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Reply To: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha”


WARNING: There Be Spoilers Here!

In late January I purchased a new iPhone, which included three free months of Apple TV – so just last week, nearly six months after this conversation started, I finally completed Season One of Ted Lasso, and now I get what everyone was talking about! (As my old therapist used to say, “Better latent than never!”).

So much I would love to respond to, including thoughts on toxic masculinity, or the difference between “doing the rightest thing” (which relates to my choices and my behavior) and being judgmental (which, in the context it’s used here, relates to drawing conclusions as to the motivations, actions, and behavior of another).

However,  no idea if anyone is still listening, or still interested (and, even though I’m caught up to where everyone else was in August, I imagine most have now completed Season 2, which may well change the calculus).

Nevertheless, thought I might as well bump this up to the top of the MythBlast queue by sharing a thought or two, and see if anyone else, whether or not they participated in the initial discussion, might have something to add.

Instead of tackling everything, I figured I’d focus on this response from Gabrielle, replying to Sunbug:

You’ve really touched on something I’ve been thinking about lately with de-centering the story from Ted to any of the other characters, especially female characters. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write a piece about Rebecca and Keeley, a fascinating dynamic that packs a major punch in understanding the feminine — but also, vitally, the masculine as it presents in someone outside of the male characters. You’re quite right in calling Ted the Call. It was difficult for me to see how Ted himself changed over the course of the first season, rather he was a catalyst for change in others. I’m about to start season 2, and I expect to see some development there for him.”

I love Keeley’s character! I confess I initially wrote her off as shallow, superficial, and sex-obsessed; definitely took a few episodes to realize she is the most self-aware character in the series (love how she describes herself to Rebecca: “I’m famous for being almost-famous”), in many ways the moral center of the show. How Rebecca responds to Keeley’s friendship, long before the team owner’s attitude toward the club franchise itself changes, is what first clued me in to Rebecca’s yearnings, and her capacity for change. The friendship between these women is a true delight, far beyond the all-too-common television stereotype.

In many ways I see Keeley and Ted as kindred spirits – unassuming, non-judgmental, and authentic. Both bring to mind one of my favorite Campbell quotes:

The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and whos on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.” (Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, 149)

I agree, Gabrielle – the relationship between Keeley and Rebecca is worth a thread all its own, especially in how they relate to the masculine.

What else catches my attention here is the observation that it’s difficult “to see how Ted himself changed over the course of the first season.”

I have a different take on that. Yes, he’s still the same affable Ted Lasso at the end of the season as at the start, but he does undergo a dramatic, life-altering transformation, one accompanied by its own death-and-rebirth experience (that panic attack at the karaoke bar in Liverpool in Episode 7, followed by Sassy’s somewhat unexpected, very intimate visit to his motel room).

Though it’s not exactly front and center, Ted’s marriage has been falling apart. No one is the villain here, though his wife, Michelle, does seem to find Ted’s unrelenting positive thinking cloying. Her unhappiness provides his Call to adventure; Ted would not have taken this coaching position if he hadn’t thought the space it provided might somehow help heal his marriage.

Two things come to mind as a result. One is that not every woman is seeking Ted Lasso’s brand of sensitive, caring, vulnerable masculinity (something I bumped up against more than once in my single years, much as I would have wished it otherwise).

Though Ted seriously wants to hold onto his marriage (in many ways, that’s how he defines himself), something is definitely missing: Ted is not a whole person. His obsession with hanging on to the marriage through thick and thin ignores the needs of the person he loves, or believes he loves (indeed, the person he loves and who loved him no longer exists). All the drama in the locker room strikes me as secondary; the primary conflict is inside Ted (that’s my other take-away). That’s resolved, once he is able to let go what had died and become whole in himself.

Or not (I figure that’s what the second season explores).

Of course, that’s just my perception. [Actual user experience may vary]

Gabrielle – thank you for essay and the ensuing conversation. I seriously doubt I would have been moved to binge this series were it not for your thought-provoking analysis.