Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stereotypes throughout Friday Night Lights

Across America it is evident there are stereotypes that we can never get rid of, which is greatly emphasized through television. In my opinion, one of the greatest series to be displayed on television is Friday Night Lights; a show that focuses on a small town, in the middle of Texas. The small town, Dillon, relies mostly on the high school football team. This show is not only about football, but also about the lives of the people that surround the football team; from the head coach to the players to the student body. There are several relatable issues brought up throughout the series, which made it successful and enjoyable to viewers. Although the show is an amazingly written series, with a great story line and exceptional acting; many stereotypes were portrayed throughout the show, especially amongst minorities.
To begin, the first black star was Smash Williams, the star running back for the Dillon Panthers. Smash was portrayed as an arrogant, overconfident jock who cared only about himself on the football team, and the girls he could win over by being the star athlete. In Smash’s home life he is being raised by a single mother who could not afford to send her child to college, so his only way of going was football. Many stereotypes throughout our nation note that black individuals are only good in college for sports, not book knowledge.
After Smash there is another remarkable black member to join the team, Vince Howard. Howard did not voluntarily join the team; he was recruited through his criminal record. The coaches saw him running from the cops and knew they had to have him on the team because of his quickness. Not only is he a convict, he has a drug addicted mother, a dead beat dad who does not acknowledge the family, he also lives in low income housing with gang member neighbors. His only ticket to success, just like Smash’s, is football. Although Howard is imaged stereotypically through his black roots, his character also challenges common stereotypes. As Howard adjusts to the team, Coach Taylor believes he has a great chance to succeed as the team’s quarterback. Distinctly, it is known that it is uncommon for there to be a black quarterback, it has actually caused a lot of controversy throughout college and professional football over the years. Ironically enough, this past Sunday, according to The Big Lead, nine African Americans started as quarterback, setting an all-time record. In the series Howard leads the team to state as an outstanding black quarterback.
Along with black stereotypes there are also stereotypes of typical Texas, low-life rednecks. For example, the gorgeous Tim Riggins, who is known as the team drunk who lives in a beer flooded house with his older brother. His first girlfriend Tyra also falls under the stereotypical redneck, having no rules, living with her single mother and stripper sister. One way Tim Riggins and Tyra challenge the redneck stereotype is through their extremely good looks and not their “trashy” demeanor typically associated with rednecks. Both of them are always found drinking, breaking the law, and have no ambition of leaving their small “redneck” town. Although Tyra gets her act together, Riggins serves time in jail on fraud charges by him and his brother, a typical “redneck” stereotype, troubled individuals who find a way of getting caught up in trouble. As the series goes on Tyra gets help from her counselor and moves on to college. However, Riggins stays stuck in Dillon, as he focuses his life and dreams around his “redneck” town.
Lyla Garrity, the goody-two-shoes, cheerleader fits the typical high school stereotype of the popular pretty girl. At the start of the series Lyla is dating the star football player, she is from a wealthy family, and her looks get her a long way. She is the whole package, smart, beautiful, and a cheerleader. In Hollywood’s depiction of high school beauty it seems they must be the all-American girl who must be a cheerleader, and of course, date the star football player, not only the star football player, but also the star quarterback.
The final, major, stereotype goes back to minorities. As the series takes place in Texas it is evident Texas holds a strong Latino population as it is bordered by Mexico. You would typically expect to see more Hispanics throughout the series, however, only two are featured. Not only are there only two Hispanics featured throughout the entire series, they also happened to be troubled individuals. The first one was never brought up until he beat up a “white” student and the other one was tattooed and recognized as a gang member. Neither of the two were in more than three episodes of the series.
I must say Friday Night Lights is one of my absolute favorite shows to ever be on TV, as well as many others, as it was a successful series. Nonetheless, why did there have to be stereotypes to define specific roles. Why couldn’t Smash be part of a two parent middle class household? Or why couldn’t he have been a good student who had an opportunity to go to college without football? Why couldn’t the two Hispanics have been normal teenagers, not part of a gang, without tattoos, or without beating up a “white” kid. Why couldn’t Tim Riggins and Tyra have been clean cut individuals with a bright future? The questions go on, would the show have been successful without stereotypes? The show has so much heart in the small town, where the focus is not only the characters, but the small town. It is apparent this is a successful show, but the stereotypes will always exist and be noticeable to viewers because of the history of this country. As a country we know more statistics about how unsuccessful and troubled minorities are than whites. We know that the crime rate is higher among blacks and Hispanics than whites, which is why shows find it important to focus that on television. Even fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, America will never fully be free of stereotypes.


  1. I just marathoned Friday Night Lights this summer and thought it was an awesome show. Coach Taylor = my fave. But I definitely agree with the usual stereotypical portrayals evident in the show. At the same time however, if we didn't have those stereotypes the show probably wouldn't be as interesting. If no one was a dead-beat, or a gang member, or from a single parent home it may be too "normal" to "easy" and just not entertaining. It's too bad the stereotypes are so "stereotypical" though... maybe if they would have been placed on other characters and not the ones we were expected them to be placed on, the show would make for both good TV and remind people that things aren't always a certain way.

  2. I agree that stereotypes are present in this show, but I also think it is somewhat of an accurate mirror of reality for a lot of minority groups. Still most likely exaggerated to make for good television. I also think that the stereotypes were present in this show because then it made for good television to show the characters overcome their circumstances. Smash and Matt as well as other characters overcome their situations, which let's be honest, a lot of us like to see.


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