The lure of Netflix is always stronger when you have a pile of important stuff to do – like that time I was abroad in England and had three days to write two final papers, but decided that watching the entire first season of New Girl before I left the country was equally important. Thanksgiving break was a similar scene. While I could’ve (and should’ve) started research for my final papers, I started a mini-marathon of the first season of Friday Night Lights instead.
13 episodes later and I’m officially emotionally attached and addicted to the show. Everyone needs to watch this show ASAP. Ladies, think you don’t want to watch a show about football? Think again. At first I was like, no way will a show about football keep my attention – I was so wrong. It gives us everything: drama, relationships, scandals, tragedies, morality issues, racism, family values, drugs, economic disadvantage, the war in Iraq, and so on. Literally everything. Friday Night Lights is centered around the town of Dillon, a close-knit community in rural Texas, which depends entirely on its high school football team for its survival. Football players are frequently drafted from Dillon to play in the NFL, and many of the families depend on the success of their sons’ potential football career to eventually provide for their family.
Friday Night Light offers two social spheres: the adults of Dillon, and its high school students. Particular focus is given to the team’s coach, Eric Taylor, and his wife, Tami and daughter, Julie. Through Coach Taylor and his family, we learn about the lives of other team members and those who are connected to them.
A significant underlying tension in Friday Night Lights is gender relations. There are specific roles and expectations that each gender must fulfill according to the social customs of Dillon. Most of them are what I guess we would consider “traditional” southern gender roles.
For the most part, there are only two types of women on this show: religious wholesome women, and promiscuous “low class” women. The jobs of the wholesome set of women range from supporting their husbands and their careers no matter what, to running bake sales (the proceeds of which go towards supporting the football team). Meanwhile, the other option for females is to slink around town in tight jeans and belly shirts, offering sexual favors to the football players. In either case, women’s actions are dictated by what men are doing, and what men need from them. Teenage girls are overprotected by their fathers and brothers, and are barely granted permission to go out on dates. At the same time, fathers are vocal about their daughters marrying a successful man to support them. Though these girls are not necessarily as pure and wholesome as their fathers believe and wish them to be, they still play the role of the infantilized innocent girl who is dependent on her father’s/boyfriend’s protection and care.
That being said, the men in the show are portrayed in similar binary terms. Representations of men are essentially split between the extreme gentleman and big-headed bad boys. In this sense, males and females in the show are on equal footing when considering their gender restrictions. Jason Street, the once promising quarterback who is paralyzed during a play-gone-wrong in the first episode of the season is the exception. Once the epitome of masculinity, he is wheelchair-bound and depends on his mother and girlfriend to care for him in every way possible. He loses all control of what he thinks it means to be a man, and must figure out how to reconfigure his masculinity.
I’m still in the beginning of the series, so I’m curious to see if characters will begin to break out of these strict gender confines. Either way, it clear that Dillon relies on these roles to function without disruption or chaos. What I would like to see is a couple of females and males break out of the roles that are expected of them.
Even watching this trailer will make you addicted/tear up: