Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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Washington, DC, United States
I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

As Through a TV-Screen Brightly: Friday Night Lights and My Relationship With Texas

I'm going to say up front: this is about me more than it is about TV.  Much more.

I lived in Irving, Texas (a suburb of Dallas) for 7 years.  I attended an amazing college for my undergraduate degree and my graduate studies. (University of Dallas forever! Go Crusaders!)  Pretty much every day that I lived there I thought about how happy I would be to leave.  I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and to say that Dallas was a culture shock would be a huge understatement.  The pretty much year-round heat and humidity left me constantly sunburned and frizzy haired, not to mention depressed.  As a centralized population city girl I was used to walking where I needed to go, so the seemingly ever-growing suburban sprawl that required constant use of a car aggravated me as wasteful and ugly.  My suspicious, ironic and detached heart could never truly believe that the boisterous, opinionated and polite Texans were genuine, I was always waiting for them to expose their "real" side.  For the first few years no one could understand what I was saying because they claimed I talked too fast (and somehow in order to accommodate the drawl-ers and slow my speech I turned into a mumbler, which now aggravates the hyper-angry DC-ers).  In many ways I never acclimated to Texas.

But, all this said, I had a really wonderful life there.  I got an outstanding, and  reasonably priced, education.  I met people who I have loved and who have loved me more than I could have possibly imagined beforehand.  I found that bar that will always be my favorite, no matter where I go.  I was constantly over-reaching, over-extending myself and getting knocked down, requiring me to be constantly growing into a better person.  I cried a lot, but only because there were a lot of challenges that I needed to rise to, and for the most part I at least tried.  My days were as unpredictable as the Texas weather: brightly sunny one moment, storm-ravaged the next.  Though I often screamed in frustration, I equally laughed with joy.

I cannot say these things about my life now, and for the longest time I simply assumed that my previous condition was entirely circumstantial, completely about what my life was without any relation to where it was.  This assumption came crashing down at 1:30 AM this morning, as my desperate insomnia drove me back to a long lost love: Friday Night Lights.

I'm sure it won't be surprising to hear that I fell away from watching Friday Night Lights right around the time I moved away from Texas.  It had nothing to do with the quality of the show or my attachment to it, I was simply in a head-space where I wanted to move on from the life I had in Texas and watching a show set there made me feel like I was hanging on to something that I shouldn't.  But when the fifth and final season was released on DVD last week, and NBC prepares to air it starting this month, I realized that I missed this show.  So thanks to Netflix Watch Instantly (have I mentioned how much I adore this service) I was able yesterday to pick-up right where I left off (which I am embarrassed to say was in the second half of S3).

The Taylors, the Collettes, the Rigginses, the Garritys and the Saracens were all right there waiting for me.  And as the hours passed (with the hope of sleep become more dismal) and as I once again became enthralled with the uncertainty and expectation of the game, the harsh realities of small-town politics, the triumphs and trials of loves both enjoyed and sacrificed, and all the amazing humble beauty of FNL, something inside of my finally cracked and I saw that Texas, as a place, was important, in particular, to me.

Needless to say I cried.

It is hard to hide under all that sky and that kind of exposure creates a very certain type of people, a very distinct culture and tradition.

Friday Night Lights is essentially sincere, but not in a cloying way.  Texas is not a place for cynicism, which is part of why I always felt so out of place there.  You are supposed to say what you mean and mean what you say.  It's considered inappropriate to disregard things that you see as a problem with a glib comment and a shrug of your shoulders.  The presumption that one should live a life of integrity and courage in conviction is why Texans are tough but not hard.  Tami Taylor's tenacious and loving discussion with her daughter Julie about sex struck me as a painful contrast to my own flares of righteous indignation followed by indifferent refusal to try and address a difficult situation.  I used to be tough, now I'm just hard (or maybe more accurately, brittle).

I wondered what woman could honestly say she wouldn't want to marry a man like Eric Taylor, and I realized that there were women who had never even met a man like that.  For Texans being a man isn't about how expensive your car is or how much power your job allows you to wield; being a man is about being responsible, devoted, honest, and respectful.  This isn't to say every guy I met in Texas was a saint, but rather that there is societal understanding that men should be men and not boys: anchored by family and determined in purpose.  I realized I wasn't finding this in DC in part because there was no expectation of it.  Holding doors open is frowned upon, dismissing other people is par for the course because no one can possibly be in as big a hurry as you are, and what you do for a living is the first thing you inform people of after you introduce yourself.  When Joe McCoy not only rejected Coach Taylor's attempts to put aside personal differences and do what was right for Joe's son JD, but went on to maneuver Eric out of job simply for personal revenge, all I could think was "that's a typical DC d**k move."

When Billy convinced Tim that he should go to college because his children and Billy's children needed the familial example that they had the option of choosing better for their lives, it suddenly occurred me that the parents I hear talk about why their child needs to go to this college or that college is so that they can earn a certain amount of money, so that they can make the connections to get the prestigious job, so that the neighbors don't gossip about whose child is more successful. What do I want my children to value, the freedom that comes with an education or the paycheck that comes with a degree?

The DC area is not a cesspool of depravity and vain-glory.  There are plenty of wonderful people, an incomparably interesting and significant history, and those cherry-blossoms really are all they're cracked up to be, I promise.  But it is not a generous place.  It is a sad statement of how far I've come from when I lived in Texas that I needed a TV show to get me to see that.

The TV Girl


J M Yaceczko said...

Beautiful post. Boy do I miss home.

The TV Girl said...

Thanks Janet. I'm sure you'll get back home someday :)

The Rowles said...

Sniff sniff. Texas would welcome you back with open arms!!! :)

The TV Girl said...

You never know where life will take you...

mberlin said...

was wonderin' if this realization was ever gonna come outta ya at some point in your life ;)
(only know this b/c it's happened to me too - only not with the friday night imagery, hehe)
feel like shuckin' some corn? or at least going on a dedicated hunt for a bar almost as good as the new a?

The TV Girl said...

I'm all for a dedicated bar hunt!