After my long run, I flipped channels and found that ABCFamily was having some kind of early 90s kid movie marathon, and showing the 1994 classic, Little Giants. The movie stars Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neil as feuding brothers who pit their football teams against each other. This was the early 90s so the Dallas Cowboys were like, famous or something, as really good football players. So as you can clearly see illustrated in this poster, Ed O’Neill got the kids with talent while Rick Moranis (no doubt doing penance for shrinking the kids) got the less talented ones.
Little Giants had what was, at the time anyway, a really unique character in the form of Rick Moranis’s daughter. Becky, aka the Ice Box, liked to play football. And she played well. In fact, her uncle’s refusal to accept her on his team because of her lady parts was what prompted her dad to start this rag tag team in the first place. (Which, coincidentally, was otherwise all male.) And Becky was dedicated to it until Junior Floyd showed up.
Let’s ignore the unsexiness of his name right now, and simply focus on the fact that he was played by Devon Sawa, who any 8-14 year old girl in 1994 would gladly give up her Care Bear collection for. Jr wasn’t a really crappy player but he knows Becky’s value as a teammate on the field. Becky soon comes to believe that Devon’s only interested in her girly girl cousin who’s a cheer leader and dainty. She runs around in skirts and plays dumb and flirts in the annoying, obnoxious manner of so many other girls regardless of whether or not they’re in their teens. Becky is learning a tough lesson in this movie and the question becomes: Does she sacrifice who she is and what she loves (and by the way what she’s really good at) so she can win over some guy? In the post Title IX world, Becky’s got to assess her options.
If you had any doubt she’d pick the boy and go all girly girl have you never seen a movie in your entire life? Once Junior is injured during The Big Game, (there’s always a big game) Becky returns to the field to aid her teammates, demonstrating leadership quality on the field and ultimately they win.
What I like about this movie, though, is that it shows how girls Becky’s age can face discrimination in sports, despite their abilities. It shows how Becky is learning and trying to come to grips with the real world of complicated gender politics and norms that is exhibited by Junior’s relationship with her cousin, and also how she throws down the pompoms to lead her football team to victory. In a world indelibly influenced by Title IX, even though her uncle is a douche who totally doesn’t observe it, Becky’s got options but society is acting to limit those options. For a tomboy girl, this is something to relate to.
The 1990s were like a golden age for kids’ sports movies: Rookie of the Year, Little Big League, The Mighty Ducks, 3 Ninjas, Little Giants, and of course the best of them all… THE SANDLOT. Best movie ever and I still love it when my co-worker looks at me and says, “you’re killing me, Smalls.”