Keep Your Power Gloves Off Her!
Okay, so this was originally going to be like an overall tribute to the golden age of pre-teen actresses (1987-1992) in popular cinema, like when Christina Ricci was adorable and Thora Birch made that movie where her best friend was a seal, but then it turned out there were so many examples on YouTube from my single most favorite film from this era, I thought I'd just devote this whole post to that film and pontificate about the meaning of it all later. And that film is? Of course, the Jenny Lewis-Fred Savage vehicle/ extended Nintendo infomercial, "The Wizard":
As a very young girl, I was obsessed with the pre-teen film career of one Miss Jenny Lewis (later of Rilo Kiley and "Rabbit Fur Coat" fame). Jenny Lewis starred in tons of rad movies, such as Disney’s take on World War II, “ A Friendship in Vienna”, and “Troop Beverly Hills” . Jenny’s characters were always really complex- they were always very smart and independent, usually pretty nonconformist, sometimes snotty or mean, and they were sometimes also actually quite vampy and sexy in the way that you can sometimes tell which girls on the playground are going to grow up to be heartbreakers. Her characters told it like it was, like it was to be a sort of gawky but sort of hot girl teetering on the verge of puberty: their parents pissed them off, boys were jerks, childhood was not idyllic, and everyone was always getting in their way. Jenny’s characters had wild hair and pouted and were self-possessed and wore those leggings that just went down to the top of your ankles. It was everything you wanted to be when you finally grew up (i.e turned 11) .It was also so exciting to be catered to as a media target-market! (note about this clip: just to catch you up on the plot, Lucas is a total dick. That's all you need to know):
Jenny hit her peak in “The Wizard”, where she played sassy pre-teen runaway Haley, who reads “Cosmo”, loves Fred Savage but then doesn’t love Fred Savage but really does love him but just doesn’t want to compromise her independence, and is the guiding force with Fred and his bro as they run across the desert to get to the International Nintendo Championship or something. I don’t even remember what happens cos I haven’t seen it in like 12 years, but I remember the impact Jenny made on my life. All I wanted was to be her! She is wily and clever, she understands Fred’s autistic brother’s massive Nintendo potential. Fred loves Jenny, too-- how could he not? Also, Haley is a great example of that “1992” pre-teen girls’ movie heroine-type, the pre-teen feminist:
Corey: It's like the Adventures of Link. He has to find Zelda, you have to find a house. Same difference!
Haley: Boy, is THAT sexist.
Corey: It's not sexist! It's... romantic.
See? God, Fred loves her, but he has to respect her and contend with her fierce sense of self! And that makes him love her even more! God, this is better than like every movie I can even think of. It tells it like it is! Haley is basically the pre-teen embodiment of all of the confused and contradictory concerns of Third Wave feminism: she calls out sexism when she sees it, but still wants to be valued as attractive ( she taunts Fred with a “ [My mom] was a showgirl. Great legs. I got her legs, what do you think?”); she loves men, but doesn’t want their love to make her weak or compromise. She tells him she doesn’t kiss boys and then like 10 seconds later she kisses him! Wow! My mom always used to rent this movie for me from Super Video whenever I was sick, and I can still quote liberally from it. Like “ Keep your Power Gloves off her!”. See? And I didn’t even look that up on IMDB. So great an impression has this movie made on me. And I’d like to think its made a real impression-- I hope there is still a little Haley the runaway in me, talking trash and being the boss and wearing stone-washed denim to perfectly compliment my back-combed bangs.