There used to be this huge white box in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. You needed a few things in tote with you to venture there: your Visa card and your bitchin’ friends. Let’s face it. There was a time in history when malls were the place to be. You ate at the mall, went to a movie, played in the arcades, and of course, shopped. The Sherman Oaks Galleria became the mecca for teenage socialization in 1980. Flash-forward to the Northridge earthquake of ’94. The mall never fully recovered, and suffered greatly throughout the rest of the ’90s. (It was eventually remodeled into a modern day mall plaza in 2002) The Era of the Mall and the valley girl culture had died. But I can still picture the bulky escalators carrying Lesportsac shoulder bags and striped polos.
In 1983, a film called Valley Girl was released. It was Nicolas Cage’s first standout performance since he had made his debut a year before in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a movie that I still think about every time I see a pair of checkered Vans. Director Amy Heckerling of Fast Times is also infamous for directing Clueless. Both Valley Girl and Clueless would define two generations in their own ways, creating fashion trends and language among teens that would become culturally significant. My generation is slowly weaning off the word “like” from their vocabulary. But I definitely still, like, use it from time to time. This would be a great segue into a discussion about the dialogue in My So-Called Life. But I’ll hold off for another time…
In essence, the Galleria exists as that hip, vibrant world of 80s plastic covered, happy-go-lucky, girly wonder. It’s the center of the universe in a world of Aqua Net. I get a little misty eyed about these salient images that no longer exist. The former Niles East High in Skokie, IL which was torn down in the early ’90s, tore down pieces of Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science with it too. I know it’s strange, but I’ve seen other movie locations in person before, and a piece of me always wanted to check out the school gym where Samantha Baker stood drooling over Jake Ryan. I guess all we have left are the movies. But really, these movies are what capture it best.
Movies the Galleria is featured in: Valley Girl (1983), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Commando (1986), Terminator 2 (1991), and Chopping Mall (1986).