Friday Night Lights, Season 5

Communitarianism vs. Individualism
Talking television.
Jan. 20 2011 3:24 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

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Whether the Taylors stay in Dillon strikes me as the ultimate FNL values question. David, you made the case for the show's communitarian values. But if the Taylors leave, won't the message be that in its heart, FNL believes in individualism? This is OK with me—I'm also rooting for a charter school for Gracie Bell, the big-time college scene for Eric, and a counseling job with an office that's not in the basement for Tami. Do you think the writers started to make the case for the Taylors' departure with the game Vince was benched for? Lesson: It's dangerous for a group to be too dependent on any one of its members. The group has to be strong enough to allow for the passing of the torch. This is a version of communitarian values that makes room for individual achievement even if it takes you away from the group. It is very anti-Buddy, but that's OK, because we love Buddy precisely because he doesn't have to be our guiding light.

I'm not sure how Billy and Tim can add up to Coach, but that's the point—the replacement of a charismatic leader always seems impossible until it's done. Once the succession has taken place, the group adjusts. Especially when it's a high-school team, with students who turn over from year to year. Eric won't get his statue and he'll be lucky if anyone remembers the guy on the plaque.

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I also think FNL can give Eric and Tami their send off without betraying its love for Dillon and small-town America. The town has always been warty and gritty as well as sepia-toned. Leaving it signaled success for Jason, Tyra, Smash, and Lyla. Vince will get out, too. As you said, Hanna, it's the stay-at-home characters, Luke and Tim, that we're meant to worry about. I thought Tim looked ghostly and ghastly—the stringy hair, the sunken cheeks. We don't know yet why he's bitter, but he has every reason to be. His line about the letters he'd written to Eric really got to me. Tim, writing Coach to apologize for failing him? When he can't explain what really happened? That is a wounding thought. And what are we supposed to think about Becky? She can't heal both Tim and Luke's hurt. I find Luke and Becky's romance sweet, but are we supposed to imagine them roping cattle as teen newlyweds, living next door to Luke's batshit mom?

I'm so glad, Hanna, that you mentioned the great line Vince's mother delivered in swatting Ornette away from their son. She is not my favorite actress, but she delivered that line with gusto, and it was past time for her to confound the beaten-down-timid-wife stereotype. Also, perfect that she called him O.

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

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