In praise of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, my first movie boyfriend, in ‘Tom and Huck’

I was a preteen girl in the mid-1990s, which means a few things. One, I owned a Tamagotchi that I made my mother babysit while I was at school and that consequently died since, you know, she had to work. Like an adult. Two, I would’ve sold my soul to become the sixth Spice Girl. And three, I had a borderline unhealthy obsession with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, affectionately known by us ’90s gals as JTT.

I’d watch JTT’s movies – Man of the House, Wild America, The Lion King (he was the voice of young Simba, it counts), etc. – over and over again while clutching my Teen Beat poster collection completely un-ironically. Surprisingly, I didn’t see I’ll Be Home for Christmas until just a couple weeks ago because by 1998, I had already moved on to Leonardo DiCaprio and Josh Hartnett.

But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and especially for the first movie I ever remember seeing him in: Tom and Huck, which turns 20 today (wow). His portrayal as Tom Sawyer cemented his place as my first movie boyfriend, for the following reasons and more.

I mean…the swagger

I tried to think of a non-creepy noun to use here since JTT was a kid in Tom and Huck, but let’s just go ahead and agree that from here forward, 10-year-old Jen is writing this. So, real talk from the chasms of my 1995 diary: The hair. The smile. The voice. Tom was just so damn cute and charming, with mannerisms that always seemed like he was keeping a secret that you desperately needed to know.

He was mischievous and adventurous

Certain aspects of this, like the whole blood-oath thing, were dangerous and obviously not something I’d recommend because of diseases and whatnot. But Tom wasn’t afraid of much and never turned down a challenge, which is super swoon-worthy. He was also pretty good at persuading people to do what he wanted them to do with a little snake-charmer-level smooth talk – something that persisted in pretty much all of JTT’s characters, come to think of it, which is probably why I love(d) him so much.

He was an amazing friend

Tom’s loyalty to Huck (who was played by the late Brad Renfro) conveyed one of his better qualities to viewers: that he was a loyal companion, first and foremost. He sees past Huck’s defenses to basically force them to become close friends, which is probably at least a big part of what prompts the Widow Douglas to eventually adopt Huck into her home. What a guy.

He was romantic, if a little misguided

Tom is the Pacey Witter kind of boyfriend, which is my totally type. As far as I was concerned, I WAS Becky Thatcher (played by one of my favorite ’90s teen-movie queens, Rachael Leigh Cook), who basically takes none of Tom’s crap. Like when he tries to give her an “engagement ring” (a brass doorknob or something), she’s excited until he mentions he used to be engaged to some other girl. Then Becky’s all like, “Wait…you mean I’m not the first? I hate you. I hate you, and I hope you die.”

A smidge harsh but still, Becky’s feistiness, independence, and refusal to play second banana to another girl only make Tom love her more. Like Becky, I appreciate a guy who will work for my affection.


At the end of the day, he did the right thing

As if Tom couldn’t get any more perfect, he fights hard to ensure scapegoat Muff Potter – the town drunk who’s a good guy deep down and completely innocent of the murder he’s accused of – gets off scot-free. This ends up meaning Tom has to break his oath with Huck, but he does it because it’s the right thing to do to make sure an innocent man goes free. Luckily, karma makes an appearance and Huck forgives him, proving that true friends are always there for us as long as we listen to our consciences.

(Images via Walt Disney Pictures / Buena Vista Pictures; GIF via here)

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