When picking two of the essential films from the decade that are prominent examples of the genre, I'm going to pick the film that launched the genre in the 80s "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", and one of John Hughes greatest works (a writer and director, who was the king at making these films in the 80s) "Sixteen Candles". It's funny that I'm picking two films that seem like polar opposites. "Fast Times" is more excessive and raunchier with its humor in a way similar to "Animal House" (one of the few films young audiences still watch), while "Sixteen Candles" though having its dirty moments too it’s more light-hearted and sentimental by comparison. And not to say that both genders can't enjoy both flicks, in fact, both films were directed by the opposite gender that you would expect to be behind the camera. But it’s obvious that "Fast Times" was more focused with entertaining male audiences for its fast-paced sexualized and near carefree juvenile world, as "Sixteen Candles" is more targeted towards females for having a slow-moving romance story set on a "Sweet Sixteen". Regardless of their differences in tone, and how they each lean more towards one specific audience, they still share plenty of similarities. They both involve High School; contain shocking humor (regardless which one does it more than the other); deal with love relationships; and show the characters learning a lesson. I'll primarily be focusing on two characters from each film from different genders by discussing their relationships and how they improve upon their selves.
WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
As Sam changes in "Sixteen Candles" so does the boy she desires. Now I'm going to flat-out admit that I don't think Jake is a good match for Sam, mainly based on how he treats his passed-out girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) as he makes his realization (not to say I don't find the whole scenario to be funny for how messed-up and crazy it is). But regardless if he really deserves Sam or not, there's still development present through this character. Jake is a good-looking guy who knows he can pick up any girl he wants. But instead of looking to find someone pure, he dates the girl he finds the most attractive. Jake admires her beauty at first, believing her to be the perfect girl for him until he starts to discover as their relationship progresses that she is a shallow and selfish person. All she cares about is her looks, being popular, and partying, showing no real care or concern for Jake. Jake doesn't realize this until he starts to catch on to Sam's feelings for him on her "Sweet Sixteen" after picking up a completed "Sex Quiz" she took and inconspicuously drops for her friend Randy (Liane Curtis) to pick-up, only for her to fail to do so by snoozing in class. On the Quiz Jake learns that she's saving herself for him, taking her love for him from the way she looks at him. After finding interest in her, Jake starts asking a couple of guys at the school about her. Near the end of the Senior dance, Sam being too afraid to speak to Jake storms off right in front of him, giving him the impression that she doesn't really care about him. Still containing feelings for her, he tries to call her during a party being held at his house, only to find himself being told-off by her grandparents thus adding fuel the fire of believing her false disinterest in him. While trying to reach-out, he discovers Caroline's love for partying is getting out of the control to the point where his home gets destroyed beyond any kind of repair that he can perform to cover it up before his parents return home. Upon finding a trapped Ted, he explains to Jake about Sam's love for him, making him understand that Caroline isn't right for him for how insensitive she is, and should be with someone who's ready to have a serious relationship with him. The next morning, Jake's commitment towards Caroline officially ends after he finds her making-out with Ted who was supposed to just simply take her home. The two say their goodbyes and Jake hooks up with Sam for a better future.
In "Fast Times" we get acquainted with...
Spicoli is the best character in the movie, but he's sadly not the character I'll be talking about.
Through the relationships found in both films, we discover each gender learning the same overall lesson. Stacy and Sam learn that you don't need to be popular to get far in life, as Jake and Brad realize that the great things they have going for them isn't nearly as rewarding as they thought they are. But what all characters have in common is their naive outlook on life changes, as they become much wiser than they ever were before where they are rewarded for understanding themselves better at the end of both films. These films do exactly what a good "Coming of Age" film should do. They teach teenagers morals that they will most likely go through in life, as opposed to just simply entertaining them while providing a shoehorned message that has little focus in the overall story. And no matter who the films are more aimed for there's more than enough lessons and entertainment value that a person from any gender can enjoy.