In short, I was Becky "Icebox" O'Shea.
When the kids' football comedy Little Giants hit the big screen in the fall of 1994, I saw in Becky the closest approximation to my own conflicted tomboy existence ever committed to celluloid. And, as even the girliest of Little Giants fans would agree, Becky had a very good reason for briefly, and only briefly, hanging up her helmet in hopes of getting that special boy to consider having kissing practice with her. That reason was Devon Sawa.
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As Junior Floyd, the new kid with the golden arm, Sawa stole our hearts as surely as he startled Becky (Shawna Waldron) that day in the supermarket. After Sawa, no boy could ever impress me with flawlessly arced toilet paper roll tosses thrown in perfect spirals. You couldn't blame poor, awkward Becky for tackling Junior extra hard in practice or ditching her tough exterior to daydream about making out with her dreamy star quarterback like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. What girl could resist the affable charm and golden good looks of the teenage Sawa, even if kissing boys was still a little bit icky?
Dreamboat looks aside, Sawa's Junior sent a very important message to tomboys everywhere: Be yourself -- yes, even you with the dirty knees and unladylike love of sports -- and you, too, can get the boy. A girl could be the most feared enforcer on the football field and still be the one Junior ended up holding hands with when the big game was in the bag. In retrospect, the 12-year-old protagonists may have been a tad young for the requisite Hollywood kissing scene that my younger self longed to see, but Junior's mere interest in the non-conformist girl in Little Giants was enough to seal a place in my heart for life; my inner tomboy never forgot that a boy like Devon Sawa might still like a girl for who she was, even if she chose football pads over pom-poms. In my humble estimation of the history of gender empowerment, Little Giants ran a close second to Title IX.
Though that turn as Junior Floyd would remain one of my favorite performances of his, Devon Sawa continued to make our teenage hearts palpitate in the years that followed. In Casper, released a year after Little Giants, Sawa earned even more fans with his brief appearance as the friendly ghost in human form, who is allowed to dance with Christina Ricci at the Halloween dance just long enough to slow-dance-levitate her in the air, freak out all the other kids, and share a bittersweet kiss before turning back into a ghost. (How sad is that movie? Ask THIS CHICK.)
Only a few months after Casper debuted, Sawa reunited with Ricci in a movie also dear to my heart. While Casper had been filmed a few years before and released in the summer of 1995, Sawa and Ricci had grown up just enough to portray slightly more arduous feelings later that year in Now and Then, a period dramedy about a band of girl friends growing up in '70s suburbia. Here was yet another instance where Sawa went for the tomboy. This scene, in which his Scott nervously asks Ricci's Roberta to kiss her, made it into heavy rotation in my middle school days. (We all suffered plenty of Ricci envy back in those days.)
Post-Now and Then, Sawa made a host of notable appearances as he transitioned into adulthood. There was his turn in 1997's Wild America, a heartthrob three-fer in which he starred with Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Scott Bairstow. And his memorable role as an unemployable dealer in SLC Punk! The millennium brought Sawa to further mainstream notice with starring roles in Idle Hands, Final Destination, and Slackers, along with the title role in Eminem's music video for "Stan." Since then, he's worked steadily in independent film and maintains his own amiable Twitter page. His latest film, the indie thriller Endure, is currently making the festival rounds.
I, for one, would love to see Sawa back in the Hollywood spotlight. On behalf of the Becky O'Sheas and Roberta Martins, the tomboys and tomboys-at-heart of the world, I say, put Junior back in the game! Who's with me?
[Snaps to the Sawa fans at Starshine, who run an up-to-date fansite celebrating Sawa's career.]