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

Viewing 13 posts - 16 through 28 (of 28 total)
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    Yeah I think you get it. You do raise some interesting questions in your reply though.

    It is true that indirectly I did say that Ted is naive, ofcourse Ted being the ideal not a real person I can afford to say that. I am under the impression that this guy will be a tragic figure till the end of the show, wait for it.

    And I do cringe a bit when I hear the words non-judgmental and right-est in the same sentence. After all when we indulge in what is right and wrong we do become judgmental. And what is right and what is wrong to begin with and who will be the judge of that (sorry for the pun), well when we don’t think in terms of right or wrong, then certainly that feels non-judgmental. What I am trying to say is they seem antithetical to me.

    But before I continue to what extend you are referring when you talk about “Toxic masculinity” in your initial reply in this conversation and I also wonder what do you think is the reason for this toxic masculinity?

    The problem as I see it, is how each one of us perceives niceness. I have several examples in my life where people I thought to be mean and “toxic” actually were helping me, making me stronger, in the long run. Yet at the time I perceived them as mean, perhaps an understatement.

    That being said I do agree with you and the qualities you try to promote being open, trusting and forgiving and never take anything personally, its a risk but worth it.



    Gabrielle Basha

      Well, I can’t deny that Ted has some real cringe-y turns of phrase! He’s a comedic character, after all, definitely a caricature of the type of person we might admire in real life. Either way, to your point around judgment: Ted isn’t judging people, but situations. Judgement is very important, as in use-your-best. Ted encourages us to reserve your judgement of people, and assume good will when possible. (When not possible, completely hustle them at darts.)

      You bring up a great point around kindness and strength, and if I had more space in my piece I would have loved to compare the kindness of Ted with the kindness of a totally different character: Roy Kent.

      Roy is a great example of a character who is kind but not nice. He’s angry, he’s guarded, but as the captain of the team, he also looks out for his players – even the kit man, Nathan, who’s being bullied by other players. He’s furious Ted isn’t handling the situation, and so stands up to Jamie (the perfect example of this toxicity I’m talking about) to get the team to fall in line.

      A lot of toxicity is based in fear. Jamie reveals he’s competitive and aggressive because his father literally beat these qualities into him, telling him it’s the only way to be a man. This doesn’t only hurt Jamie as an individual, but the entire team suffers when he puts his ego first. In fact, when he’s playing for Manchester (Man City! Fantastic pun there) and does pass the ball to a teammate, it results in a goal and Man City taking the game. Ted comes to congratulate him (an honorable thing to do after his team has lost) and sees Jamie being berated by his father for passing the ball – even though it won his team the match.

      What’s the risk inherent in passing the ball? Why be so concerned about “looking weak”? What’s the fear here? The toxic masculine must remain on top, untouchable, or risk falling lower in the pecking order and being pecked themselves, even if this isn’t a risk in their environment.

      Gabrielle Basha

        love your parallel to Inspector Clouseau, who was largely inspired by one of my very favorite fictional characters, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Talk about reserving judgment! Things are not always what they seem, and you must keep an open mind to get to the truth.

        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 would like to keep this brief since I seem to have the problem of Frost’s Yellow Wood and road leading to road.
        Especially with all the wonderful contributions as Jamesn said.
        No apologies James…love what you added. And I often think of that story Joe Campbell told of the policeman who risked his life to save the man on the bridge. Very powerful. That’s it to a T! Spontaneous compassion in action! Beautiful…
        Have nothing to add to that!

        And I have a painting my Mother made of Don Quixote. So will hop off this before getting stuck on a windmill blade.
        And so any new or familiar voices can add to this!!

        Gabrielle Basha

          @Jamesn, I’m so sorry, I thought I replied to you but it looks like I didn’t! Thank you so much for your kind comments, and absolutely agree with your mentions of Atticus Finch and the other excellent film/books. There are some fantastic examples of masculinity that doesn’t hinge on power and control above all else, but on humility and wonder. It shouldn’t be a performance, though, or one more thing for us to live up to; rather it’s a stripping away of the barriers that keep us from being these things naturally. I do believe people are naturally good. I know that’s not universal, but that’s my impression after working with children for many years


          Gabrielle its a risk because when you open up, when you trust people, people tend to abuse that and push you around. It is just a fact especially in the workplace that you have to show your teeth or you wont get any respect.

