In the twelfth episode of the second season of Friday Night Lights, I am a billion times done with this show, which has emptied me of all emotions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.
I don’t think this season is perfect, but good gods it is hitting so many emotional buttons of mine.
Trigger Warning: It’s impossible to discuss “Who Do You Think You Are?” without bringing up both racism and misogyny, so be warned if you can’t deal with such things today. It’s best to save this review until a later time.
Who do I even talk about first????
I know this may seem weird to some of you coming from an atheist, but I’m enamored with Lyla’s development this season, especially since it’s so genuine. What we see here is an idealized version of Christianity in one sense, and it reminded me of the depiction of the liberal staff and president on The West Wing. Lyla is the sort of Christian a lot of folks wish more Christians were like. She’s honest, open, willing to hope those going through a difficult situation, and she takes her faith seriously in a way that shows through her work on the radio show. When Tim calls in to make fun of her (giving us the only appearance of Jason Street in a long while), she doesn’t insult him for not being Christian. Hell, that word never even comes out of her mouth. She scolds him for taking away potential time from someone who might have needed real help. She values the position she has, and Tim inherently devalues it, so it stands to reason that she’d reject his attempts to ridicule her for being a good Christian. Good for you, Lyla!
I think that if Tim’s rejection at the end of this episode were placed somewhere else, I might not have been as affected by it. But there is so much sadness in “Who Do You Think You Are?” that I was still hurting just a bit as Tim walked in on Lyla kissing her co-host. It sucks to realize that you have serious feelings for someone and then find out that they’re unavailable, you know? Still, Tim has been goading Lyla on for a while now, so I don’t exactly feel that bad. YOU HAD A CHANCE ONCE, DUDE.
Let me start off by saying this: POOR JULIE TAYLOR. That poor girl tried to get out of that fight, and her parents just stuck her there between them. MY SYMPATHIES, JULIE. I have also been used as the middle ground for a parental fight, and it is not pretty.
I made a comment to a friend recently that I cannot believe how consistently the writers of Friday Night Lights give the Taylors some of the most in-depth, nuanced material to work with on television. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is a brilliant example of that, and the plot the two actors get to work with is unreal, y’all. It’s two-pronged, really! It’s an examination of the separation anxiety that parents experience, and it also addresses the inherently sexist idea that women are “supposed” to stay home and raise children, no matter what they’re own aspirations or desires are. And y’all, I am so pleased that Coach Taylor immediately tells Coach Mac that when he vocalizes his opinion, it sounds like garbage. BECAUSE IT DOES. Oh my god, it sounds like he has his wife on a leash, jesus! The point Eric makes is crucial here: In American society, when a heterosexual couple has a child, it’s never expected of the father to stay home and take care of the child. It isn’t! So why should Eric expect his wife to give up the career she enjoys and is damn good at just because she had a child? Plus, she carried that child for nine months. If anything, the non-carrying partner should then be expected to do nine months of work to make up for that, right? Anyway, I’m glad that Eric vocalizes this to Tami, too, telling her that he refuses to let her give up her job after he gave up his TMU job to give her the chance to be a counselor. Oh god, and they work through it together, and I hope my future relationship is anywhere near as amazing as these two.
And look, I’ve never felt an inclination to have a child. Y’all, I get anxiety when I get a new email. How the fuck would I deal with a child crying? Getting hurt? Needing me? The very thought terrifies me, but I’m willing to admit that it’s possible I’m just not ready yet. It may come some day. But I also felt this little twinge of fatherly desire as Eric played with Gracie in bed. Like… I think I could do that. I think I could enjoy doing that. But I don’t know. Not right now.
I knew this would end in disaster, and it ended even more sadly than I could have guessed.
Let’s start with some positivity: OH MY GOD. That quinceañera looked so real. Did the filmmakers just crash one and stick Carlotta and Matt in it? The cake, that girl’s braces, the music. I CAN’T. I have been a chambelán twice in my life, so this was like one massive flashback for me. TOO MUCH.
Anyway, I think I expected something far more dramatic from Carlotta’s exit from the show, given that her storyline was one of the more soap opera-y plots in season two. Instead, this isn’t about Carlotta hating Matt or Matt doing something foolish to drive her away. She simply has to go home to her family in Guatemala, and that’s it. They share a dance at the quinceañera, and that’s it. No goodbyes. She just slips away a day early, leaving Matt behind with a broken heart. And while the whole thing is certainly bizarre, that doesn’t make this less sad for Matt. In the end, I’m glad Carlotta was on the show, but I wish she could have stuck around in some other capacity.
This show has one storyline that deals with racism brilliantly, and then this one teeters between emotional manipulation and necessary introspection. The show hasn’t had very many Latin@ folks on it, and I think we should look upon what few depictions we’ve had with a critical eye. We had Bobby Reyes, Santiago, and Carlotta, and in one sense, each of them fell right into a stereotype that’s often associated with people of color or Latin@ people. And so far, only Santiago has outlasted them on the show, but who’s to say he won’t be gone by the end of the season? The characters at the quinceañera have no speaking roles, and then there are Santiago’s “friends.” I grew up with those people. That’s what half my friends looked like, that’s how they talked, and I can’t necessarily criticize what I know to be a reality. What I do find suspect is the fact that this is one of the only roles this show has ever offered to a Latino man: that of a gangster. Okay. Even Santiago’s story itself is very common in film, and I can’t even begin to count how many episodes of television or movies I’ve seen that address a person of color leaving a gang and then being tempted to join that lifestyle again. Yawn. Yawn forever.
