Not-so-easy A…A Review of Friday Night Lights: It’s Different For The Girls

Having never lived in a small town, I can’t say for sure whether gossip travels as fast as it does in movies and tv. But if you take small town rumor mills and add in head cheerleader minus one QB boyfriend plus one up-and-coming football stay, people are bound to talk.

The first nine episodes of FNL are all very well-done…almost suspiciously so for being the first season of a series. “It’s Different For The Girls” is the supremely written 10th episode and thus far the best of the ten. Jason Street’s injury left the town reeling, but now that he’s getting settled in to his new life, so are the Taylor’s. Confidence is budding in the town, especially in the relationship of young Julie and Matt. Their blossoming, giggling romance is such a stark contrast to dysfunction of the Lyla/Tim/Jason story. (And all of you that have professed your love for Tim Riggins? I GET IT NOW. Oh, do I get it.)

Ever since Jason punched out Tim after the wheelchair game, the high school is abuzz with rumors about Tim and Lyla. In this case it’s unfortunately not difficult to put two and two together. Tim and Lyla respond very differently to the allegations. There’s something implied in their family situations that causes them to respond the way they do and that’s briefly touched on. Tim faces it with an understanding of abandonment because to him, that’s just the way things are. That’s what his parents did and when Tyra left, he handled it flippantly. When it comes to Lyla, though, Tim has a sense of longing and regret–enough so that you know when the two vow to call it off, you know that’s not really going to be the case. Lyla, however, comes from a background of supposed stability and trust. To her it isn’t only a matter of fidelity, it’s also a matter of forgiveness from Jason and the Lord. (Sidebar: One of the most interesting things to me about watching FNL is how straightforward the show is about religion. These are people that would be very god-fearing and FNL never neglects that aspect of their humanity.)

Even more so, “It’s Different For The Girls” shows how Tim and Lyla cope based on the reactions of the boys and girls in their school. These reactions vary based on the fact that Tim is a guy and Lyla is a girl. The Panthers are none too thrilled with Tim’s behavior–they smash in his car windows and more or less move on. The girls, especially those on Lyla’s cheer team, offer a stream of back-handed remarks, blatant harassment, and some harsh web-bullying of Lyla–enough so to the point that she quits the cheerleading squad. Regina George and the Plastics look like well-adjusted teenagers compared to these mean girls.  The boys are also more forward with their come-ons and when Tim joins Lyla at lunch, she offers the sad reminder that serves as the title for this episode. I don’t think they’re trying to say that it’s like this everywhere, but they are making the point that it is like this in a lot of places…and it shouldn’t be. Both parties are responsible for the culminating consequences of their actions. The whole story is oddly reminiscent of the New Testament account of the woman that was caught in adultery and brought to Christ.

Even the legitimacy of football versus cheerleading is raised in an early scene with the Taylor family, it isn’t until Julie reveals that she has plans with Matt that Coach Taylor says that he’s making plans to have the team attend the cheer competition that weekend. It’s clear that he had no intention of requiring that of the team before Julie brought up her plans with Matt, so it’s not so much a show of support as it is a half-baked plan to keep her daughter away from QB1. The cheerleaders are at every single football game and then some, but getting the football team to go to one of their competitions involves parental passive-aggressiveness. During a pep rally the boys dress up in skimpy little cheer outfits. It’s a gimmick that’s meant to be cutesy in rallies but in the context of the episode comes off as extremely, extremely sexist.

Matt and Julie, on the other hand, have no qualms about their budding relationship. Well, at least Julie doesn’t. Matt’s still spitless of Coach and Mrs. Taylor and who wouldn’t be? At least he and Julie have good taste in television–they’re seen watching the “Grief Counseling” episode of The Office, a hidden tidbit that delighted yours truly. At Julie’s urging, Matt starts to stick up for the two of them and in doing so wins the award of “Most Adorbs Football Player Ever,” an award that I just made up but will be giving out yearly. Julie Taylor sees the ugly side of high school problems, so she doesn’t have as much of an issue as Coach, who can’t get past the fact that daddy’s little girl is falling for some guy. (Daddy’s little girl is very aware of the impact that this is having on her folks. Julie dating Matt is partially because he’s sweet and cute and totally into her, but also because her ever-busy parents have to pay attention to her now that she’s involved with her dad’s new star. Sly, Julie. Very sly.)

In other high school drama, Smash is still dealing with his new doping habit. Results are being noticed on the field–he’s now super fast!–and off the field–nose bleeds all the time, bummer dude! There’s this gorgeous new girl that he magically happens to know from his past. I like her. She’s sassy and held her own in a terribly meta classroom debate about monogamy. The whole steroids plot is one of the weaker in the series up to this point and honestly it bores me. I vote we  just get rid of Smash and keep the new girl. Other developments include Jason and Lyla making steps towards semi-reconciliation and Lyla coming back to the squad because it’s where she finds happiness. (Thanks to the prompting of Tim Riggins, of all people.) There’s a great character moment where Lyla talks about how her parents dressed her up in cheer outfits and took her to games since the age of 5. For parents in Dillon, this can be just as big a deal for their girls as football is for their boys. Like it or not, that’s just the way it is. (Totally rolling my eyes right now.)

Moral of the story: Bring. It. On.

Random Asides:

-I find it interesting that we know so much about Buddy Garrity and SO little about Mrs. Garrity. It’s a good way of highlighting the very patriarchal nature of this town/culture.

-Tami Taylor has some golden moments in this ep.  “They had a blanket.” -Coach “You’re an idiot.” -Tami

-After Tami sees a note that the girls have written Lyla, she quips, “Well, that’s just bush league.” I know everyone looooves Coach Taylor but for me, it’s all about Tami.

-Killer soundtrack–this episode featured Jose Gonazalez’s “Storm.”

-Landry is a redhead that’s jealous of his best friend’s success and every time he does something I think to myself, “Ron Weasley!”

3 Responses to “Not-so-easy A…A Review of Friday Night Lights: It’s Different For The Girls”
  1. Allthewine says:

    I love Coach Taylor but only because of Tami, if that clears things up.

    I remember this episode like I just watched it! Actually I was going to tweet you today and ask how the FNL watching was going, so bravo for reading my mind!

    I felt similarly about Smash, but I venture to say your opinion may change in season 2. You are doing this into season 2 right?!

    • Gretchen Alice says:

      Oh yeah, I’m planning on seeing this thing through to the end, however long that may take. It’s pretty much the best. And I can see what you mean about Coach and Tami.

  2. Amy Heaton says:

    I agree with allthewine up there. I think I love Coach Taylor so much not only because he is so awesome, but because he chose such an awesome wife and because Tami, who’s such an awesome woman, chose him. Tami really is what makes him so great. Basically, if I could become like Tami Taylor during my lifetime, I will die happy. So that’s my goal in life–to become like Tami, to marry someone like Coach, and have the awesome marriage that they have.

    Related side note: Coach and Tami’s marriage is possibly my favorite thing about this show. It is so realistic in its portrayal of the good times and bad, and you never question that they love and respect each other so much. It is such an amazing example, especially when you consider that almost all TV couples show little genuine love and spend most of their time together making jokes at the other’s expense. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so I’m glad I’ve finally been able to get it out!

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