Last week, Friday Night Lights creator Peter Berg wrote Mitt Romney a letter asking him to stop using the show’s beloved slogan, “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose,” in his campaign. He rightly pointed out that the candidate’s values were at odds with FNL’s and, hilariously, compared Romney to “Buddy Garrity — who turned his back on American car manufacturers selling imported cars from Japan.” But, as The Hollywood Reporter notices, Romney is still cribbing from Coach Taylor’s playbook. Yesterday evening, just before his highly GIF-able debate breakdown, his aide David Jackson tweeted yet another photo of Romney touching the “Clear Eyes” sign. While it isn’t clear when the photograph was taken, the tweet reflects the campaign’s insistence on using the image in spite of Berg’s highly publicized objections.
Now, political candidates co-opt pieces of pop culture that having nothing to do with them all the time (see also: the many Republicans who’ve faced criticism for playing liberal musicians’ songs at their rallies). So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about that. What’s puzzling is why the FNL reference is so important to Romney. It’s not like he’s jumping on the bandwagon of a national phenomenon. The show, while excellent and critically acclaimed, attracted so few viewers in its third season that NBC had to reach a co-production deal with DirecTV to keep it going for another two years. And considering that so many of its fans are part of what Romney would probably call the “liberal elite,” it’s difficult to imagine who he’s attempting to reach by aligning himself with FNL.
Of course, despite its tiny audience, Friday Night Lights was a populist show about small-town America. And in a campaign where Romney’s been plagued by his secret “47 percent” speech and just generally struggled to relate to regular people, he might well be attracted to the show as a symbol. But is this embrace of FNL likely to resonate with undecided voters? We doubt it — but let us know what you think in the comments.