TED LASSO – A LESSON IN THE NEW MORALITY
Ted Lasso is a comedy-drama available on Apple TV+. The series is about an American Football (American) coach managing an English Premier League Football (Soccer) club – the fictional AFC Richmond. Lasso brings along his honesty, humility, optimism and Midwestern charm to bear on the cynical, overpaid and self-obsessed world of English football.
The humour of the series is based on the “fish out of water” trope. Lasso, an American, has to navigate modern Britain. But there’s also the fact that he’s not actually a soccer coach, so he is also trying to coach a team that knows far more about the sport than he does. The situation is patently ridiculous, but there is a reason for this: the club’s new owner is Rebecca Welton, who won ownership of the club in divorce proceedings from her philandering billionaire husband. Determined to humiliate her ex, Welton’s secret scheme is to destroy AFC Richmond, so she fires the current manager and hires a nobody from the US to speed up the club’s demise.
So that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of spoilers.
Apart from Lasso there is also coach Beard, Lasso’s assistant, enigmatic and eccentric, simultaneously wise and foolish. The team includes Roy Kent, the captain, an ageing midfielder whose glory days are behind him; Sam Obisanya, a Nigerian winger who struggles with self-confidence; and Jamie Tartt, the stereotypical striker with fashionable clothes, stylish hair, plenty of goals and self-absorbed arrogance. Peripheral figures are also important, such as Nathan, the lowly kit man who reveals a penchant for football tactics; Keeley, a model and Tartt’s girlfriend who develops her own PR career; and Leslie, the Director of Football Operations who has digestive problems whenever stressful situations occur.
It is not by accident that Ted Lasso looks, sounds and acts like Ned Flanders, the character from the Simpsons. As the series progresses, we discover that the good natured, honest humility of Ted Lasso is not some mask that he uses to manipulate others … it is his genuine self. After spending a day with a cynical sports reporter, Lasso bids him goodbye and says that it was genuinely good to meet him. The sports reporter, stunned, replies with “You actually mean that don’t you?”.
The character of Ted Lasso is so nice, so ethical, so honest, that the viewer ends up barracking for him even when the team’s fortunes in the Premier League go from bad to worse. Lasso is certainly out of his depth. In one press conference he says that he wants the players to give 100% in every quarter of the match, only to be told that a soccer match is divided into halves. Another question asks him to define the offside rule, which he is unable to do. When asked about the potential for relegation, he honestly states that he doesn’t even know what the word means. And yet this obvious incompetence is balanced by his motivational and team building skills.
Watching this as a Christian was fascinating. In one sense, Lasso is a gospel figure, attacked and persecuted from all sides and yet self-controlled enough not to respond in kind. Characters admit their faults, ask for forgiveness from the person they wronged, and then are forgiven. This process is not easy, but painful as characters find it hard to forgive. There’s also the idea that men can sit down together and work out their problems through discussion, a process being described as the meeting of the “Diamond Dogs” (including various howls and barks from the men involved). It’s a far cry from both repressed toxic masculinity and self-loathing that many men go through to cope.
Nevertheless the series depicts the current new morality that our society holds. This is best shown in the various sexual and romantic relationships depicted in the show. A philandering spouse is looked down upon – such people have betrayed the trust of their partner and the show rightly depicts the pain and anguish that such betrayals can cause. This, of course, fits in with Christian morality. But while the show does depict marriages, it mainly depicts sexual and emotional partnerships outside the bounds of marriage, but which are seen to have equal weight. Moreover, these partnerships can be heterosexual or homosexual or a three-way relationship involving a man and two women, or between a young man in his 20s and a woman in her late 40s. All of these relationships are depicted as positive because they are consensual. Moreover, marriage breakups are okay (though sad) if both consent, and the unattached are free to indulge in one-night stands. The taboos of the past have been removed.
John Chapman, the Sydney Anglican evangelist, wrote this back in 1990:
During my lifetime, there has been a massive change in our attitude to truth, error and tolerance. In the past, people believed that truth existed in an absolute sense. Today, it is partial and relative. People can easily believe that something is true for me and false for them.
For Chapman, the world had changed drastically. He saw it moving from something solid to something fluid, where truth was relative and everything was questioned. This was the effect that Postmodernism and post-structuralism was having on society at that time.
It appears now that this period of moral and ethical fluidity – where truth was relative – was actually a transitional period between the old and the new. During this period, it was acceptable for a person to believe that homosexuality was morally acceptable and for another person to believe it was morally unacceptable. Now we’re at a point where the world says that homosexuality is acceptable, and MUST be acceptable. Our society has moved on and has created a new morality, one which makes it harder for Christians to express opinions or be heard by society. The Postmodernism society is dead.
Ted Lasso is worth watching simply to see how this new morality is expressing itself through modern texts. There are no explicit sexual scenes, but sexual activity is described, and a number of homosexual kisses are depicted on screen. The language can be rough, especially with the hilarious Roy Kent. The discerning Christian parent would not wish his underage children to watch this series, but it may be worthwhile as a means of discussion for young adults.
Neil Cameron is a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Launceston.