By: Derek Lawton
If you have never seen “Friday Night Lights,” you are missing out on a great show. It is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I personally think it is one of the best shows to ever be aired. Friday Night Lights depicts the trials and tribulations of a small town Texas football team, the Dillon Panthers. It especially focuses on the ups and downs the players, coaches, and families go through, including coach Eric Taylor, his wife Tami Taylor, their daughter Julie Taylor, Tim Riggins, Matt Saracen, and Lyla Garrity. These characters make up the bulk of the five seasons. It depicts many important and real life lessons throughout the seasons including many stereotypes found throughout the show. The stereotypes I will be focusing on are people of the state of Texas, race, and gender.
One of the first stereotypes “Friday Night Lights” reinforces is that everyone in Texas is obsessed with football. For example, in Dillon, football is the only thing that brings the town together. The town lives for friday nights to watch their high school play. If there was not football the town would not have anything to live for. Money is constantly being spent around it with the generous help from boosters. “Friday Night Lights” is a classic example of a small Texas Town. There is a recurring theme that everyone wants to get away from the small town of Dillon yet they all come back. Dillon is a town that everyone in it can feel loved and welcomed. When I think of Texas I automatically think of football. The show does a great job of making it seem like football is the main focus in Texas. Having friends in Texas I know this to not be true though.
Football is not the only stereotypes of people in Texas. People from Texas are portrayed as uneducated low-life white trash rednecks. The best example is the main character Tim Riggins. He is a drunk who lives in a beer flooded house with his older brother. He has no parental figures and is only successful because of his athletic abilities on the field. He has a good heart but he’s not the brightest bulb. His girlfriend Tyra falls under the rednecks stereotype as well. She is raised by her mother and has no father figures in her life. She was raised with no rules and also lives with her stripper sister. Both Tim and Tyra are always found drinking, breaking the law, and have little ambition. They do challenge their stereotypes at times in the show though because of the “good looks.” They end up breaking the redneck barrier later in the seasons though.
Furthermore, the show depicts these athletes to be above everyone else in high school just because they play football. To be “cool in school” you have to be on the football team. It depicts these football players in a negative way. They portray them to be dumb jocks that do not care about school and that football is there only focus. These players are looked at as gods in the show. The star quarterback is even idolized by the grade school children and there is also a local radio show dedicated to him and the rest of the team. The media treats these sixteen year old players like NFL stars.
Another stereotype the show illustrates is that if you play football you get girls. In the show every football player has his own girl “rally girl” who is devoted to them. These girls do whatever the players ask them to do. Whether it may be making food for them, making signs, or even doing their homework. The girls are at the players beck and call whenever they need something. For example, Tim Riggins is not the strongest student so he would have his rally girl do all his homework for him. It got so out of hand that in one episode he was called to Tami Taylor’s office and was yelled at for taking advantage of the rally girls too much. The girls are basically just used by the football players and are portrayed as less than.
“Friday Night Lights” also has many black stereotypes. For example, the star running back, “Smash Williams,” is portrayed as an arrogant, selfish jock. He only cares about himself and his accomplishments rather than the team. He was raised by his single mother and came from little to no money. He was relying on his football talent to pay for his college career. The second major black player portrayed on the show is Vince Howard. He does not voluntarily join the team, but instead recruited through his criminal record. He is seen running from the cops, and his fast speed creates an opportunity for coaches to recruit him. He came from little to no money as well. He does not have the most ideal family situation, as his mother is a, drug addict and his father is a deadbeat who only starts to care about him after he becomes famous. Stereotypes of black male athletes is not just portrayed in this show but also in the media. The media is constantly giving black athletes a bad name. Making them see like they are all poor uneducated gangsters. Many black athletes do come from poor families but so do white athletes. There are so many disparities of how the media covers and stereotypes black athletes.
Not only are there black stereotypes they also did not give hispanic characters in the show a good name. The first hispanic character, “Bobby Reyes,” who was the latino kid with a temper and aggressive attitude. He was caught beating up a white kid on the team and is known for causing many other fights. The other hispanic character “Santiago,” is portrayed as a gang banger. He joins the team after being released from prison. Santiago is not the best role model, and does not appear in many episodes. Overall, the hispanic characters in the show are not portrayed in a good light.
Even though the show faced many stereotypes I do not think it would be the same without these stereotypes. The stereotypes within the show are what gives “Friday Night Lights” its name. The stereotypes will always exist and be noticeable to viewers because of the history of the country. I wish it would take its portrayal of young, minority characters a little more seriously and not pigeon hole them as much. They have a very diverse cast though, which is very hard to find with other shows. The diversity of characters is also something that many other shows do not offer making “Friday Night Lights” more appealing. This character-driven drama relies heavily on the characters to catch the real life drama seen in the show. Overall, “Friday Night Lights” is a one of a kind show and I think everyone should give it a chance.
“CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN’T LOSE”