          And you can see it in the Ted Lasso story too, a bitterness, a meanness at the centre of it for masculinity. (Men need women, women dont need men, etc etc)

          Which brings me to Roy.

          You seem to imply that its ok to be aggressive if you are gonna stand for ideals that seem to fit our morality? Because that is what Roy does, starts a fight to defend Nathan because he doesn’t like seeing him being bullied. If I was Nathan I would be insulted by this to be quite honest with people for not believing I could handle the situation.

          I guess being aggressive has its uses after all.

          I dont think its kindness, compassion that will change what you call toxic masculinity if it needs changing at all, I think it will take much more than. The problem with Lasso and Parsival is that they will never be Kings because they never have to make the hard decisions.

          Anyways, have a lovely day all.

          Gabrielle Basha

            You’re absolutely right. We can do only what’s in our power to be more open, more compassionate, but we still need to protect ourselves. Think of the scene where Ted beats Rupert at darts to keep him from the box for the season: Ted never raises his voice. He never makes ad hominem attacks. He even has the humility and intelligence to let Rupert think he’s winning. This is a great example of how Ted uses his power of observation — much like we were discussing in another comment comparing him to the Agatha Christie Detective, Hercule Poirot — to protect himself and others without being fueled by fear.

            Roy is fueled by anger, certainly, but he’s curious. Anger alone isn’t toxic; in fact, I would say it’s vital to challenging systems of oppression. He isn’t driven by fear. You can feel whatever you’d like, but being measured in your response it what achieves results.

            Thank you for your contributions to this conversation! I’m glad to be able to talk through this outside the bounds of what a 1k word essay allows.


              Thank you for your article Gabrielle. There are many things that draw me to it. You tackle some wonderful ideas here. I would like to touch upon some of them.

              First of all, I would like to introduce myself to the group. My name is Matt and I work with young adult men on parole in a transition home. We have paused the majority of our groups when covid rolled through, but prior we used tackle subjects on masculinity, toxic masculinity, etc. A wonderful book called “He: Understanding Masculine Psychology” by Robert A. Johnson, Jungian psychologist, tackles this very myth: Parcifal and the Grail King. I highly recommend it for anyone with a interest in this subject. When I was attempting to pull together subject matter to teach the young men I worked with about masculinity this was probably the main book I drew inspiration from.

              I share your sentiments on the show and the character. There is a redeeming quality of Mr. Lasso that does resonate with folks. There is a trojan horse like quality to his apparent naiveté. It’s disarming. In ‘He”, he says Parcifal means “innocent fool”. But that it also means “he who draws the opposites together”. Ted Lasso is the antithesis to the alpha male coach he replaces; the antithesis to Rebecca’s philandering ex-husband. And you are right: there is a power in tenderness. “Now there is in Arthur’s Court a damsel who has not smiled nor laughed in six years. The legend in the Court is that when the best knight in the world appears, the damsel who has not smiled for six years will burst into laughter. The instant this damsel sees Parcifal, she bursts into laughter and joy.”

              It reminds me of my favorite beatitude: those pure of heart shall see the face of God. (Matthew 5:8) I am 44 now (almost 45) and I can attest to the struggle it takes to be in this state (pure of heart) as one goes on the adventure.  We might even call vulnerability the state of having the heart channel be open to the suffering of the world. (By the way please check out Brené Brown’s, vulnerability researcher, podcast with Jason Sudekis (Ted Lasso) and Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard): Like the Fisher King, this also might be the easiest way to be wounded. An open heart can easily be trampled on in the world of masculinity. Ted Lasso models an integration of strength and vulnerability. I would argue that in addition to an open heart one must have good boundaries. You don’t want to be an alpha male but you don’t want to be a colloquial simp. The heart does offer the middle path. The Grail Castle and the Grail King appears when we find it. And that is our salvation. It’s how we heal the Fisher King’s wound.

              The new season promises to offer new insight into the character. With the recent hire of a psychologist on the team, it is only a matter of time before Ted sits in the chair and offers us a deeper look into his personality. Consider myself lassoed!


