Week 4: This Is Texas. Where Are the Hispanic Characters?

Friday Night Lights, Season 4

Week 4: This Is Texas. Where Are the Hispanic Characters?

Friday Night Lights, Season 4

Week 4: This Is Texas. Where Are the Hispanic Characters?
Talking television.
May 29 2010 7:10 AM

Friday Night Lights, Season 4

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Hanna, I am coming around to your theory that Luke deserves to be put in his place. I'd been feeling sorry for him, but now I'm over it. This week, we see Luke and Vince going at it, and the writing is admirably evenhanded—neither of them comes out looking so good. The boys are in each other's faces at practice. In the locker room, Luke accuses Vince of taking his wallet. He has no evidence, and he is all swagger and hotheadedness—if I were his mother, I would not be proud. Then Luke goes after Vince on the street after J.D. goads him. (That chin grab along with "You someone's bitch?" was vintage high-school asshole.) But Vince is Luke's equal in the teenage testosterone sweepstakes. He's more than ready to fight it out. Plus, we see him strutting over to Jess Merriweather at a party like the picture of a boy in need of a takedown. (She gives it to him. Go, Jess.) And then, in a nice un-preachy twist, we learn that Vince did take Luke's wallet.

When Vince tosses the wallet back after Eric has sprung the two of them from the police station, and the boys help each other get their bearings instead of stalking off in different directions, we're meant to see this as a turning point. Eric has given them a classic speech: "You only get one chance in life." Their faces as they listened in the back of his car reminded me of Tyra's sober look, also from the backseat, when Eric and Tami rescued her from her loser cowboy last year. I hope, though, that the show doesn't let all the tension between Luke and Vince ebb from here on out, because it shouldn't be that easy.

Emily Bazelon Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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Our commenter Michael Triplett asked last week whether Eric can deal with fatherless African-American boys as well as he does white ones. He writes, "There is a different dynamic at play—you saw that when Eric gave $20 to the mom in public housing, something he wouldn't have likely done with the mothers of a fatherless white kid."

Eric also hit the wrong note with the Lions alums he invited to dinner by starting up about the "problems" on their side of town. He's right, they do have problems, but he doesn't know them well enough to start scolding. Tami smoothes things over, and then, even better, Buddy of all people shows up to glad-hand and make it all right. But the misstep matters, too. Eric's triumphs will be sweeter because we've seen him falter. In the meantime, it's the 1983 East Dillon champions who hold the floor. I was so taken with their rumbling line at the pep rally—"What is a group of lions? It is a pride"—that I didn't ask myself until afterward whether it was constitutionally OK, given the Supreme Court's school prayer rulings, for them to invoke the Lord at a school event. (Any First Amendment experts want to weigh in?)

Still, like you, Meghan, I wonder where the Hispanic characters are hiding. How to explain the show's Latino blind spot? I was counting on the move to East Dillon this season to erase it, but so far, no luck (and the opening credits make me think we've met all the new major characters). I'm no Texas expert, but the map in this demographic report shows that West Texas, home of Dillon, is 35 percent white, 60 percent Hispanic, and less than 4 percent African-American. In East Texas, the numbers are different—almost three-quarters white, 17 percent African-American, and 8 percent Hispanic. So maybe the show's producers have the state a little scrambled. Our commenter Chosen Folks says: "I'm not sure there's a town the size of Dillon, as agricultural as Dillon, in West Texas, with such a large African-American population. … Dillon is a kind of placeless amalgam of several different kinds of Texas communities. But I wouldn't go looking for it on a map."

I know, I know, TV isn't real. But in a state where the Hispanic population is more than one-third of the total and growing, it's seriously odd to stick to the old two-toned racial scheme. It's also a lost narrative opportunity.

What did you both make of the odd-ball pairings in this episode: Matt and Tim hunting, Tim and Becky shopping, Julie and Devin gay-bar-hopping. (I'm not sure that last one qualifies as female community.) I loved the small grace notes that poked fun at the show's likely audience (older and more coastal than the characters, for sure). Julie and Matt marveled over Brown's requirement that its admissions essay be handwritten like the 20th century artifact that it is. Billy had to promise not to blow off his wife's ultrasound to go hunting. Tami ran into a shop to buy chocolate when she couldn't handle the berating voice of the radio sports announcer. Yes, the writers are talking to us.

Before I congratulate myself on writing an entire entry without lingering on my swain Tim Riggins, a question about this season's mystery. What's your theory about Virgil Merriweather's reason for turning against football? Will the answer tie into the season's race and class divide? Or is this a personal wound that will link us, in some way, to our myth of origin—which is to say, to Jason Street?

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