On any show other than Friday Night Lights Tyra Collette would be the one-dimensional ‘bad girl’- one night stands, doesn’t care about school, older sister’s a stripper-but no one on FNL is that easy to categorize. We finally got to see her home situation last week, and met her mother. The first scene had her mother’s boyfriend critiquing the jeans Tyra’s wearing and commenting that “You ladies have a genetically superior ass. Runs in the family.” Well that’s unbelievably inappropriate, and Tyra takes it about as well as you’d expect, shooting him a dirty look and leaving for school.
Several scenes later, the show cuts into a fight between Tyra’s mother and her boyfriend. When the boyfriend slaps her mother, Tyra leaps immediately to her defense after grabbing a fireplace poker, which he very nearly ends up hitting Tyra with before her mother tells him to get out and he finally leaves. That’s extremely brave from a teenage girl. Tyra’s reaction suggests that this isn’t the first time he’s struck her mother, her telling him to “go ahead” when he was threatening her immediately made me think that if he hit her she would most certainly press charges even if her mother was too scared/forgiving/damaged to do so. I hope that’s what the writers intended- standing up for herself and her mother would certainly be in character for Tyra. The next day when she finds her mother crying in bed, afraid that “this time I don’t think he’s coming back”, Tyra’s reaction makes it clear that she thinks that’s the best possible outcome and can’t believe that she even wants him back.
Bad pennies have a way of turning up though, and the boyfriend approaches Tyra’s mother at the fund raiser carnival they’re attending, asking her to take him back. Tyra tells her mother that while she’s a good, smart person and a wonderful mother she is an idiot when it comes to men, and if she takes him back Tyra’s moving out- she can have the abusive boyfriend or her daughter, but Tyra won’t live like this anymore, and walks off. Then she runs into Tim, her ex, who gives what is probably the most heartfelt apology I’ve ever seen from a teenage boy. He cheated on her, unintentionally choosing the one girl that would hurt Tyra the most, but he is genuinely sorry and asks if there is any way she can forgive him. Despite the fact that she still loves him, and she admits that she’s wanted to hear that apology for weeks, she says no- that if she took him back she would lose all of her self respect. Tim accepts that, and they part on good terms.
This is a girl who ignores what other people think of her but refuses to compromise the things that are important to her, and is determined not to repeat her mother’s mistakes. She’s proven herself in the past to be extremely loyal and smart, but even more importantly she’s comfortable with herself.
She just might be leading by example, too. As Tyra was packing her bags her mother came in and asked if she really thought she’d choose some man over her daughter- she’s chucked the boyfriend. Now if only other shows can follow this example and give us fully developed, realistic characters.