That’s what our friend Rod Dreher calls FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ Coach Eric Taylor, as a result of reflecting on my “Religion and the Mind of the South.” Rod thinks the character Taylor doesn’t quite ring true, and the show as a whole is somewhat lacking in realism, because it slights the place of Christianity in the lives of men and women in the South, beginning with Taylor.
Well, the show, like all great art, exaggerates certain features of life in a particular place to display for us something about who we are that we might otherwise miss. As you’ve read before on this channel, Taylor is a “natural aristocrat,” a man who, with generous and magnanimous class and competence, readily takes responsibility for himself and others. He is, in the best sense, a “natural leader.” He can be situated in the great tradition of Southern Stoicism. He respects religion, but his prayer is “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose,” a mixture, someone might say, of philosophy and the nobility of the warrior.
I gave the privileges and responsibilities talk at ISI and only had time to say a little about Southern Stoicism as an indispensable part of who we are. So I just mentioned FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and MUD and the emerging field of TEXARKANSAN STUDIES. Many of the professors in the room had no idea what I was getting at, despite the fact that I made it clear that the appropriation of Stoicism in our time is a kind of SELECTIVE NOSTALGIA.
But the students immediately got that ATTICUS FINCH—who edifies the heck of even the most bourgeois and bohemian of hearts in high school—was meant to be model of Southern, Stoic responsibility.
And one young woman—who apparently was one of the few in the audience who didn’t suffer from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS illiteracy—asked me afterward if I meant that Tim Riggins is a Stoic (she rightly honed in on Tim because I did say “Texas forever” in the Q and A). I, of course, said yes I did, although not of the same pay grade as the coach.