The ’80s were quite a different time. The cool kids used words like tripendicular, wore teal eyeliner and popped collars, and hung out at the mall every night.
But as Julie points out to her daughter, the pressures of being a teen in the modern era aren’t so different from the pressures she felt herself as a teen. And it wasn’t just about finding the perfect prom date either. It was about deciding where you wanted to go to college, figuring out what you wanted to do with your life, and perhaps most importantly, discovering who you want to be.
And now that her daughter is stuck at a crossroad between following some guy or following her dreams, she figures it’s time to tell her about her own first love from the wrong side of the tracks, Randy, and how he helped change her from a “valley girl” into the successful woman she is today.
Cue the ’80s flashback.
We’ll get to the details of Julie and Randy’s relationship a bit later on. But we can say that their relationship has lasting positive effects. Randy encourages Julie’s dreams of becoming a fashion designer, which leads her to expressing herself more freely with her clothing choices and (eventually) even opening her own clothing company. Julie inspires Randy, prodding him to take a deeper look at his own thoughts and emotions. By pouring that into his music, he is able to accomplish his own goals of becoming a successful musician.
Julie and Randy initially abandon their friends while dating. Although this causes some strife and awkwardness, they both realize what their friends mean to them and find ways to make amends. In Julie’s case, this is a little more difficult due to some “backstabbing” when her friend Karen starts dating her ex-boyfriend, Mickey. But Julie recognizes that Karen has had a lot going on (Karen failed to get into the same college as all of her friends), and she chooses to forgive Karen’s betrayal.
Julie’s parents do their best to encourage her dreams and trust her decisions. While they don’t always understand Julie’s (sometimes not-so-great) choices, they eventually tell her they are proud of her no matter what. A generation later, Julie incorporates the lessons she’s learned from them when parenting her own daughter, giving her teen the opportunity to figure out what she wants to do with her life while also establishing boundaries when needed.
Randy and Julie make out several times. In one instance, they remove each other’s jackets and Julie straddles Randy. It’s implied that they had sex, though nothing is seen on screen. Karen rubs her hand on Mickey’s leg and we hear later that they “hooked up.” Several other couples kiss and make out throughout the film (including one same-sex couple).
Couples dance together throughout the movie, and a teacher separates one couple for dancing too closely at prom. It appears that two boys pair off together for a skating competition and later two girls dance together at prom. Randy has a lesbian friend named Jack.
Mickey asks Julie to prom by having his teammates paint the question onto their backsides and mooning her. Some boys look at a magazine called Playpen featuring a woman in lingerie on the cover. Randy drives past a club called the Pussycat Theater featuring a provocative illustration of a woman out front. A girl’s bare rear is briefly seen when she spins, and someone says she should’ve worn underwear. A boy grabs condoms before heading to prom and tells his date that he got a hotel room for them.
Girls wear short skirts, crop tops and leotards. A few tops reveal cleavage. We see people on the beach wearing bikinis and swimming trunks. A close-up shot shows some girls adjusting their undergarments over their clothing. Two boys use urinals (though nothing is seen). A girl wears a Sex Pistols T-shirt.
Some adults make sexually charged comments towards teenagers. A teenage girl suggestively mocks her friend by grunting and moaning. One of Julie’s peers talks about the illustrations in her mom’s Joy of Sex book. Julie is grossed out when her mom starts using euphemisms about sex. People make references to male and female anatomy, sometimes crudely.
Randy hits Mickey in the face, and Mickey starts bleeding. They get into a fist fight and have to be pulled apart. Randy’s lesbian friend hits a boy at a party when he is rude to her for rejecting him. This starts a fight between Randy, Mickey and some others, and Randy and his friends are thrown out. Two teens smash empty liquor bottles to vent some steam. Julie’s parents panic when she says she wants to go to New York City, calling it the “murder capital of the world.” Someone jokes about suicide.
The s-word is used twice. We hear “d–n” seven times. We hear “b–ch” six times and see it once on a sign. There are also one to two uses each of “h—,” “d–k,” “douchebag,” “a–hole,” “d–mit,” “p-ss” and “suck.” God’s name is misused about 35 times, and Jesus’s name is misused once. We hear the insults “skank,” “jerk-off,” “dweeb” and “dyke.” Someone makes a crude hand gesture.
Teenagers drink alcohol throughout the movie at clubs and parties. A young man’s mom drinks alongside him and his friends during one party, which also features someone doing a keg stand. People make references to being drunk. A school principal asks his students not to spike the punch at prom since he got a DUI the previous year.
Julie’s dad says that any amount of drugs is too many drugs. Someone makes a passing reference to Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” when someone wearing a Reagan mask at a party passes out from apparent drug use.
Julie gives up everything to be with Randy. This alienates her from her friends, who think he’s bad news; and from her family, who thinks he just isn’t good enough for her. Unfortunately, this weighs pretty heavily on Randy. But rather than talk to Julie about his fear of rejection, he embarrasses her by not showing up at important events and sabotaging the ones he does attend.
Randy admits that his dad left before he was born and that his mom kicked him out when she decided she wanted to have a “real family.” When Randy tries to make a good impression on Julie’s parents, Jack mocks him and tells him that parents don’t “dig him”—not even his own. He takes some of these frustrations out on Julie, mocking her for caring about what her friends and family think, and she responds by pointing out that at least she has people who love her.
Julie’s friend, Stacey, tries to talk with friends about her parents’ divorce but is hushed up since they think topic is too depressing. She is later told that she’s “lucky” they rescued her from being a social outcast. Mickey calls Karen an “idiot” for not getting into college and later gets mad at Julie for ruining his prom night by refusing to have sex with him.
We hear several stories about people vomiting, and in one case we see it. People lie and steal. Teens sneak in and out of their houses without their parents’ knowledge or consent. A boy graffities a wall. Several girls say they want to get married so they won’t have to figure out what they’re doing with their lives.
As Julie points out pretty early on to her daughter, life in the ’80s “was like a song. And we knew all the words.” That is, until Randy showed up and changed the radio station.
His world of punk rock was different from anything Julie had ever known—after all, she had never even ventured out of her own zip code before that. But the change turned out to be a good one, inspiring Julie to take a few risks while softening some of Randy’s edginess.
On a deeper level, the emotional heart of the movie revolves around a mother guiding her daughter into the next stage of life by reliving her own experience. Her first love wasn’t always perfect, but it showed her who she wanted to be and how she wanted to live, and she wouldn’t trade that for anything.
That said, Valley Girl—a remake of Nicholas Cage’s much raunchier, R-rated 1983 version—still has its fair share of PG-13-level concerns: There’s a lot of making out, same-sex attraction (including two girls kissing) makes a decidedly anachronistic appearance and sex talk is pretty frequent. Profanity—especially misuses of God’s name—flows freely. And teenage rebellion and recklessness are all over the place here too.
The 2020 version of Valley Girl paints a less risqué portrait of the wild 1980s than the original did. It delivers some sweet messages about growing up, but it still has plenty of problems to navigate for those who aren’t quite grown up today.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.