mr. Hand's sensibilities, but I think they end up on good terms. Sure, Spicoli just squeaks by in life, but we'd probably all be better off if a few more of us just wanted some tasty waves and a nice buzz. As for the second question, no, not at all. Even the dream sequence we see with Spicoli comes across so, on the one hand farfetched that it doesn't suggest that his drug use is going to lead to it and, but on the other hand, if Jeff gets up before dawn every day to go surfing (as the book suggests; and keep in mind, this character is based on a real guy (or guys)), he's more responsible than a hell of a lot of high school guys and just might actually make a living out of surfing if he plays his cards right.

But anyway, the movie is over and stoners will be stoners even if a whole lot of people think badly of them.

I figure, as long as you aren't hurting anyone else--or yourself unnecessarily--do what you want.

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