Mark Watches ‘Friday Night Lights’: S01E15 – Blinders

In the fifteenth episode of the first season of Friday Night Lights, EVERYTHING HURTS FOREVER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Friday Night Lights.

Trigger Warning: AGAIN. LORD. We have to talk about racism, so be warned!

HOW IS IT THAT THIS HAPPENED TO COME RIGHT AFTER “CELESTIAL NAVIGATION”? Oh my gods, y’all, the universe conspired to make this moment happen.

Let’s get to this EVERYTHING STILL HURTS.

Jason

I’ll do the small subplots before I get to the giant horrifying monster that is Coach Mac. I had a thought in the back of my mind that it seemed strange that Jason wasn’t in school, but it never made its way into a review. (This happens all the time. I edit my brain down because then it would take me about 20 hours to finish a single review if I didn’t.) Seeing him back in school was a bit surprising because it was so sudden. I really do appreciate that this show gives a portrait of what it’s like for someone like Jason to try and navigate a complicated social environment like high school. People do treat Jason differently, and “Blinders” gives us a chance to see these microaggressions and how they affect Jason. For example, the biology teacher makes that off-hand comment of what’s “expected” of Jason, and I knew in an instant that this was going to hurt Jason. He wants to be treated normally, but it feels like everyone around him has lowered their expectations for him. Which is a big reason why he wants to go do something that’s the polar opposite of this! He’s surrounded by people who think he is incapable of being who he was before, that he is weak and helpless, and then Herc invites him to try out for the quad rugby team. THE NATIONAL ONE.

I am concerned that he’s making decisions without consulting Lyla and just expecting things to turn out fine with minimal effort on his part. Again, it’s not lost on me that I am saying anything about marriage as someone who has spent zero seconds in a marriage, but I do know that Jason needs to make sure he is communicating with his fiancée about what he’s doing. Oh gosh, but I am excited for him to try out. THAT WOULD BE SO GREAT FOR HIM.

Julie/Tyra

Okay, these two are pushing their boundaries a bit, and I really hope that this doesn’t get worse. I do enjoy that Julie and Tyra are friends, that Julie has someone to go to who understands the angst she’s experiencing, but I also don’t like that she’s worrying her parents. At the same time, her actions get her and Tyra put in the Powderpuff game, which leads to that heart-wrenching sequence where Julie and her father throw around a football outside of their house. THEY ARE BONDING, AND IT’S CUTE, AND I JUST LOVE THE TAYLORS, OKAY? OKAY.

It also seems my suspicions about Angela and Buddy Garrity are coming to fruition, but I admit that I’m still confused by what’s going on. I can’t quite read the situation! Are they having an affair, or is Buddy sexually harassing Angela? When Tyra goes to the dealership to find her mother, I couldn’t tell if she was terrified her daughter had caught her or frightened by the fact that Buddy wasn’t leaving her alone. Either way, something horribly wrong is happening here, and it makes me uncomfortable. Whatever that is, Buddy is taking advantage of someone who is both financially and emotionally vulnerable, and I will continue to hate the ground he walks on.

Coach Mac is a racist

So, I’ll do my best not to repeat what I said yesterday in my review for “Celestial Navigation,” which also deal with racism, though on a more political level at times. You know, as Coach Mac started being interviewed, my thought process basically went like this:

1) Oh, hey, maybe you should stay away from that.

2) Just bow out.

3) Oh, wow. That has some unfortunate implications.

4) OH MY FUCKING GOD, DID YOU JUST COMPARE THEM TO DOGS.

5) JESUS UP IN HEAVEN STOP FUCKING TALKING PLEASE STOP

6) I HATE YOU SO MUCH SHUT UP SHUT UP

So, I don’t know if you know that this is a thing, but people of color have been compared to or called animals for a very, very, very long time. Like centuries. It’s one of the easiest ways a white supremacist has to strip a person of color of their humanity. (Because once you do that, you can deny them anything. Interestingly enough, that’s how a lot of fundamental Christians in the United States have justified racism: they’re not worthy of grace and forgiveness. THAT IS ANOTHER TOPIC, THOUGH.) It’s a term that’s racially loaded every single time. It’s why so many people were upset that Martin Freeman made that flippant joke about Lucy Liu looking like a dog. Joke or not, it’s one of those things that people of color can’t escape.

Actually, that’s what this episode shows us quite well. While there are certainly folks who choose to ignore, deny, or pass racism by (which is their choice), for a lot of us, we literally cannot escape the racist framework we live in. You’ll often hear a common decree from assholes on the Internet: WHY DO YOU GO AROUND LOOKING FOR THINGS THAT ARE RACIST. Oh, honey, that shit comes to me. I don’t have to look. I’d rather not see it most days because it’s stressful, it hurts, and it makes me unhappy. For Smash, that’s the mentality he takes. He just went through some shit going cold turkey off the steroids, he nearly ruined his career, and he’s not going to let Coach Mac’s comments derail him any further. This bothers Waverly, who Smash is continuing to court, because she knows that one day, Smash isn’t going to be able to ignore the world around him. As she puts it, he’s got blinders on his eyes, and they won’t stay there much longer.

For what it’s worth, Smash tries real hard not see what Waverly was talking about. He tells Matt that Mac’s comments are of no concern to him; he blows up at Riggins when Riggins tries to be diplomatic; he tells Waverly that other things are more important. And then his mother is denied her pre-approved loan. Look, y’all, that scene is filmed and written so goddamn brilliantly it hurts. Watch it again, and pay particular attention to the part where Smash’s mother points out all the people staring at Smash when he gets upset. That moment right there is an intersection of how stereotypes dictate people’s perception of people of color. In this case, that is a stereotype specific to black men, that they are violent, angry, and ready to have a catastrophic attack at any moment. Nevermind that Smash has every reason to be angry. His mother just had a pre-approved loan taken away from her. The hope of them getting a nice house that could actually fit the whole family was simultaneously taken from them, too! But those people don’t see that story, they don’t care about the context. They just see an angry black man, and they fill in the blanks.

That continues to tear down Smash’s blinders. So does the scene where Tami tries to hold a discussion forum for the Dillon students. That ends up being a disaster, not just because the format fell apart so quickly. But then you have white students immediately interrupting the black ones to tell them that racism is a “conspiracy” and JESUS SHUT YOUR MOUTH. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. And that’s indicative of a problem that’s existed for a long time, one I’ve encountered… shit, everywhere. On my sites, too! What’s merely an exercise in debate or semantics for white folks is our entire existence. You get to a point where racism is not a rhetorical point anymore, and it’s draining.

But nothing cements Smash’s new consciousness quite like Coach Mac’s angry, inappropriate, and frightening outburst. God, WHO KNEW I COULD DISLIKE SOMEONE MORE THAN BUDDY GARRITY. The man refuses to accept responsibility for what he’s said, as if his 27 years on the job means that he can do whatever he pleases. Then he threatens Smash with benching if he and his black friends “whine” anymore. Man, fuck him. So as unfortunate as it is that the playoffs will be put in jeopardy, I am SO PROUD OF SMASH. He took initiative to gather his teammates, inspire them to walk off the field in front of the coaches, and commit to possibly denying them the chance to win state. That takes guts, y’all, especially from someone like Smash, who lives by football.

I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH.

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Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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