Reply To: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha”
Thank you for the introduction, Stephen! I’m glad to be able to talk about this week’s MythBlast with the community. I have to admit, there was so much more I wanted to say, it was tough to keep the word count within bounds.
I was first introduced to Campbell’s work through my mom, herself a myth-minded storyteller and artist. We watched the Bill Moyers special the summer after my senior year of high school and I was riveted. My introduction to Campbell that summer, then to John Berger soon after through Ways of Seeing, was a one-two punch that bust open up my understanding of what art can do.
It feels notable to me that the men I have admired in my early life as a reader and artist have had a gentleness to them, a humility that lets wonder in. As a child of the 1980s and ’90s, for me this includes Fred Rogers, Jim Henson, and Bob Ross: paragons of what masculinity can be in our modern Western culture (being American, I can and will only speak to representation in Western culture, in this piece and beyond, so please keep that in mind). It’s also important to note here that these are all white men who have likely been afforded the relative space and comfort in their lives to be able to remain creative and thoughtful, so there is privilege there as well. This doesn’t preclude anyone from accessing this type of masculinity, but it sure does make it easier for some.
Masculinity manifests in so many different ways, so I want to make a small note about what I mean here: in this essay and for the purposes of this conversation, let’s have a shared understanding of masculinity as this quality in people who identify as men, who move through the world in what’s perceived as a male body.
What’s interesting to me is that we often talk about our “humanity,” whether it’s about finding it, losing it, or having faith in it restored. Unlike masculinity, “humanity” isn’t gendered… and yet I think we are talking about so many of the same qualities. Compassion, humility, kindness, justice, empathy, the desire to do the right thing and support others, to put them before yourself.
I feel compelled to add, too, that this gentleness isn’t just a “nice to have,” but a necessity. Masculinity lacking these qualities is what we call “toxic” for a reason. It’s truly a matter of life and death that the masculine among us conform to more human qualities.
What I love about Ted is his ability to not take things personally, including how people see him. He strives to understand how other people work. He forgives, and it’s genuine. Anyone who’s spent time in an American high school knows sincerity is the death of coolness, and really, what’s more powerful that a person who chooses kindness and understanding over fearful respect and aloofness? To me, that’s bravery.