Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Use: Did Mitt Romney Plagiarize 'Friday Night Lights'?

Mitt Romney Friday Night Lights

Politicians have long appropriated pop culture to lend their campaigns relevancy and catchy hooks, so it wasn't unprecedented when Republican nominee Mitt Romney began using the popular Friday Night Lights catchphrase "Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose" in his bid for the Presidency. That doesn't mean filmmaker Peter Berg has to be happy about it.

In an open letter to Romney, Berg — who directed 2004's Friday Night Lights, adapted from H.G. Bissinger's book about a small Texas town obsessed with football, and created its subsequent spin-off television series — slammed the former Governor of Massachusetts for using the now-famous FNL line.

"Your politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series," wrote Berg, who described the citation as plagiarism.

Via EW:

Governor Romney:

I created the TV show “Friday Night Lights” and came up with the phrase “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”

I was not thrilled when I saw that you have plagiarized this expression to support your campaign by using it on posters, your facebook page and as part of your stump speeches. Your politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in our series.

The only relevant comparison that I see between your campaign and “Friday Night Lights” is in the character of Buddy Garrity — who turned his back on American car manufacturers selling imported cars from Japan.

Your use of the expression falsely and inappropriately associates “Friday Night Lights” with the Romney/Ryan campaign. Mitt, we all wish you and your family all the best. We are grateful for your support of our beloved show, but we are not in any way affiliated with you or your campaign. Please come up with your own campaign slogan.

Peter Berg.

To be fair, President Obama's campaign also used the slogan, albeit less overtly and on Tumblr.

I guess that was at least football-related, and therefore more closely aligned with the themes Berg & Co. portrayed in their series.


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  • Jake says:

    I'm confused. A show about Texas high school football has more in common with a democrat candidate from Chicago than a republican one? I understand that Berg is unhappy because he wrote those words that Romney is using, but I think he's taking some serious liberties suggesting that the only thing this republican has in common with his show is the bad guy. I guess Berg doesn't know that much about Texas or high school football. After all, his uncle (the author of the original book, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) is a big Romney supporter.

    Not trying to be political. I am so sick of how partisan this country is and that's what I see coming from Berg here.

    Wish we had more moderates and independents today.

    • Joe says:

      Agreed but it aint going to happen. Politics has become the equivalent of the Kardashians - Love em or hate em they get both sides fired up and get traffic. If you look at the “most commented” stories on any entertainment sites it’s always the debates or celebrity quotes about O/Romney. So should we blame ourselves for feeding into it? BTW can we get rid of the open letter?

  • Jan Kubicki says:

    The issue here is not politics, it's the expropriation without permission of someone's copyrighted material. THey should observe the law, not claim special privileges to steal.

    • Jake says:

      Well yes and no. Of course there is a copyright issue, although it's a pretty weak claim, since it isn't a cut a dry example of profiting from someone else's work. But Berg does have a legitimate claim. But his open letter is NOT about copyright. It's as political as can be. If it was just copyright issue, a simple cease and desist would have taken care of it. But instead, it is overt political grandstanding, which is what I am disappointed in.

      The sad thing in America is that no matter who wins this election, half the country will be angry. We have a serious lack of leadership on both sides and our split media is constantly doing character assassination to either candidate, which makes it impossible to unite behind anyone. Berg is adding to that polarization here in kind of unfounded way. It's not like Romney is using a quote from Harry Belafonte or some other clear left wing source. It's a show set deep in the heart of one of the reddest states in the nation. I guess Berg is just in denial about that.