I’ve shared before about my love for Ted Lasso, the relentlessly cheerful American football coach who finds himself in London as the manager of the recently-relegated Richmond FC. Unlike your typical hyper-masculine TV sports coach, Ted is gentle and playful and impossible to offend. And throughout the first season of his eponymous series, Ted slowly but surely melts the hard, cynical hearts of all around him.
Ted’s is an infectious kind of optimistism that believes in others and always hopes for the best. It’s virtually impossible to watch this series and not want to be more like Ted Lasso. [Sidebar: Season 2 sees Ted go on a slightly more complex character arc, but he’s still adorable]
The problem for many of us – especially those of us with a well-developed facility for sharp criticism and wry (or snarky) observation – is that Ted’s sunniness seems totally out of reach. All his surprise sandwich days, enthusiasm for tap water (“delicious as always”), and the cutesy Jimmy Buffet riffs, just aren’t us. I mean, Ted’s character is admirable, but not achievable.
Enter the irascible and difficult former Richmond captain, Roy Kent.
When we meet Roy (played by one of the show’s writers, Brett Goldstein) in Season 1, he’s the typical English hard man. A laconic superstar, not given to suffering fools lightly, Roy Kent is caught in a state of arrested development, boxed in by his own deep-seated insecurities and everyday frustrations. His career is coming to a close. He’s old and broken down and facing a long future as a has-been. Roy isn’t a pretty sight and the interplay between Ted’s buoyant mood and Roy’s grouchy pessimism is at the heart of a lot of the humor in the early episodes.
But in Season 2 we’ve seen the blossoming of Roy Kent and it’s quite something to behold.
Roy slowly comes to accept that there is more to his life than football, and that retirement from the game isn’t the end of the world. He humbles himself and takes on the role of coach to little girls’ football team (quite hilariously given his gruff, foul-mouthed style). He allows his little niece Phoebe to melt his heart, including eating ice cream and playing fantasy games with her. And he slowly opens up to his girlfriend, PR consultant and influencer Keeley, sharing his emotions with her and learning about the need to allow her space in the relationship.
It turns out Roy is a man of surprising emotional depth, whose brusque exterior covers a not-so-secret heart of gold. And fans love him for it.
Meghan O’Keefe writes that she loves Roy because even though he’s a “mess of a man, he really listens to and cares about the women in his life. And through those relationships, he — and his love interests — find growth.”
And she’s not the only one. Recently, one Twitter fan wrote, “Roy Kent is the love of my life.” Another tweeted, “Roy Kent is really the ideal man. He keeps getting more perfect with every episode.”
Some have even suggested the series’ name should be changed to Roy Kent, because Goldstein is completely stealing the show.
But beyond all that hard-man-with-a-heart stuff, I think the reason I like Roy so much is his humility and his honesty. He is willing to acknowledge when he’s wrong and prepared to speak the truth no matter what. We see him do both those things when he tries to teach his niece Phoebe not to swear at school any more (quite hilariously), or when he realises he’s been too clingy with Keeley, or when he quits his job as a TV broadcaster. And the scene in Season 2, eposode 8, “Man City” when Roy responds to his nemesis Jamie Tartt after Tartt is bullied by his drunken father, is absolutely beautiful.
Everyone who has ever suffered from a father-wound was overwhelmed by Roy’s compassionate gesture in that scene.
In his analysis for the site, Fatherly, Ryan Britt writes, “There’s a lot of reasons to like Roy Kent over Ted Lasso, but the most salient one is that he consistently demonstrates the ability to be wrong about something, and then change.”
Britt continues, “Roy is an ideal we should aspire to. He has the courage to be wrong. He has the guts to speak his mind. He doesn’t hide behind pop-culture references or vague metaphors. ‘Roy being Roy,’ is generally being honest. And being honest often means simply admitting that he’s wrong.”
It’s easy these days to fall into the trap of thinking that when it comes to male role models we have to choose between hyper-masculine green beret types on the one hand or David Rose from Schitt’s Creek on the other. Roy is neither. He’s a hard man, gruff and foul-mouthed. He barely tolerates Ted’s funny ways, like his silly “diamond dogs” team meetings. But he also plays the princess in Phoebe’s games. And cries in public. And admits when he’s been a jerk. And speaks the truth from his heart, even if it doesn’t serve him well.
And that’s something we all – both men and women – can definitely aspire to.