If you spend any time online, you’ll come across the phrase, “Are men OK?” It’s usually asked semi-jokingly, and often presented alongside evidence that the answer is decidedly “No!” The men I spoke to for the many stories I’ve done on toxic, abusive bosses were not OK, and I absolutely understood why. They— and literally hundreds of other sources of all genders— were deeply troubled by the industry’s convenient insistence that sociopathic, narcissistic, cruel, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and simply shitty behaviors should not just be tolerated but celebrated.
If the past several (hundred) years did not provide you with endless confirmation of that undying and demoralizing tendency in all areas of our culture and in every important power center, I wonder what planet you’ve been living on (and please, can I go there?). But once these bad men—and they are usually men—have been exposed, what then? Where do we go from there? I think about that a lot. A lot.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this 2016 essay by Nora Samaran, who later expanded it into a slim but transfixing book called Turn This World Inside Out. It addresses a number of persistent questions I’ve had with lucid, thoughtful prose.
As Samaran puts it, “the men I know who are exceptionally nurturing lovers, fathers, coworkers, close friends to their friends, who know how to make people feel safe, have almost no outlets through which to learn or share this hardwon skill with other men…. Meanwhile, the men I know who are kind, goodhearted people, but who are earlier on in growing into their own models for self-love and learning how to comfort and nurture others, have no men to ask. … The answer to all of these difficulties is to openly discuss nurturance: how it looks, how it feels, how men can learn to practice it from the men who already know how.”
I can’t help but cackle as I imagine Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), Richmond’s cranky team captain, reading Samaran’s essay and then projectile vomiting.
But Roy would think about Samaran’s words, and ultimately act on the guidance and suggestions they contain, because underneath his grunting, furrowed-brow exterior, he does not really want to be a baby child. In a rewatch of the season, I noticed that Roy knows all the words to “Let it Go” from Frozen, and that he also, like the rest of the team, got teary during a screening of The Iron Giant. Roy is, like everyone else on Ted Lasso, frequently in a glass case of emotions, as Ron Burgundy would put it. And that’s OK!
Ted Lasso does a lot of things well—I adore the budding friendship between Rebecca and marketing whiz Keeley (Juno Temple)—but one of the things it explores wisely and well is what it looks like when men engage in (sorry for using these dreadful words) nurturing behaviors.
Apple TV+ doesn’t release viewership numbers, but Ted Lasso is its No. 1 comedy in more than 50 countries, including the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Canada and Russia. Extreme Ted Lasso voice: “Nice one, Japan! I appreciate you!”
It’s a sprightly, well-constructed, enjoyable comedy about sports, sure, but it’s also about men who—like the many good men I have known (even in Hollywood!)—take responsibility for the example they set, for their emotions and for the actions they take. Ted Lasso will remain deeply valuable into next year and beyond, because it is also about a bunch of very different people who display fulfilling, conscientious confidence and leadership—not the bullying, toxic, arrogant, violent, condescending domination that has, in this country, has too often masqueraded as “leadership” and “confidence.” In evolving and supporting each other through those changes, these characters form friendships and communities that are truly meaningful.
How I love to be able to say that all this good, wholesome, hopeful shit is smuggled into a goofball comedy that features a lot of drinking, sex jokes and swearing. Apple TV+ doesn’t release viewership numbers, but a representative for the service noted a quarter of the show’s viewers are using the service for the first time, and added that Ted Lasso is its No. 1 comedy—not just in the US, but in more than 50 countries, including the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Canada and Russia. Extreme Ted Lasso voice: “Nice one, Japan! I appreciate you!”
I will circle back to where I began by reminding all of us that Ted is absolutely not equipped to be a professional soccer coach. And I also can never forget that folks from marginalized communities suffer most from the glorification and upward trajectories of the shitty, incompetent, cruel Teds out there—and there are a lot of them. Everywhere.
So here’s something for the suggestion box Ted passed around the AFC Richmond locker room: For a show set in London, it’s frankly ridiculous that white people get the vast majority of Ted Lasso screen time. In particular, the absence of meaningful roles for Black, Asian, Latinx and South Asian women feels like a huge missed opportunity, to say the least. And though I am happy that the delightful Keeley appears to be canonically bisexual, giving LGBTQ people more to do in and around the club would be—to be my most extreme Midwestern self about it—pretty dang cool.
All in all, there is lots of championship potential in Seasons 2 and 3 (which have already been ordered, hooray!). Season 2 goes into production early next year. Glorious news: It will not touch on the pandemic at all. And as my fellow Tedheads know: It cannot arrive soon enough.
Where to Watch Ted Lasso:
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