He Touched My Breast: Jennifer, Jenny, and Why We Laugh
“He touched my breast!” li’l Jenny Lewis calls out during a pivotal scene in 1989’s The Wizard. And, for some reason, we laugh. A thirteen year old girl makes a molestation joke, and we laugh.
Why is that?
I mean, this isn’t Dirty Dancing, where we chuckle along with Jennifer Grey as Patrick Swayze’s fingers graze her boob during “Hungry Eyes.” I mean, in that film, she’s, like, a virgin, being touched for the very first time, and how can you blame her for laughing? No, in The Wizard, we’re dealing with a tense moment! These three kids are trying to escape from the goon that’s after the youngest of them, and the only way to get away is to accuse the dude of something totally heinous. I get that. I understand why streetwise Haley (Lewis) makes that call. But I have hard time understanding why I laugh at it.
What this brings to mind for me is a threat that my brother sometimes made to our dad when he was a kid (although it might have been some other younger relative mouthing off to his father, I’m not sure). Basically, the gist of it was, if the father got too close to the son when the son was in a bad mood, the son would threaten, “I’ll yell child abuse.” I don’t know if the son would have ever actually done it, but you never know. And what that makes me wonder is, did this kid (possibly my brother) pick this habit up from The Wizard or did the screenwriters of the the film pick it up from kids like him? That is, who started this trend?
I think the answer to that question might be the answer to my question about why we laugh at the Jenny Lewis line. I think we laugh because kids everywhere were realizing they had power in the late 80s and early 90s, power that their parents never had as kids, that maybe even their older brothers and sisters never had. Childhood, which had begun to be treasured as a precious and most important part of life by the Victorians, had grown, by the end of the twentieth century, to be something that needed to be protected at all costs. Childhood was something you guarded with organized play dates and overbooking of activities and by being completely overbearing. And kids started to realize that, if everyone was out to protect them at all costs, they could use that to their advantage.
So, what I guess I’m trying to say is that I think we laugh when Jenny Lewis screams “He touched my breast!” because the situation with the power of kids’ accusations had gotten so ridiculous that it actually was funny by this point.
Or maybe we just laugh because The Wizard is a terrible fucking movie. I don’t know. What do you think?