Ted Lasso: Not just a show about the ‘nice guy,’ expert explains
The concept of ‘caritas’ plays a large role
America’s favorite coach returns for his final season of Ted Lasso, but Virginia Tech’s Matthew Gabriele says the show goes much deeper than a lovable main character.
Ted (Jason Sudeikis), an American college football coach turned Premier League manager, exudes kindness and positivity - he’s the glass half full type of person, no matter the situation, but Gabriele says that’s the superficial focus.
“People tend to focus on the character of Ted and what he does, the fact that he’s optimistic and bubbly. But that hides the bigger picture of what he’s doing, trying to create a community from this disparate and disaffected group,” says Gabriele. “The show is really about the work and necessity of building communities by drawing strength from one another - and everyone is part of the team mentality.”
Gabriele points to a concept called “caritas” being a big theme for the show. The Latin word is most often translated as charity, but really means love. “It’s a special kind of love, one that cares selflessly for other people. That really begins to play out this season as the team takes care of one another, on and off the pitch.”
There are many examples of this in the show, Gabriele points to the most recent example that involves Nate, the football tactics prodigy and Ted’s former coach turned rival and quasi villain. “Nate can be part of the team, but feels alienated. It’s clear that he’s hurt and confused and can’t see, because of his previous trauma from his family, the love that Ted is offering him. Instead, he only sees the manipulation of Rupert and misinterprets that,” says Gabriele.
As for the popularity of the show, Gabriele believes it’s more than just well-written, good actors and funny. “People see the hope (not optimism) in the show, that things can be better than they are if we work together. I think ultimately people want to believe that but get cynical about it in real life.”
Matthew Gabriele is a professor of medieval studies and the chair of the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech. His research and teaching generally explore religion, violence, nostalgia, and apocalypse, whether manifested in the Middle Ages or the modern world. Gabriele’s interest in pop culture stems from looking at how we can thoughtfully understand the world around us. In addition to teaching medieval courses, he’s written and taught courses on Game of Thrones and Ted Lasso as they relate to religious themes in everyday life and understanding the messages they send.
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