Ted Lasso season 2 builds on its female representation in a great way

·6 min read
Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

If the gut-wrenching Euros final match taught us anything – apart from confirming England's longstanding trouble with penalties – it's this: in the UK, football is continuously portrayed as a man's game. Coverage of fans around the UK showed mostly men crowded into pubs and public places, cheering and donning England flags. While the display of pride was heart-stirring, it left many wondering: Where are all the women?

Season two of Ted Lasso premiered this month, and it's as good as – if not better than – season one. This is a show that welcomes women to the football stage and celebrates the subsequent positive impact of parity; that's even truer in the second season.

Ted Lasso is "a tale of a good man doing good things," as The Guardian's Lucy Mangan accurately observes. And good men are proponents of equity and inclusion. Ergo, Ted is, too. TIME's Judy Berman points out: "Ted's superpowers are traits more often associated with women: he listens to people, intuits what they need and cares enough to help."

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

The Jason Sudeikis-led show is a critical and commercial darling. It was nominated for a whopping 20 Emmys. It earned Sudeikis a Golden Globe and a SAG Award (during his SAG acceptance speech, he sported a jumper with a feminist slogan). In Ted Lasso's second season, women are front and centre more than ever, not just on the screen, but in the tight and witty script, too. Once thought of as the province of men, football is growing ever more inclusive, and the new season of Ted Lasso is here to prove it.

Season two is especially well-written, and the script is the tool through which this attitude of equity is conveyed. With writers like Ashley Nicole Black (A Black Lady Sketch Show) on board for the season, it's no wonder the writing is so sharp.

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

An exchange during episode two exemplifies the show's playful and powerful attitude towards parity. Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) visits his former coach Ted at the local pub to ask to play for AFC Richmond again. He brings along a small figurine that Ted gave him in the first season, sets it on the bar counter and says, "I named him Ted. After Ted Danson."

Lasso replies, "All-time great. From Cheers to Curb to The Good Place. What a career. He's basically the male version of Julia Louis-Dreyfus."

This small, delightful exchange between the titular character and Tartt illustrates a turning tide, culturally. It also sets the tone for the season ahead. Women aren't the butt of the joke, or a secondary thing, as they so often appear in TV and film. The pointed moment of Lasso saying Danson was the "male version of…" was significant because it turned on its head a tired, overused set-up for a metaphor which is a woman-focused thing as the "male version" of something/someone. How many times did we hear that the film Booksmart was "the female Superbad"?

Time and again, Ted Lasso passes The Bechdel Test, too. Made famous by Alison Bechdel's 1985 comic strip 'The Rule,' it's a way to measure the representation of women in films or show. It states that a movie or show must: have at least two female characters, they must both have names, and they must talk to each other about something other than a man.

Ted Lasso portrays women as authority figures and accomplished professionals: team owners, medical doctors, and psychologists. The grizzled footballer Roy Kent's tickets are held under country stars' names: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain; but it's not done as a joke, but as an homage to those women.

Later in the season, there's an amusing tribute to women-led rom-coms, and a clever re-creation of the famed Love Actually "say it's carol singers" scene, which will have even the most Roy Kent-y of viewers soften. At one point, Ted tells his players they need to "woman up".

"I think you mean, 'man up,'" says Tartt.

"No, y'all been man-ing up for a while, and look where that's gotten you," replies Ted.

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

AFC Richmond owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has an exciting new storyline this season involving a dating app that Keeley (Juno Temple) is promoting. (Waddingham praised the show's "staunch male feminists" in the writers' room, when speaking with Variety.)

And a new character is introduced this season – a sports psychologist brought on to help one of the players with "the yips", or a baffling and mysterious loss of form. Dr Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) is far and away one of the best parts about the second season. Early into the season, she mentions to Ted that The Prince of Tides is her favourite book (well-read fans may pick up on potential plot clues from this seemingly inconsequential detail).

Photo credit: Apple
Photo credit: Apple

Lasso is hopeful. He's like a father-figure to some of his players, and treats everyone the same. You can imagine a real-life Lasso wearing the same sweatshirt on the pitch that Sudeikis wore at the second season's premiere, which read "Jadon & Marcus & Bukayo" (a nod of support to England's players who suffered racist abuse after the Euros final).

People love Ted Lasso ­– both the show and the character – for its heart, earnestness, and joy. It came at the right time, too. As the world was in the throes of the pandemic in August 2020, Ted Lasso emerged as a little beacon of Midwesterner-American-meets-England-football-culture light.

The show's positivity is infectious, and it was – and is – a breath of fresh air amid a difficult time for many. Now, we love it even more as it puts historically marginalised groups front and centre for screen time, talk time, and prominence in the second season script, which is – as Mary Poppins would say – practically perfect in every way.

Ted Lasso is available on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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