Thursday, March 27, 2008

Friday Night Lights

Having grown up in Texas and spending 9 years of my youth playing football (2 years in pee-wee, 2 years in middle school, 4 years in high school, and 1 year in the Western Australian League), it is only natural that I would be drawn to the book Friday Night Lights. A movie and a loosely based TV series have also been made on the book. FNL is book that chronicles the season of the Odessa Permian High School football team, but it's about alot more than oil.

The true story is set in blue collar oilfield services town of Odessa, TX, which is smack dab in the middle of the Permian Basin. It does a very good job of discussing oil by using it as a back drop for everything that goes on in the book, and does not make the mistake of over sensationalizing discoveries, as many other works of literature do.

For many of the people of Odessa, high oil prices mean prosperity, and low oil prices mean hopelessness. The book does a great job of describing how when times are good, streets are flush with new money, and suddenly rich people with private jets and Rolexes. It then goes on to discuss the home foreclosues and massive unemployment that besieges the city with the downturn of the 80's. This was very true in Odessa, and was true, but to a smaller degree in Houston.

I think the reason FNL portrays the oil industry in such a truthful way, is that they stick with the macro issues instead of trying to make a good story from a single venture. I've lost count of how many movies of TV shows I've seen where a person drilling a well was happy when oil comes gushing up through the derrick painting everything black. While some people think this means prosperity, to me, this means get ready to pay environmental fines and be sued.

The oil industry, while still being exciting in my opinion, must be sensationalized by Hollywood to be movie worthy. I guess this is true of pretty much any industry in the movies. As far as in the movies, and in popular culture in general, I wish oil could be portrayed in a little bit more positive light. The reality is, if portraying the oilman as black cadillac driving scoundrel that would swindle his own grandmother will sell movies, it will continue to be done.

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