On July 9th, 2010, the hit NBC drama Friday Night Lights, a fictional show based on the nonfiction book of the same name, depicted the decision made by Becky–a 15-year-old high school student facing an unwanted pregancy from a night of unprotected sex with a schoolmate–to have an abortion. It was, as noted by the New York Times, the first time in decades such a decision has been depicted–and accurately–by a network. As part of a discussion among pro-choice advocates of the episode, Gloria Feldt had the following response, which she agreed to share with RH Reality Check. She includes here a link for those who want to send a note of appreciation to the producers of FNL for its honest portrayal of the issues in a time when anti-choice forces circulate so much misinformation about women’s health and rights. See also Sarah Seltzer’s earlier review of the show when it first appeared on DirecTV.
On a personal note, it pleases me no end that this truth-telling episode appeared on “Friday Night Lights.” The show is based on [H. G.] Buzz Bissinger’s book of that same name, a sociology of the very West Texas town (Odessa, Texas) where I lived for 20 years, and the high school (Permian) from which my three children graduated. Not only do I know Dillon/Odessa and its hardscrabble culture all too well, it was where I moved as a 15-year-old pregnant teen with my new husband. We hailed from an even smaller West Texas town where our football team was truly the only game around (my high school classmates still play the 8-millimeter film of our state championship game at every reunion if that gives you a clue). At least Odessa has supermarkets and movie theaters!
Odessa was also where two things came full circle: my growing understanding of the complexity of childbearing decisions, and my growing realization that–though I loved my children more than anything–I would have been a much better parent if I’d waited 10 or 20 years to have them. My 30-year career with Planned Parenthood began when I became executive director of the fledgling affiliate there in 1974–an affiliate now headed by a woman who was in my older daughter’s Permian High graduating class.
Sadly, I know from stories I still [hear] from young women that the same time-warped pattern repeats itself: teen girl wants to please football player boyfriend and gets pregnant. The good news is that these stories now–regardless of what the girl decided to do about the pregnancy–are much more likely to end in a statement of appreciation for having had choices in the first place. This particular episode of FNL is a testament to the fact that regardless of the reactionary, shaming culture and a media with a rightward tilt, real life women will find a way to save their own lives even in unlikely places like the fictional Dillon and the very real Odessa.
I’ve sent NBC a note of appreciation and urge all of you to do same. We’re good at reacting when we don’t like something, but less so when there’s a show worthy of applause.
Here’s where you can go to send a comment:
The series is executive produced by Peter Berg (the film “Friday Night Lights,” “Hancock”), who also wrote and directed the pilot. Joining Berg as executive producers are Jason Katims (“Roswell”), Brian Grazer (“Frost/Nixon,” “The Da Vinci Code”), David Nevins (“Arrested Development”), Sarah Aubrey (“The Kingdom”) and Jeffrey Reiner (“Caprica”). “Friday Night Lights” is a production of Universal Media Studios, Imagine Entertainment and Film 44, in case you want to target a specific individual.