The cult classic movie Valley Girl finally came to digital streaming in 2020, offering new generations of fans a chance to, like, totally revisit some of the biggest cultural tropes of the ’80s. From the fashions and haircuts to the music and malls, Valley Girl is an entertaining time capsule of the culture and trends of the decade.
It’s also a pretty good film, acclaimed for having more heart than many of the teen comedies popular at the time. Marking Nicolas Cage’s first big-screen starring role, the plot of the film is pretty straightforward, following the wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance between two California teens — Cage’s Randy, an edgy and irreverent punk, and Julie Richman, a popular and more upper-class “valley girl.” The tagline for the Romeo and Juliet-inspired rom-com was “She’s cool. He’s hot. She’s from the Valley. He’s not.”
The term “valley girl” was popular in the early ’80s – originally a dismissive stereotype used to describe a class of young women in California’s San Fernando Valley who were seen as materialistic airheads with a very specific speaking style.
A template for Alicia Silverstone’s speaking mannerisms in Clueless and a precursor to the “upspeak” and “vocal fry” speech of today, “Valspeak” (yes, that’s a real term) resulted in some lingo that is still used today, often as a kitschy callback to the era. Linguistic quirks and phrases like “Fer sure,” “Like, oh my God,” “Totally” and “Gag me with a spoon” all entered the lexicon as Valspeak, which was popularized on a wider level when Valley Girl was released.
The movie hit theaters on April 29, 1983 and fared pretty well at the box-office against stiff competition, bringing in over $1.8 million dollars, which was high enough to make it the fourth highest-grossing film of that week, coming in just behind Tootsie, Disney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and the week’s top movie, Flashdance. Unexpectedly, out of all of those movies, Valley Girl has arguably best stood the test of time.
Before you stream Valley Girl — either to watch it again or see it for the first time — check out these lesser-known factoids about the film.
1. Frank Zappa Sued to Stop the Movie
The concept of a “valley girl” was popularized in 1982 by avant grade rock legend Frank Zappa. Zappa’s song “Valley Girl” featured his 14-year-old daughter Moon Unit playing the titular girl. Through the song, Moon Unit would introduce much of the world to the valley girl lingo, uttering phrases like “bag your face,” “like, totally,” “gag me with a spoon” and “grody.”
The satirical single ended up being the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s only song to crack the Top 40. Zappa had trademarked the term “valley girl” and capitalized on the fad by licensing the name to sell clothes, cosmetics, keychains, greeting cards and other products. When Zappa found out that the movie was in the works, he filed a lawsuit seeking $100,000 and demanded the halt of Valley Girl’s production. A judge ultimately dismissed the suit.
2. Director Martha Coolidge Came at a Deeply Discounted Price
Valley Girl was written and produced by Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane, who wrote the initial script in just 10 days. They enlisted Martha Coolidge to direct; she had experience in the industry, working for Francis Ford Coppola’s production company and making documentaries, but Coolidge’s only narrative film credit at that point was Not a Pretty Picture, which she directed and wrote based on her experience getting date raped when she was a teen. Coolidge says she was paid just $5,000 for directing Valley Girl.
3. Investors Insisted on a Very Specific Amount of Boobs
The investors Crawford and Lane found to bankroll Valley Girl were concerned about a woman directing, thinking she might mute the sex factor, a big part of teen comedies at the time and a way to lure in the coveted young male demographic. While Coolidge didn’t envision the film as a sex farce, she did make a concession, agreeing to include four scenes that featured bare breasts.
4. Coolidge Didn’t Know About Nic Cage’s Coppola Connection
Despite having a professional relationship with Francis Ford Coppola, Coolidge was unaware that Cage was part of the Coppola family. Cage’s real name is Nicolas Coppola and his father is Francis Ford’s brother. But he changed his name when he began acting to avoid the appearance that he was relying on his family name to get roles.
5. Judd Nelson and Michelle Pfeiffer Were Considered for the Leads
When casting Randy, Cage was nowhere near anyone’s radar. Coolidge says they discussed having someone from the era’s popular “Brat Pack” clique of actors, and she nearly cast Judd Nelson in the lead role. But not wanting to have a known “pretty boy” in the film, Coolidge went through the “reject pile” of hopefuls and came across a photo of Cage. “Find me people that look like this,” she said. She ended up being impressed with his acting chops, too. Michelle Pfeiffer, who had her first major starring role in 1982’s notorious dud Grease 2, was allegedly considered for the role of Julie.