Friday Night Lights: What Comes First?

I just finished watching the final episode of the final season of the TV show Friday Night Lights, and I am quite impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the entire series. The show’s creators and writers and actors got a lot of things right, and I enjoyed the ride.

First of all, for the most part, they got Texas right. The actors talked and acted like Texans, and it wasn’t overdone or caricatured as it is in so many Texas setting movies and television shows. A lack of Hispanic characters was a weakness in the program, since Texas is 37% Hispanic, but the characters who were there were pure Texan.

They got football right, too. Football really is King in much of Texas, especially small and medium-sized towns in Texas. A few of the situations the writers got themselves into with outlandish behavior by football fans and boosters were over the top, but they showed just how seriously many Texans take their high school football.

I was disappointed, however, by the overall take on sex and Christianity in the program. Christianity was portrayed as a Sunday thing: almost everyone went to church on Sunday, but faith didn’t inform their lives the rest of the week at all. Characters rarely prayed, except in a formulaic way before football games, and Christian moral values were not even considered as characters in the show engaged in promiscuous, casual sex with multiple partners at a young age. In fact, as the series drew to a close, Coach Taylor and his wife Tammy, a guidance counselor at the local high school, were unconcerned that their nineteen year old daughter had sex with her long-time boyfriend, quarterback Matt Saracen (played by actor Zach Gilford, one of the best actors in a series filled with good acting, by the way), but were completely appalled that Julie and Matt wanted to get married at ages nineteen and twenty respectively. “You’re too young!” No one ever mentions that it’s better to marry than burn (as Paul says) or that sex comes after marriage, not before. It’s just not an issue, and everyone is doing it. The “rules” seem to be:

Be sure you’re “ready”, emotionally and mentally prepared.
Use condoms. (One high school student gets pregnant because she and her boyfriend didn’t. Later, her mom lets the boy come back, with the admonition, “Use a condom this time or I’ll kill you!”)
Don’t have an affair with a married man or woman, and if you’re married , don’t commit adultery. It’s the last taboo.
Don’t get too involved or committed because sex is just sex, and marriage is only for old people and has nothing at all to do with sex.

I take it back: at the beginning, the first couple of season, FNL did “get religion”, at least to some extent. Then, I think the writers thought it became too limiting to the dramatic necessities of the show to have Christian characters trying to live their convictions, even though they were shown failing and trying again. This clip from the pilot episode shows that promising beginning:

Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.

Mary DeMuth says Friday Night Lights taught her about community and the need for close relationships.

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