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.
The story of Michael Vick seems to bring out the passions of sports fans. For those who love stories of second chances, Vick is a great example – a guy who didn’t play up to his full talent in Atlanta, ran into trouble, but now is playing great and seems to have turned the corner. For those who love dogs or think NFL players (and athletes in general) get too many breaks, Vick is a perfect example: just because he is a possible MVP candidate, Vick gets a free pass for his bad behavior.
The recent cover story in Sports Illustrated explains the situation:
The Vick paradox is simple: You can’t look away from the beauty, and you can’t quite forget the brutality. His game is rivetingly kinetic, and now that Vick’s commitment to football is making itself evident, it’s impossible not to wonder how good he can be. Yet his infamous stewardship of the Bad Newz Kennels created a discomfort that has endured longer than the usual distaste for bad actors. On Thursday, Goodell stopped in Philadelphia and, 14 months after he lifted Vick’s playing ban, spoke of the “message” behind Vick’s rebound, the “lessons” to be learned. “We need our kids to see that kind of success story,” Goodell told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This young man has turned his life around, and he’s going to contribute.” But Vick’s tale is not that tidy, and it’s far from finished.
For some, Vick might never be able to make up for what he did. But if he proves himself to be a winning and successful NFL quarterback, many will look past his transgressions. And along the way, he is likely to get paid handsomely in salary for his efforts.
More broadly, Vick’s situation raises all sorts of sociological issues: should athletes get a second chance? Should anyone who mistreated dogs in the way he did get a second chance? Can jail time rehabilitate people or are they tainted forever? Can Vick become a hero or role model in the future? If Vick can’t be redeemed in the eyes of most Americans, who can?