Friday Night Lights is on its fifth season. (Full disclosure: I’ve only seen season one, part of season two, and now I am watching season five.) The show is overtly about football and small town Texas life. However, it is not-so-secretly about how you choose your adulthood. In service of this FNL provides us with the best, most honorable, forthright, honest, positive portrayal of heteronormative marriage I have ever seen on television — Eric and Tami Taylor.
I am utterly fascinated by the power and integrity these two characters possess within the complex limits of their class and gender roles. I wonder how on earth they learned to take the power, to hold the integrity..
The show occasionally makes the rules of their lives explicit, as one of them explains a concept to one of the teenagers in their spheres of influence. Coach Taylor gets to tell the young men on his team exactly how men behave. And it is always phrased that way, this is how men behave. Not like hoodlums, not abusive, not conniving, but like men. Tami doesn’t operate in such blissfully hierarchical venues — as a guidance counselor, her charges feel obligated to ignore her rather than do everything she says — but she still discusses self-esteem and how to make better decisions. And, while her words may be cast aside, her example is harder to ignore. Tami Taylor’s skill with the microdegrees of nuance available in a smiling “Hiiii, there!” is art in action. Art, I tell you.
In their marriage, the Taylors are astonishing. They argue when the disagree — yet they never attack each other. They snipe when they are tired or upset, but they never take it personally. They support each other’s goals and the jointly-agreed-upon family goals — and when they have communicated poorly about those goals, they argue and walk away mad and come back later and talk it out. Their respect for each other doesn’t seem to end. And their attraction to each other is evident in almost every episode.
Coach and Tami Taylor are up there with Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan in my list of Role Models of Marriage.
In the mid-90s, when my peers and I spent much of our free time deconstructing gender, I wish Friday Night Lights had been on the air. Coach and Tami Taylor give heteronormativity a good name.