Legendary 1980s star Phoebe Cates turns 57 today. For many Gen Xers, Cates was the only religion we cared about back then. Her memorable monologue in Gremlins has remained an annual holiday favorite, which I’ve written about previously. Her roles in Private School and Drop Dead Fred were big favorites, but it was her work in Amy Heckerling ‘s Fast Times at Ridgemont High that made us remember her forever.
Sure, we all loved her in that scene (you know the one), a moment that forever enshrined her in the Gen X pop culture hall of fame. Growing up watching the movie repeatedly, though, the thing that always stood out for me was her character’s vulnerability. Linda seems so worldly to Stacy. She’s dating a college guy! She’s an expert on sex! But as the movie progresses Cates shows us it’s largely a facade, and one which Linda probably talked herself into believing. This fits perfectly with the movie’s overarching theme of lost innocence, as these teenagers transition into a form of play-acting adulthood.
Take the seemingly throwaway moment that comes right after that scene, when Linda gets water in her ear—suddenly she seems so childlike that we feel kind of gross for having paused the VHS tape so many times earlier, during that scene (it’s okay, we were just kids, too). Linda is like so many teenagers, thinking she needs to grow up, and to do it fast. Cates is so good in the role.
During the end credits, as Oingo Boingo sings about knowing somethin’ about the ways of lovin’, we learn that Linda went on to college and, of course, started dating her abnormal psych professor. Cates left the spotlight a couple decades ago and seems plenty happy with husband Kevin Klein and their kids. I like to think Linda followed Phoebe’s lead, and grew up just fine.