For a show that spent its entire five-season run under the constant threat of cancelation, Friday Night Lights enjoys a surprisingly deep level of cultural recognition. It might be true that not very many people watched the show when it was on the air, but everybody who did has seemingly convinced at least three friends to catch up with the series on Netflix. That means that, even though it’s been more than four years since the final episode, the parody sketch that ran on the season premiere of Inside Amy Schumer this week felt downright timely.
There are some definite loving, note-perfect Friday Night Lights references in the sketch: Schumer’s ever-growing wine glass is a nice mirror to the ever-exasperated Tami Taylor’s infatuation with sauvignon blanc, while even the faux theme song recalls the Explosions in the Sky sound-alike score that the show utilized. And, of course, the Dillon blue and “Clear hearts, full eyes” motto.
Like all great satire, though, the “Football Town Nights” sketch from Schumer doesn’t just lampoon the relatively easy target of a departed, deeply beloved TV show, it mostly sets in its sights the abusive culture that the desire to hold football above all things enables. The third part of the “clear hearts, full eyes” motto here is “don’t rape,” a message that would seem like a non sequitur were it not for all of the incidences of football players—at the high school, college, and pro levels—being accused and/or convicted of the crime.
Had the events that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio, which helped thrust those incidents into the national spotlight, happened while Friday Night Lights was on the air, it’s possible that the show would have addressed them in a storyline—one of the reasons the series was so well-loved was that it wasn’t afraid to confront serious topics surrounding race, gender, and more. But Schumer’s parody still manages to nail the way that even the fatherly, good-man ideal of a football coach that was Friday Night Lights’s Coach Taylor is part of a culture sending boys a mixed message.
The sketch ends with the “no raping” coach giving an inspiring halftime speech to the team, who are down fifteen points in the game, imploring to them that “football is not about rape, it’s about violently dominating anyone that stands between you and what you want” and insisting that the boys in the locker room have to recognize that “that other team, they ain’t just gonna lay down and give it to you! You gotta get out there and take it!”
It’s a funny punchline that also recalls the slogans of Arlington’s Martin High School football program, which made national headlines last fall: “Shhh, Just Let It Happen” and “We Take What We Want.” Messages like that are common in football, and Schumer’s sketch brilliantly skewers a culture that encourages violent domination on the gridiron and too often excuses it when it occurs off the field. No wonder she needed that ever-growing wine glass.