Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Lyla Garrity annoys the heck out of me.

For the first two seasons of Friday Night Lights I felt like screaming every time she came on the screen. It was her voice, her mannerisms, the things she did, her oh-so-peppy attitude. Seriously, chick, just shut up already.

It's horrible. She's horrible. And for the first three seasons of this absolutely incredible show, I was forced to watch her and become invested in her storylines despite the fact that she annoyed me to no end.

This past friday, Friday Night Lights ended its fourth season and I've been rewatching the first three, watching them through the eyes of someone who not only loves the show and its characters (even Lyla, if it's possible to love and be impossibly annoyed by someone at the same time) immensely, but also someone who knows everything that happens. And in this rewatch the character of Lyla Garrity keeps catching my attention. I keep noticing her.

And I've decided that, as much as she annoys me, as much as I don't like her, she's incredible. She's an amazing character. Because Lyla Garrity doesn't stand still. Lyla Garrity always thinks she knows who she is only to find out she's wrong yet again. LYLA GARRITY CANNOT MAKE UP HER MIND, MY GOD.

For those of you who don't watch the show (and really, for shame!), Friday Night Lights is a drama focused around a Texas high school football team, led by the incredible Coach Taylor, who says more in three words than most characters (or people) say in a three page monologue. In the first episode, which sets up the rest of the series, Lyla Garrity's perfect, quarterback-headed-for-fame boyfriend (Jason Street) gets injured and becomes a quadriplegic.
And this is the catalyst.
Lyla, while still being the perfect cheerleader and girlfriend, cheats on her crippled boyfriend with his best friend, the always-drunk, white trash, Tim Riggins. After her boyfriend finds out and breaks up with her, Lyla sets out to win him back, eventually leading to the two getting engaged and then, at the same time as her parents get divorced, breaking up for real. Soon, Lyla quits cheerleading, becomes a born-again Christian and dates a nice boy from church. Only to disregard this lifestyle later on when, in our first introduction to her in season three, she's making out with Tim Riggins again.

YES, IT'S ALL VERY CONFUSING. And you know why? BECAUSE LYLA GARRITY IS A CONFUSED GIRL. She had her whole life figured out -- marry the perfect boyfriend, go to the perfect college, have the perfect marriage/family -- until her boyfriend got hot-headed on the football field and ended up sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. When his life fell apart, so did hers. And she had absolutely no idea how to put it back together again.

This is what happens in life, sure, but it's also what happens -- or should happen -- in fiction. Don't give your characters an easy ride. Don't let them have the perfect life, the perfect future... at least not at first. Your characters should make mistakes. Kiss the wrong boy, say the wrong thing, change who they are, struggle with who they are. This is what Lyla Garrity, annoying or not, does. And she does it with style. When she's perfect, she's all the way, a hundred percent, love-it-or-hate-it, perfect. She hangs cheery Get Well banners in her boyfriend's hospital room. She spends her birthday with him in the hospital instead of having a fancy dinner with her family and friends. She co-hosts a christian radio show. But when she's not perfect? She's hiding boys in her bedroom, sleeping with her boyfriend's best friend, and smashing the cars in her father's dealership.

There is no in between.

And I'm not saying your character should be such flip-flopping opposites. Of course not. Because not only is it incredibly annoying and a little confusing, it also breeds a certain amount of distrust when it comes to the characters words and actions. I mean, how are we supposed to trust that Lyla loves Tim Riggins when two episodes ago she was telling him she'd never speak to him again? IT'S PRETTY DIFFICULT. But what I'm saying is, don't give it to them easy. Make your characters slip a little, fall down a few times before they get to the end of their story. Make them work towards the life they want and the person they become. Don't let them be boring. If they know at the outset who they are, what they want, and what they stand for, make them forget. Give them obstacles. Make them doubt, and then, make them remember. If they don't know who they are? Let them discover that, but don't just give it to them.

This is life. Things aren't simple. We have questions, we have doubts, we have periods of fear and insecurity and not knowing who the hell we are or what the hell we're doing. We have questions and so do our characters.