The Picture for Men: Superhero or Slacker
At the end of the fourth season of the critically loved and chronically underwatched Friday Night Lights, the former football star Tim Riggins martyrs himself for the sake of his brother and newborn nephew. For much of the season, he and his brother Billy have been stripping down stolen cars and making the type of fast cash they cannot make legitimately. Tim wants the quick cash to fund his desire to buy a bit of sun-drenched Texas countryside, and Billy needs it for his new duties as a father.
As the season finale starts, the brothers are talking to a lawyer and working through their options after they have both been arrested and released. Through the duration of the television hour, it becomes clear that Tim is going to take the fall so that his brother can be a present father to his new son. Their own father had run out on the brothers early in their lives. In a couple of truly emotionally stirring scenes, Tim tells his brother of his decision and then heads into the sheriff’s office to turn himself in.
In the show, the character of Tim Riggins is a poster child for what Hanna Rosin has provocatively referred to, in a recent Atlantic cover story, as “The End of Men.” Rosin argues that in our postindustrial society, women are succeeding in a way in which men cannot keep up. Women are attending and graduating from college and professional schools at a higher rate, and women are entering and ascending in the work force in greater numbers and more successfully.
And in the recession we are living through, men have been the hit hardest. “The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance.”