Hollywood has a long, sometimes obnoxious tradition of trying to recapture the magic of the classics. Well, Hollywood has a lot of obnoxious traditions, but in this case we’re just focusing on the neverending cycle of using the same tropes over and over as if they’ll all work 100 percent of the time. Take, for example, the “Girl Next Door” that every male with a pulse and hormones looks at and thinks, “Man, why can’t she live next door to me instead of that old dude who shaves his balls by his pool?” And for the more daring films and TV shows, there’s the girl next door who presents herself as squeaky clean and all-American, but underneath it all she’s a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets, according to a song I heard playing in a car that drove by me once.
What a convenient coincidence it is that today is Phoebe Cates’s 51st birthday and she just so happened to play one of the most iconic bad good girls, as Linda Barrett in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The sexually active senior’s advice helped lead to poor Stacy getting pregnant, but that was just the kind of fast time that all of the kids desperate to be cool were dealing with back then. But the reason that anyone still talks about Cates has little to do with her decision to walk away from the industry or her long, presumably happy marriage to actor Kevin Kline. Instead, it’s because of that pool scene that guys still drool over 32 years later. The one that other movies have tried so hard to imitate, but none have recaptured that moment of the girl next door walking right through the illusion.
Few scenes really resonate after such a long time the way that Cates’s pool scene has – hell, she even inspired her own pop punk anthem from Fenix TX – as the only others I could think of were Marilyn Monroe’s silly dress over the subway grate gimmick in The Seven Year Itch…
The introduction of Kelly LeBrock as Lisa in Weird Science…
And Terry Griffith revealing that she’s really a woman to Rick Morehouse, of which I cannot share a GIF, but if you’re resourceful enough, you can find the whole scene. In fact, I could probably write an entire book on how that one scene in Just One of the Guys shaped the brains of millions of teenage boys for at least a decade, but today’s thoughtful investigation is only about Cates. Specifically, has there been a scene like the pool exit from Fast Times in the last 32 years that should be awarded elite status and, if not, will there ever be again? Let’s examine some examples to determine the truth.
Marley Shelton in The Sandlot (1993)
Wendy Peffercorn, you guys. She’s obviously legendary enough in the sense that if you say her name to any male teen of the 90s, that man will go into a blank stare as he remembers that smile. But did she have a movie-stealing moment that people still talk about all these years later? If she did, Marley Shelton may have gone the way of Cates and Joyce Hyser, instead of still having a solid career.
Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls (1995)
This is sort of the example of the girl next door who shows off her naughty side and then doesn’t stop showing it off, before she eventually ruins swimming pool sex for everyone. As much as people wanted to see Jessie Spano naked, nobody really wanted the X-rated version of the “I’m so excited” scene. But then, maybe I should just speak for myself.
Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in Wild Things (1998)
Another trashy classic, I could buy into the argument that the Wild Things scene with Neve Campbell and Denise Richards is on a similar level as Fast Times. Say, “The pool scene” to just about any guy and the response is probably, “Dude, Wild Things.” I just don’t buy Campbell and Richards as the girls next door, though.
Mena Suvari in American Beauty (1999)
At the time, Suvari’s topless rose petal scene probably really stood out in the critically-acclaimed American Beauty, but the other scene with Kevin Spacey was super creepy and awkward. The one above was even parodied by Chappelle’s Show and Family Guy, but after Suvari vanished for a while, so did its relevance.