TV Club

Week 4: Where Does Matt Go From Here?

Wow, you are both in fine form this week—I’m so glad to be plumbing the depths with you. (And to all of you sending mail and comments, or just being kind enough to read, that goes for you, too.) Meghan, you’re right that the death of Matt’s father is a crucial moment, for the episode and I think for the season. Matt’s parents haven’t rooted him in his identity except by absence and anti-example. Now his mother flickers in and out, not really in a maternal role, and his father is gone—forever. As I’ve watched friends go through the death of a parent, I’ve noticed that as difficult and grief-filled as it is to lose a mother or father to whom you’re close, it can be even more devastating, and scarring, to lose a parent you’re locked in combat with. Or whose love you’re not entirely sure of.

Matt is that kind of son, and his father’s death has come crashing down on him while he’s the pizza delivery boy watching his girlfriend—his hope of normalcy—get ready to move on. His expression when Julie tells him the news is stripped to the bone. Matt has often been the sacrificial offering on this show, the one who is pushed to the brink of his own endurance. Hanna, there must be a biblical analogy here that you’ll help us find. Maybe a young Job of the Texas plains? If that’s right, then Matt will lose Julie, too. I’ll try to steel myself for it.

I don’t buy the explanation that the show doesn’t have good Latino characters because they couldn’t be rooted in Dillon the way the white and black folk are. Latinos who’ve lived for generations in Texas, or wherever in the United States, can be pillars of solidity just like the Italians and Irish and Jews who preceded them as major immigrant groups. Think about Julian Castro, the 35-year-old mayor of San Antonio (who doesn’t speak Spanish). Or all the Latino families who have owned a restaurant or a store for years in one single town and are part of the fabric of its civic life. We are a nation of migrants—we move from state to state and city to city more than the people of most developed countries. And yes, this show is nostalgic for a way of life that is rooted in one patch of soil, for better or worse. But for it to leave Latinos out of that landscape is a failure of imagination. And it’s also just lame.

Meghan, I’m going back to listen to the soundtracks you mentioned. Actually, you know what would really complete my utter absorption in this show? An iPod playlist of FNL music. Readers, ideas for what would go on it?

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