My boss at a record store I worked at years ago, my best job ever, once said that Fast Times at Ridgemont High portrayed Italian Americans in a bad light, since Jeff Spicoli and Mike Damone were such shits. I thought at the time that it was just another one of his stupid theories, we all had them, that we would throw out there on a slow Sunday afternoon, but after watching it again last night, it was the Lovely Gancer Girlfriend's first time around, I think he was really onto something.
Jeff Spicoli, portrayed by Sean Penn
The Deadbeat Facts:
1. He never held a job, choosing instead to consistently smoke pot all day, often with guys who looked an awful lot like Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards, and sometimes to the point where he couldn't feel his own skull.
2. He was a lousy student. He showed up late to class, once wearing a flannel 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 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 reefers and drank beers behind the wheel, and crashed it into a pile of cinder blocks, totaling it. After failing to fix it with his father's, who was a television repair man, ultimate set of tools, he resorted to making off like 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 good, but he would later blow the reward money on the costs to get Van Halen to play his birthday party, which is not too good.
Mike Damone, portrayed by Robert Romanus, a man whose illustrious list of TV guest star appearances include Weird Science the television show and CHiPS.
The Deadbeat Facts:
1. He was a high school grifter of the worst order, scalping rock concert tickets at school and at the mall with a keyboard scarf slung around his greasy, Italian neck*, sometimes trying to talk impressionable girls into going to Cheap Trick concerts when they didn't even like 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, and offhandedly told them about a spread only after the bet had been made.
2. He helped his friend gain the confidence to ask out a girl he was pining for using the Mike Damone 5 Point Plan, only to sneak around and nail her behind his friend's back with a twelve second bump, squirt, and a giggle in a pool cabana. Later, when she told him she was pregnant, he responded with a "you wanted it more than I did!" He agreed to pay half the cost 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.
One can even look at the cameo roles in the film. Nicholas Cage has no speaking roles, but he can be seen both in high school and burger joint shots. Who is Nicholas Cage's uncle? Francis Ford Coppola, another Italian Amerian who made The Godfather, perhaps the film with the biggest legacy of Italian American Defamation. Think about it, man . . .
Your turn, seven readers: Tell me something you've seen in the media that portrays a group of people in a bad light that few people point out, or just tell me a scene from Fast Times that you like, not counting the part where Judge Reinhold is whacking it to Phoebe Cates because that is everyone's favorite part.
*There was no need for that greasy comment, but I couldn't resist turning it up a notch for effect.