That being said, there are aspects of this that resonated strongly with me, and I don’t want to ignore those either. This is a complicated issue, you know? For example, Buddy Garrity does his best to be supportive and kind to Santiago’s friends, and he actively discusses his own racism with the Taylors. That doesn’t make him less racist, necessarily, but it’s so rare for me to see characters on American television trying to sort out and dismantle the prejudices they might have learned. I think that’s worth discussing and acknowledging, you know? And then we’ve got Santiago, who is deeply appreciative of what Buddy has done for him. (THERE IS A SENTENCE I JUST TYPED. BUDDY DID SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE. PLEASE TELL THE SEASON ONE VERSION OF ME THAT THINGS GET BETTER FOR BUDDY.) He’s torn between wanting to continue in a direction that actually makes him happy and engaging with the nostalgia of his old life. Again, common trope. I know that. But it’s the way he keeps a watch over the party at Buddy’s that hit me hard. It’s so unlike what Santiago must have been like before, and yet he cares. He cares enough to go confront Devin to get back Buddy’s watch. HE GOT BEAT UP FOR BUDDY. And the way that Buddy caresses Santiago’s face is too fatherly for words, and my heart hurts??? WHAT IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME.
This. This is what it’s doing to me.
I am going to be brutal here because I am both immensely disturbed by what happens to Smash here and very pleased with the depiction of racism in this episode. It was painful to watch this, and it triggered something fierce in me. I have been turned down by white men for any possible sexual or romantic relationship because I’m not white. I have seen that look that those white people in the movie theater gave Smash and Noelle. I had to grow up with a mother who actively fought against my brother and I exploring our identity as Latino men. And that’s what I want to talk about here: This episode shows y’all exactly why white people don’t experience racism on a structural level. It’s a common refrain I hear whenever racism is discussed. Oh, well, one time in 8th grade, some black girls made fun of me and called me a cracker. Then there’s the story of a white person walking into a market full of black people or Korean people and complaining about feeling like they didn’t belong. (I used to hear the latter all the time when I lived in MacArthur Park, which was next to Koreatown. I had acquaintances who would complain about how they felt ostracized in their neighborhood. THE PLACE IS LITERALLY CALLED KOREATOWN. WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT, YOU GENTRIFYING ASSHOLE???) All of these events suck. It’s not fun to be made fun of or bullied. It’s not fun to feel like you’re out of place, like you don’t belong, that people judge you based solely on external factors that you can’t control. (And before any of you trot out that argument, just hold on.)
Here is what “Who Do You Think You Are?” shows, though: The racism that the Williams family experience is a relentless stream of microaggressions and discrimination. It is not an isolated event that happens once every month or so. In the span of 24-48 hours, they are all consistently reminded that they are lesser people in the eyes of white folk because they are black. This is why people of color say white people don’t experience racism. Because the reality is that I wish the racism I experienced was an unfortunate tale that I had about something that happened to me a decade ago. No, I can recount about ten things in the last week alone that are all evidence that people in this world, especially in the United States, view me as subhuman or inferior. (And for what it’s work, this is a very America-centric discussion because once you incorporate other countries and cultures, this becomes infinitely complex. The world is not America, so for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to acknowledge that this is not a universal description of racism and how it is acted out on a global scale. It’s very different in India, as it is in the United Kingdom, as it is in Africa, as it is in Japan. That deserves a more nuanced conversation than this.)
I admit that I just started sobbing once it cut to Smash and Noannie in the car because I know that fear and that terror. Well, to an extent, that is. I don’t face the same kind of racism as black people do in America, but I know what it’s like to have to cope with people thinking it’s acceptable to fetishize you, sexualize you, insult you because of your race, and be supported by everyone around them. Even worse, there’s a terrifying aspect of this whole incident: Smash is going to have to face the racist stereotype that people will say he fed into. It’s related to that incident in the bank when Smash’s mom was denied a loan. People (and not just white folks) expect black men to be angry and out of control. That’s what they’ll use against Smash, and it’s going to hurt. I’m operating under the assumption that the writers are not going to let Smash off the hook. Because as little sympathy as I feel for that racist piece of shit, I know that this community is going to freak the fuck out. They will not side with a young girl who was sexualized by these assholes, and there will be absolutely no criticism of those men’s behavior. Nope, it’ll all be about how that poor white dude was “attacked.” I know because that’s how these scenarios play out nearly every single time.
It hurts, and I am frightened of what’s going to happen to Smash. Goddamn this show, y’all. Also, no Tyra again? Boooo, bring her back!
Just a reminder: Due to a scheduling error, reviews for Friday Night Lights 2×14 and 2×15 will go up this Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
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