Friday Night Lights is a breath of fresh air. Combining both drama and sport is something that television has never seen before. Since the show originated as a book and then was produced as a movie, FNL the show in a way kept the dream alive for its audience. Director of the movie and developer of the TV show, Peter Berg, believed that the audience deserved more. Personally, I couldn’t agree more and I’m glad he didn’t just let this story end.
FNL brings so many things to the table. I wouldn’t be doing it any justice if I simply said, “everyone can relate to this show.” Yes, it is relatable and yes it reaches a wide demographic, but it’s the way they do it that is important. Instead of concentrating on the stereotypical high school struggles they dig a bit deeper. Lets just say they don’t sugarcoat anything. FNL concentrates on realistic issues that allow viewers to not only make a connection but develop an emotional appeal as well. These issues are told and presented through football.
Overtime sport has become an important aspect to American society. “To ignore sport is to ignore a significant aspect of any society or its culture.” I’m not sure what draws people to sport, but I do know the viewership is huge. Maybe it’s the feeling of belonging somewhere, representing a home town, or just getting a little bit of satisfaction after a win. Either way viewers are able to find some sort of relation or emotional connection that keeps drawing them back for more. Incorporating football into its story line, FNL caught the attention of many. For example, I personally know nothing about football, but that didn’t keep me from binge watching 5 seasons.
So what kept bringing me back? FNL is so real, raw, and emotional that at times I felt as though I was apart of the small Dillon community. Unlike other shows, the characters are complex and genuine in a sense that they show why life can be wonderful but terrifying at the same time. It is important to note that, each character in this season is developing. Do they create positive identification for viewers? They might, but definitely not right away. These characters in a sense have been put through the ringer.That being said, that’s what makes their voices or perspectives so significant to the audience.
Lets start with Coach Eric Taylor. As head coach of the Dillon Panthers he dedicated his life to the team and his players. One thing that is very dominant in Friday Night Lights is the lack of father figures. Smash Williams and Tim Riggins are both abandoned by their fathers while Matt Saracen’s dad is off in Iraq serving his country. Coach Taylor quickly found himself taking on the most important role of all. Off the field he was turning boys into men and picking up the pieces when life became very fragile. His voice became the one that they could count on, the one we could count on. it served as a form of motivation or clarity when there was no guarantee life would get any better. He always knew exactly what to say… The best Coach Taylor quotes
Now for those players that depend on Coach Taylor. Matt Saracen, “He served cones at the Alamo Freeze, took care of his grandmother with sever dementia, and lived in the shadows of Jason Street.” Due to a significant amount of unfortunate events and his underdog persona he quickly became one of the most relatable character of the series. Imagine living in a town where everyone expects you to fail and you are constantly being compared to someone that is praised. Once after a loss, Saracen left for school the next morning to find his Quarterback sign ripped from the ground. He embraced the role and became the “I hope he makes it” kid for the viewers.
Then you have Smash Williams, an African American running back for the Dillon Panthers. Dillon, Texas is a very small town that is properly portrays Middle America. That being said, race is still a very relevant and controversial topic that appears in FNL. For example, For example, in episode 15 “Blinders” a coach of the Panthers made a racial comment about the African American players on the team. Although, he got caught up with a reporter the comments were still said ultimately causing tension on the team prior to the big playoff push.
In this particular episode the characters are tested and forced to really think about who they are. The concept of telos was introduced in this episode. The coach, Mac McGill was asked to apologize for his comments, but didn’t feel like that was necessary. He basically didn’t feel that he should apologize for his own opinions or beliefs. Then you have Smash who was negatively talked about to the public. In attempts to stand up for himself, Smash fell into this role of representing or becoming the voice for his African American teammates. His actions and words were praised as he attempted to gain some respect for himself and his peers.
Now lets get back to those realistic issues FNL doesn’t care about bringing up. When FNL talks about important social issues they take their time. They want to present their messages or the realness of these scenarios in a way that doesn’t offend any viewers. With this particular topic, FNL used 2 full episodes. They wanted it to exemplify the importance and process of making decisions that compromise character. Whether it be McGill deciding to apologize … or Smash deciding to stand up for himself. That being said, viewers have the ability to make up their own mind on these issues.
Another noticeable theme in FNL is the male dominance. You have the coaches, the football players, and the alumni. In a sense they hold the power in this football-crazed town. That being said, there was one woman who stood out in a town full of men, Tami Taylor. She is a certified badass, wife, mom, and at the same time made time to have a remarkable career. “She proved that a female character could be feminine and strong at the same time, supporting her husband and daughter while still being totally her own woman.” As the guidance counselor for the high school she found a way to break away from being just the “coach’s wife.” Ultimately, becoming a role model for female viewers.
I think most audience members find an emotional connection to this show. One emotion that this show captures in every episode is anticipation. Will Saracen lead the team to State? Will Coach Taylor accept a new job? Will Jason walk again? The show takes you from your living room and places you in the stands on Friday night. Seeing the sweat on their faces and the blood on their jersey just intensifies the viewing experience.
FNL also exemplifies characteristics of being polysemy. Polysemy is the coexistence of many possible meanings. as an athlete when I watch FNL I feel an instant connection to the show. Not so much about football, but more so about the underlying lessons and values learned while playing a sport. I have experienced a hard felt battle and a sweet victory alongside my teammates. Being able to make that connection allowed me to easily pick up on the meaning of the show. I felt as though it was about tradition and community while capturing the struggles of adolescence. Also, that even though life might not be perfect it is still worth living and the tinniest of dreams could be accomplished.
On the other hand, not every viewer is an athlete. That’s what makes FNL so great. My sister who has never played a sport in her life also loves FNL. But she didn’t live for the inspirational speeches or the victories; she loved the drama and the relationships. Although she understood the significance of sport in the series it wasn’t something that drew her to the show.
I’ll end this blog by talking about the pure satisfaction you get while watching. This show isn’t trying to persuade or inform. It’s to give viewers messages and lessons to decode to understand that they aren’t alone. So how are the viewers involved? They are a part of the community, they are cheering Saracen on as he is making a game-winning pass, and they are crying when Jason Street becomes paralyzed, they are one.
Once a panther, always a panther!