My distaste for Man City, the club, has been stated before but that’s not really what this is about. The second season of Ted Lasso had a great episode that did a masterful job of slaloming through stereotypes of male behavior and some of their antitheses. My love for this show is well documented but this is one time where the message hits a little deeper than the positivity that Ted disperses so willingly. Men are shown being the worst versions of ourselves while other moments are almost aspirational about what we could be. If you’ve not watched the series or the episode, there are spoilers below, so hop to it before you read farther or just deal.
Although Ted is the namesake of the show, several characters step up in this emotional episode. Jamie Tartt’s strained relationship with his father is one of the main storylines. Jamie’s need for a positive father figure was set up in the first season and put on full display in this episode. Although his father is an extreme version of a stereotype, he conjures the feelings that many of us men have had. The desire to make our father proud while also seeing their faults as we grow older. It is never as simple as a TV show must make a situation but all of the markers are there. The dynamic between fathers and sons is often strained due to the desire for independence and the inherent factor of emulation. Through the influence of Ted and Tartt’s own experience, Jamie sees his father’s negatives and begins to move in a different direction. Eventually he literally fights against his father’s way. At that moment, he is distraught, feeling the weight of what has just happened. Roy Kent, who usually puts forth a caveman-like persona, shows empathy and understanding by hugging his former rival. It’s a scene that jumps right out of a Brené Brown Ted Talk. Vulnerability is a superpower that men do not always employ.
Following along the vulnerability track, Ted opens up to his staff about the fact that a panic attack and not food poisoning had him running for the locker room in the Tottenham match. Each man in the group admits to something that he’s been holding back for some time. Ted’s vulnerability is seen as an opportunity by Nate who uses what he’s learned to expose and undercut Ted. This is the fear that most men have about vulnerability. It leaves us open to enemies, detractors and the like. The problem with this fear is that it is completely accurate. People can take advantage of a situation and many do. It’s a short term game but it works to their advantage enough to make it enticing. There is a balance to be struck here. Putting on the facade of invulnerability is an overall losing strategy. However, being vulnerable with everyone has its own perils that should definitely be avoided. It’s more art than science, like so many things.
Although Nate hasn’t fully shown his true colors in this episode, we get glimpses of the fact that he is employing a “fingers before thumbs” mentality which is the exact opposite of what I suggest regularly. Nate wants to blame others for anything and everything. He claims that he wants to be in charge. However, he lacks the mental fortitude to accept criticism when things go poorly despite wanting praise when they go well. His newly found power and fame make him into a bully who regularly victimizes people that he views as weaker. The willingness to see one’s own faults is a strength that needs to be developed over time. A mirror can be a powerful tool provided that it is not turned into a weapon used to self-flagellate. Another art of manhood is knowing when to point the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger. It’s more than likely that it will be employed incorrectly at times but my preference is always to find my faults before I start looking for others’.
Despite my dislike for Man City, the club, I am very happy with Man City, the episode. It brings to the forefront a discussion of modern roles of masculinity. By no means does it develop a definitive set of directives. However, it does juxtapose antiquated stereotypes with newer ideals. Being a man in a modern world can be a bit confusing. The messaging that is thrown at us from the past, present and future can sound like white noise. In the end, we need to see our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.
“Butts on three!”