The controversy: The creative minds behind Friday Night Lights — just like the rest of the country — are split into two camps by this year's bitter presidential battle. First, Buzz Bissinger, who authored the non-fiction book about a Texas town dominated by high-school football, wrote a column for The Daily Beast declaring that, after watching the presidential debate, he had decided to defy his lifelong Democratic roots and vote for Romney. (Buzzinger was subsequently raked over the coals by liberal critics, and responded with equal savagery.) Then on Friday, Peter Berg, the writer-director of the movie and television series inspired by Bissinger's book, threw a counterpunch, demanding that Romney stop using the rallying cry that the team uses on the show — "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" — to fire up campaign audiences. Here, an exerpt from Berg's letter:
I created the TV show Friday Night Lights and came up with the phrase, "Clear Eyes, full hearts, can't lose." ... Your politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series.
The only relevant comparison that I see between your campaign and Friday Night Lights is in the character of Buddy Garrity — who turned his back on American car manufacturers selling imported cars from Japan... Please come up with your own campaign slogan.
The reaction: Berg isn't fooling around, says Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune. He's not just saying he doesn't like Romney's politics, he's accusing him of "plagiarism," and charges that Romney is giving voters the false impression that the critically beloved show is on the Republican's side. It's like "clear eyes, full hearts, cease and desist." But President Obama has also tried to tap into FNL's mojo, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post. The Obama campaign tweeted a pic of the president passing a football in May, quoting the same mantra. Obama just wasn't as blatant as Romney has been about using the show to go after "the extremely important 'y'all' vote." Clearly, "red and blue both love Friday Night Lights." Exactly, says Willa Paskin at Salon. Which is why both sides should leave the "super-uplifting slogan" that Coach Eric Taylor used to inspire the Dillon Panthers alone. "Friday Night Lights is the most genuinely bipartisan piece of art American mass culture has produced in the last decade." It's an ode to integrity, family, and "community do-it-yourself-ism that's also a paean to public schools and public servants and the safety nets they provide for the young and underprivileged." Nobody should co-opt it for political purposes. "Some things are sacred."