Ted Lasso, and the Fantasy of Soft Masculinity
The men in sports television and movies are often wounded and broken, and sport is the arena of redemption, the thing that is going to put them back together. Sports heal all — in the 2001 film “Remember the Titans,” playing football is a way to mend acrimonious racial divides; for the young men in “Friday Night Lights,” manhood, community and the respect of one’s peers is earned one yard at a time.
But the promise of “Lasso” is different: Where we are used to seeing men do battle for connection, this universe assumes a more tender arrangement. The men in “Lasso” can try to isolate themselves and steep in their problems alone, but they will find that their safety net of other men will come barging in, ready to do what it takes to help. “Lasso” is a show built on softness.
But this is a fantasy. In real life, young men are often told that their moral absolution comes in the form of toughness, of suffering in silence. In real life, noxious figures who deride being emotional command a large audience. In real life, a 19-year-old offensive lineman, Jordan McNair, died in 2018 after being hospitalized for heatstroke. He collapsed after a team workout at the University of Maryland. ESPN published a report that highlighted a culture of “fear and humiliation” within the team, a culture that made it difficult to admit thirst, let alone exhaustion. But in “Lasso,” the fantasy comes to the fore. Forget winning in order to overcome your problems — “Lasso” suggests the reverse: You can’t win if you aren’t right within.