              Hello Gabrielle,

              Such an inspiring and thought provoking essay. So much has been written that I’ll be brief.

              Watching NAOMI OSAKA play at the US OPEN tonight, was like watching your words in action. Naomi is One uniquely strong women’s single player, yet vulnerable, kind and humble, and as you wrote, the combination of strength and vulnerability makes for unimaginable strength.

              This combination on the field has brought her unmatched popularity from fans in all age groups. Such awesome emotional outpouring from her fans only made her ten times stronger in her vulnerable mode.

              Wonder if NAOMI’S coaches read your insightful words too?

              Thanks for your marvelous essay.

              PS: In athletics and elsewhere too, I think strength must precede vulnerability otherwise the athlete would be wiped out in no time.



              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.



              Yes I am still thinking about Ted Lasso and how much I enjoyed it! Thanks to Gabrielle started watching it. Made me smile.
              I did see both seasons but without giving anything away…Ted’s “dark night of the soul,” is tied in to more of his own personal back history. After that is revealed it makes sense and for me as a watcher, I felt even more compassion towards Ted. But that’s all I will say on that.

              Unless that was partly revealed at the end of season one? Trying to remember?

              There was only one episode in season two where I felt less connected. It is one where “Beardy” has his own adventure, which veers off on a dream and hallucination-like tangent from everything else. And it felt to me more like an “experimentation” than having anything to do with furthering the plot.
              However that being said…there were reviews which compared it to Dante…so that does take it back into another type of mythic realm…underworld trip and all.
              But I suppose it is up to each viewer to make-up their own minds on that.
              I only included this spoiler because it felt like a non-sequiter to the plot.

              It is like  Dante meets All That Jazz with the Bob Fosse “dream/illusion/hallucination sequence” where the Viewer is not sure what is real and what is dream.

              But other than that, still loved season two. So many characters and beautiful nuances and some surprising turns.

              I agree with you about Keeley. She really grew on me. I found myself smiling and crying through both seasons of Ted Lasso. Something about it just felt deeply good. We need more of that…and I do not mean just the veneer of positive thinking. This felt deeper.
              I felt this way too after seeing, “Get Back.” The parts where there were strife or turmoil within the band seemed small to the overall picture. And it just proved the Beatles were human…real and human…and to be real and human is magic. In its own way. I smiled a lot watching that as well.
              Guess I better sign off so I don’t accidentally leave any other spoilers for season two of Ted Lasso!
              And thank you Gabrielle for the recommend!

              Have found a lot of nice recommendations from the JCF myth blasts and forums!

              Gabrielle Basha

                Stephen, I’m so happy you’ve come back to this one! I love that Ted Lasso is still on our minds months later.

                I did want to touch on Ted’s static first season: specifically, I want to draw a distinction between Ted himself changing and Ted’s full character being revealed to the audience. I will admit he gives way to change in accepting his divorce, but most of the revelations of the episode are actually just aspects of the character that were hidden from the audience until now: the panic attacks, the realization (or proof) that not everyone loves Ted’s endless positivity. Ted’s acceptance of his divorce is a sort of quest acceptance — a first step on the road to transformation, to being open to transformation.

                It was a great setup for things to come. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up now that most have us seem to have seen Season 2. A LOT going on there to chew on!


                Definitely looking forward to diving in to the second season and exploring Ted’s depths – hard to be so positive without one hell of an unexplored shadow (that may have to wait a few weeks – so many balls in the fire and irons in the air, which is kind of how it feels, right now – and, short as each episode is, it’s impossible to watch just one at a time).

                Ted’s mini life-and-rebirth experience in Liverpool the first season (which, as you note, just hints at what is to come) helps crystallize a thought that’s been bouncing around the edges of my conscious awareness for some time:

                Campbell, in Pathways to Bliss, observes that he sees a rewarding life as series of hero journeys, one after another, which rings true for me. But I’ve also noticed that embedded within the trajectory of the hero’s journey, at least in my experience, are lots of “little” hero’s journeys. I like that way of re-imagining it, which for me suggests a resonance between the fractal nature of myth, and of the cosmos at large.

                Love the idea of you writing a follow-up, whenever you get around to it, not that I’m in any rush (considering I’m lagging a season behind everyone else).

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