Friday Night Lights was a rare and beautiful ensemble show, and it is difficult to pick favorites within it. Nonetheless, I have a favorite, and her name is Tami Frickin’ Taylor.
The reason Tami Taylor is my favorite is this: the woman does not give up. As a guidance counselor and high school principal, she doesn’t give up on the lost, angry, confused teens dealing with not only the ordinary trials and tribulations of adolescence but also with serious socioeconomic and familial issues over which they have no control. She doesn’t give up on her husband Coach Eric Taylor, who is incredibly kind and upstanding in his own right, and adores Tami as he should, but who can be a bit stubborn when he’s in the wrong. She doesn’t give up on her perceptive but sometimes bratty daughter Julie. And she doesn’t give up on fighting the local powers-that-be who prioritize football over academics, money over education, old-boys networks over actual merit, and white privilege over equal opportunity.
Here’s how to be awesome like Tami Taylor. Oh man, let’s all do it.
• Fight fire with sneaky, honey-flavored fire. Tami is a fighter, but in a particularly Southern-lady kind of way: she fights with perfect etiquette. Some of her most satisfying victories on Friday Night Lights are those where she battles so subversively that nobody can stop her. A smile and a few strategic slips of the tongue can be enough to intimidate a whole pack of boosters. Whereas some of the other badass heroines we’ve featured in the How to Be Awesome spotlight fight as outsiders, Tami works from the inside out. She’s less likely to lose her temper or openly accuse someone of wrongdoing, but that doesn’t make her any less effective or determined to use her powers for good.
• Be open to revising your opinions. Tami initially forbids her daughter Julie from hanging out with Tyra–a high school girl with a bad rep and a lot of potential. But as Tami gets to understand Tyra’s resilient and powerful character, she ends up mentoring her. In the last episode of the series, Tyra even announces that she’s thinking about going into politics so that she can be “like Mrs. T. But maybe bigger.” That’s a legacy, right there—inspiring a young woman to pursue her ambitions and helping the next generation to dream bigger and aim even higher.
• Remember that open doors mean an open heart. Tami may not always want to throw a barbecue—mostly because the work constantly gets left to her—but she never turns away someone who needs a shoulder to cry on, a couch to crash on, a hot meal, or some sound advice. Even when it’s Buddy Garrity (perhaps my favorite turnaround character of all time–his character gets humanized so that this guy who seems like a gigantic selfish lughead becomes a gigantic lughead with a heart of gold). Tami’s open-door policy isn’t just about being a kind and giving person, which she is. It’s an entire attitude toward how to receive the world–whether you’re going to let people in, and whether you’re going to try and help whoever you can.
• Get a pair of cowboy boots you can wear everywhere and invest in some smart wrap dresses and shifts.
• Have a big smile, big laugh, and the biggest heart.
• Don’t worry too much about whether or not you’re original. One of the things I love about Tami Taylor is how ordinary she appears, on the outside. She lives with her husband and kids in an average house in the suburbs. She has a glass or two of white wine in the evenings and pays her bills. She probably doesn’t spend a lot of time watching dark, experimental independent dramas or writing poetry or what-have-you—not because she’s not smart enough or cultured enough, but because the lady has got bigger fish to fry. The important thing isn’t what you like; it’s who you are.
• Never let the people you care about doubt your love. The reason people constantly turn to Tami for help is because they are assured of both her competence and her investment in their lives. She’s a protector by nature, and her warmth signals to others that they have an ally in her.
• Treat your relationships as partnerships. The Taylors have an incredibly strong marriage, and its strength is rooted in their mutual respect for one another. They’re best friends as well as husband and wife, and they treat each other as such. Occasionally, the equality of their partnership gets tested—as much respect as they have for one another, sometimes Eric seems to end up calling the final shot. (Without spoiling too much, this is a particular issue in the final season of the series.) However, ultimately Eric sees the light. For the Taylors, marriage means that they have to make their major life decisions together—but there may be considerable arguing and negotiations before they can reach an agreement.
This is but the tip of the Tami-awesomeness iceberg. What else do you admire in the venerable Mrs. T?