Premium- Ted Lasso -'Ted Lasso's Nate Is A "Nice Guy," So Why Didn't We See This Coming?
Ted Lasso, at its heart, is about underdogs. The entire series is full of fish out of water: a man from Kansas City coaching a soccer team in England; a woman emerging from divorce as the head of her ex's club league; a grumpy athlete finding his way after his glory days have recently passed. It's precisely what made us root for who seemed like the ultimate underdog on the series: Nate, the timid water boy who worked his way up to assistant coach with brilliant gameplay and brutal barbs.
Season 2 of Ted Lasso, though, not only forced us to take a second look at Nate, but also a second look at ourselves. Since Season 1, the series has been dropping breadcrumbs guiding us to Nate's villainous future — Nick Mohammad's post-Season 2 tweet all but confirmed it — yet we cheered for the character's savage take-downs, even that one time he called Rebecca a "shrew." Why didn't we see the toxicity brewing? It's the same reason why we don't see it in real life.
While ruminating over Nate's transformation, and why it felt like such a shock watching it unfold, I happened upon a Reddit post from u/punctuation_welfare that outlined the precise problem with "Nice Guys" like Nate:
A soft voice or timid mannerisms are somehow used to excuse harsh words. A general sense of downtrodden-ness makes it understandable when these guys lash out; it’s not their fault, it’s the world’s fault for not having been fair to them. Nate isn’t being mean when he roasts the team or calls Rebecca a shrew, right? He’s just a small guy who’s been picked on too often, trying to stand up for himself in a hard world.
Except, as the show reveals slowly but brilliantly over time, it’s not harmless. Unkindness stings, whatever it’s source. And writing off shitty behavior because we pity the person engaging in it not only enables it, it gives it a platform that allows it to grow and get worse as that person accretes any amount of power.
This is not the first time Ted Lasso has dabbled in toxic masculinity, but it's the show's most impressive, and nuanced, approach to the topic. The series manages to carefully outline how red pill culture could evolve, even from the most unlikely of sources. When Jamie Tartt bullied Nate into submission in Season 1, we categorized Nate as a victim. Him roasting the entire team simply seemed a way of balancing the universe, so we — and Ted — rewarded it.