Friday Night Lights, Season 4
Hanna, I didn't want Tami to tell Becky that an abortion is the right thing for her. How could Tami know that for sure? Yes, Becky is 16 and doesn't look one iota ready to be a mother. But if it would destroy her emotionally to end this pregnancy, well, then, who is a high school principal who has spoken to her once or twice to say she shouldn't have a baby? For me, Tami said the perfect thing, in response to Becky's question about what she would tell her own daughter: "I would tell her to think about her life." Yes, exactly, her own life. With a child. Or without one.
Did either of you feel like we'd ventured into the territory of the book Red Families v. Blue Families, even though, of course, Dillon is firmly planted in red Texas? The book argues that families in blue states tend to be better off and more stable because parents there are more likely to delay marriage and childbearing. In red states, on the other hand, parents tend to stress the link between sex and marriage, which means their kids get married and have kids younger—and are more likely to get divorced and have financial trouble. The path that Luke's parents lay out is this red-state path, and it bodes ill for Becky and Luke in terms of future stability and earnings. Whereas the cold, hard resolve of Becky's mother—"You're going to do this and you're not going to think about it anymore," she says—is the blue-state way. Which, of course, reminds us that this isn't really about red v. blue. It's about the differences among parents everywhere in how they to shape their kids' choices.
What I really want to know is: Will Tami get in trouble for giving Becky the abortion pamphlet? What are school officials allowed to do in this situation, and does it differ by state? Readers, please weigh in.
The other part of this episode that will stick with me is Vince's nakedly vulnerable appeal to his mother to stop using. This one edged into the tear-jerker territory that sometimes makes me feel slightly suckered afterward, as if I got the milk chocolate when I wanted the bitter dark. But not this week. What saved it for me was the intense focus on an older adolescent who needs his mother to be his mother. Younger kids usually get cast in this role, not nearly grown black teenagers. Vince is a reminder of how much kids in high school still need adult guidance, no matter how much they try to shrug it off when their parents aren't in the hospital.
For that, I am also almost ready to swallow Vernon's sudden transformation into a doting football-father figure. (When exactly did he overcome his allergy to the game, which we still don't know the origins of?) Since Vince has signed himself up for indentured servitude to the drug gang to pay for his mom's rehab, he is going to need a strong advocate. But I did not approve when Jess only got out one bleat of complaint before her dad dutifully showed up for the mini Lions game. A little more girl rebellion, please, before the smiles and kisses.
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at email@example.com or on Facebook or Twitter.