Two popular shows present very different approaches to the world. Is the world full of redemptive possibilities and sharp conversation or is it a fight-to-the-death game under unfair conditions? Ted Lasso vs. Squid Game.
Take Ted Lasso. After an age of television anti-heroes and heavy themes on television, the lead character brings an upbeat approach to his new coaching position in London. While the second season hints that Ted’s good cheer may hide some life issues, the show’s arcs thus far suggest people can overcome challenges with friendship and good will.
In contrast, Squid Game presents people either facing significant issues or drunk on control and power. Opportunities for good outcomes are unthinkable as even winners survive more than they achieve a warm ending. The bleakness of urban and artificial landscapes add to the trauma that the main characters face.
Given today’s context, Squid Game may match many viewer’s moods. The dystopia may not seem that far away from a world troubled by inequality, lack of trust, and abuses of power. Ted Lasso may seem pleasant but it is just a pleasant or a mocking story when so many are struggling.
Yet, humans often embrace hope in difficult circumstances. Many stories throughout time feature virtuous characters overcoming obstacles and less hopeful people around them. Many want to believe that people will do the right thing when given the opportunity.
If people watch one show, I hope they also get a chance to see the other. Perhaps together they present important parts of human experience and how we might tell very different yet important stories.