where i’m from

January 23, 2010

Guys, you should really be watching Friday Night Lights, which, as the saying goes, is not actually about football (although there is a lot of football in it). Rather, FNL is about family, community, and growing up. It’s all ridiculously well done and true to life, so much so that one can forgive the occasional misses (personally, I just pretend Season 2 didn’t happen). Because even when things go wonky on a large scale, the details are perfect.

I had this whole long post on the topic I was working on – seriously, like 3 pages single spaced – but it was all just kind of unfocused and pointless, so I scrapped it. What I really want to say about the show is how it treats its characters with respect and without condescension, and how in doing so it presents a world that people can identify with.* In fact, while the current season is full of tremendous moments, one of my favorites is actually quite small and occurs during Julie’s interview with an Ivy League college admissions counselor:

(sidebar: this is where normally I would embed a clip, but the only available one on youtube is weirdly over-sized and it won’t format properly. so just click through. the relevant part starts at 2:45 and lasts about 1:30.)

part of being young is focusing on the future, to the exclusion of thinking about the past. obviously, this is largely because the young don’t have much in the way of a past, but also because when you’re in high school and you feel so very oppressed by your parents and your teachers and the entire world, it seems like your life won’t really start until you hit that magic 18th birthday. this is true for any teenager, but I think the effect is magnified if you come from a place—a town, a family, a circumstance—that makes you feel as though you don’t fit in. when you spend all your time dreaming about how you’re going to get out of this one-horse town and never look back, the future is your whole life.

And when you leave it all behind and head into that future you’ve been planning, you realize that to have a new life, to become a new person, you have to give up parts of the old life, the old you. This may not be a bad thing; the old you belongs to the past, and you have a chance to be someone new, someone better. Perhaps you look down on where you came from and swear you won’t ever go back. But at some point you also realize that nothing is all bad or all good, and that there are parts of your old life that you are sad to let go of. It’s a bittersweet moment, to realize this, to accept it, to understand that you can’t hold on to everything forever.

If we’re lucky, we realize this early on. We take the good and learn from the bad. We appreciate how our pasts have made us who we are, for better or for worse. We stop hating the situations that so oppressed us and appreciate them for who and what they made of us.

So this particular FNL clip really touched something in me. Obviously, Julie is fictional. If we all had a team of talented writers at our beck and call, we could also be that insightful and well-spoken at 17. And maybe some of us were—maybe some of us never went through a phase where we rejected all that we had been previously. I know it took me a lot of years to feel this way about where I’m from. I don’t want to go back, but I don’t hate the journey I’ve made.

* Or, in my case, over identify with. Also, in a nice article on FNL, a better writer than myself argues “By being a good show about race, sex, disability, football, and fear of the unknown in a small Texas town, it’s also a powerful show about Texas Republicans as real people, and as good people,” which is also an excellent point.


One comment

  1. […] related: where I’m from. […]

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