On Friday Night Lights
"It's Different for Girls"
Friday Night Lights, with its focus on the dynamics around high school football, explores masculinity with nuance and humanism, showing the pitfalls faced by young men as they try to live up to social ideals of strength and dominance. But the show also delves into the pressures facing women in this man’s world. Friday Night Lights has been lauded for its thoughtful, even groundbreaking, take on young women, particularly for an episode that featured a character choosing to have an abortion. This kind of praise is particularly rare in a bleak television environment where young women’s sexuality–and women’s sexuality in general–can be reduced to extremes: virgin or temptress, prude or sex object. On Friday Night Lights, the choice to see women as human and to acknowledge the social perils that make it “different for girls” is a bold one.
The struggles of Friday Night Lights’ young women were most often seen through the eyes of Tami Taylor. Week after week, Coach Taylor endeavored to be a “molder of men.” But Coach Taylor’s role wasn’t unique. Beside him, Tami was a molder of women. Often laboring in her husband’s shadow in their football-mad town, she strove to help mend the broken sexual and emotional lives of Dillon’s young women. And in order to steer those women toward healthy choices, she had to steer herself away from echoing the widespread misogynist assumptions of her community. Tami’s status as feminist icon for viewers (New York’s NARAL chapter made “don’t mess with Tami” T-shirts) doesn’t …