Right in the Feels: Ted Lasso Reminds Us We’re Not Alone

“I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad—and that is being alone and being sad.”

I didn’t see it coming.

I thought I knew the playbook Ted Lasso was using. I’ve seen a lot of sports movies. I’ve also seen a lot of comedies that look at the world through the rose-colored glasses Ted always seems to have on. So, despite the fact that I should have known AFC Richmond needed to lose in the Season One finale to secure a second season for the show, I genuinely believed  they would do what all underdogs do in these kinds of stories—shock the world (and comfort the audience) with a win.

I thought everyone loved the first season of this show because it gave them a happy ending at a time when so many of us could use one.

I was wrong.

Ted Lasso isn’t a show about what it means to be happy. That’s not why people love it.

It’s a show about how we deal with sadness.

And that’s why people need it.

Everyone on this show experiences sadness—and not just because Richmond loses in the end. Rebecca’s divorce, Roy’s injury, Keeley’s issues with Jamie, Jamie’s issues with his father, and Ted’s own marital struggles—they all highlight an important fact about being human:

In the words of another brilliant recent comedy that had a lot to say about how we handle hard times, “We’re all a little bit sad, all the time. That’s just the deal.”

Sadness is part of the deal. It comes with the territory. When you feel and care and love, there are going to be sad moments. So much of Ted Lasso’s appeal—especially in this last year—is in the way it acknowledges that sadness and setbacks are a part of life. And sometimes we can’t make it better, for ourselves or the people we love.

For a show that’s been praised for its positive outlook, Ted Lasso’s positivity is never toxic. It’s not a show that says, “Don’t be sad! If we all help each other, everything will turn out fine in the end!” Instead it’s a show that says, “Sometimes life is sad and things don’t turn out fine, but if we help each other, at least we won’t have to be sad alone.”

For all his optimism and openness and belief in the power of teamwork, Ted knows what it means to be alone and be sad. We watch him struggle with his crumbling marriage on his own and we see how his belief that growth matters more than wins can isolate him from even those closest to him. But then, there are the moments when someone sees him and reaches out—when Roy stops him from walking into traffic or when Rebecca gently eases him through his panic attack. It’s in those moments that the sadness feels a little less overwhelming and the loneliness fades a little. Because when we’re seen, when we lift our head up and meet the eyes of someone who cares, it doesn’t magically fix what’s broken in our lives, but it makes it a little easier to live with the broken pieces.

That’s what having a team is all about. They’re not just the people who celebrate the good times with you; they’re the people who see you and sit with you in the hard times too.

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Fangirl Thursday: Choosing Your Mark

“You think it’s a weakness? Make it a strength. It’s a part of you … So use it.”

//

“It feels like everyone’s growing up all around me…”
“Use it.”

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Two words. Five letters.

My story.

I always knew I wanted a tattoo. I love the idea of something meaning so much to you that you want to etch it into your body—to make it part of you. But for years, I never felt sure enough of what I wanted to say—what I wanted to be tied to forever—to do it.

This year changed that.

This year changed a lot of things.

I don’t know a single person who is going to walk away from the last 14 months unscathed. This year is going to leave its mark on all of us forever.

Today I chose the mark it’s going to leave on me.

And instead of this year leaving a scar, I chose a story.

And it’s a story that has its roots farther back in my life than I even realized at first.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Chloe Zhao and the Triumph of Goodness

Chloe Zhao is everything I want to be—and not just because she’s a fanfic writer who’s become an Oscar winner.

She’s unapologetically herself. Her words, her work, and her style speak to a woman who knows who she is and shows that to the world without hesitation.

And who is she?

She’s a believer.

When she accepted her much-deserved Oscar for Best Director for Nomadland on Sunday night (making her only the second woman and first woman of color to earn this award—please let this pave the way for more female filmmakers!), she stood on that stage and gave us a glimpse into her soul. And in her vulnerability—her beautiful sharing of her truth—she gave voice to the very point of view that earned her this award, the thing that made Nomadland so unique in the sea of sadness that makes up most of the typical awards-season contenders.

Chloe Zhao believes in people.

She believes in the truth of the words she’s carried with her since she was a little girl memorizing poems with her father: “People at birth are inherently good.”

There’s something revolutionary about hearing those words in an Oscars acceptance speech, especially for Best Director. In so many cases, Oscar-winning movies are dark and depressing, focused on the worst in humanity and the awful things we can do to one another. And while the world needs those stories—we need to confront our darkness and we need the catharsis that comes with that kind of painful storytelling—the world needs the other kinds of stories too. The ones about healing rather than hurting. The ones that are warm and gentle instead of cold and brutal. The ones about light instead of darkness.

Sometimes we still want to believe there’s goodness left in humanity.

Sometimes we still need to believe that.

(And it’s often because we still need to believe there’s goodness left in ourselves.)

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: A Good Man Takes the Shield on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

(Before we begin I want to direct you to a Twitter thread with a great list of pieces about this show and this episode written by Black writers. As a white woman, I don’t feel qualified to dig into this episode from the point of view of someone with Sam Wilson’s specific experiences, so I hope you check out their thoughtful and personal pieces that say things better than I ever could.)

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“You must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are: not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Captain America’s shield stands for a lot of things, and not all of them are good. In “Truth,” we see the characters of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, especially Sam Wilson, grapple with the challenging legacy of that shield and all it symbolizes—the courage and the heroism but also the pain and racism.

It’s hard to feel patriotic toward a country that’s abused, vilified, and worked hard to erase you from the pages of history for centuries.

It’s from that honest, conflicted, and nuanced place that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier really finds its footing as the character-driven story I always hoped it would be.

This is a story of two men from two different worlds—two different eras, two different personality types, two different relationships with the one friend they shared, and two different experiences of America. And when the action slowed down long enough to focus on these two men and how they deal with those differences not in a snarky way but in a sincere one, it gave the show something I’ve felt has been missing.

Heart.

Spurred on by his eye-opening conversation with Isaiah Bradley, Sam explains to Bucky that the legacy of Captain America’s shield is complicated. And he’s right. It’s a legacy of service and heroism—but it’s also a legacy of secrets and racism. And for the first time, Bucky doesn’t push back. Instead, he admits that his privilege—and Steve’s privilege—blinded them to what it would mean to a Black man to be given a symbol of a nation steeped in systemic racism, a nation that often struggles to see the basic humanity in the face of Black man, much less the potential to be a superhero.

Bucky’s sincere apology is accompanied by an important gesture—the offering of the shield again. And Sam accepts both Bucky’s words and the shield, but it’s still not wrapped up in a nice little bow. It’s still not a perfect moment.

There’s still a lot of pain etched into that shield.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: One Last Moment of Beauty on Superstore

“You know, most jobs suck 99 percent of the time, so you really … You really gotta enjoy those moments that don’t. Those bits of fun you have during downtime. Or an interesting conversation with a coworker. Or something happens that you can laugh about later. Or you do something that you’re actually proud of. If you’re lucky, maybe you even get to be friends with a coworker or two along the way. Not sure what else you could want at a job…”

Series finales are tricky things to get right, but for me as a viewer, the most important thing is always that the show honors the journey it’s been on—not just with its characters but also with its fans. The relationship between TV fans and the minds behind the shows they flock to is always a tenuous one, but a series finale represents one last chance to leave a fanbase feeling satisfied, respected, and like their emotional investment was all worth it in the end.

Some TV shows (looking at you, Game of Thrones) run away from that idea in the end—choosing shock and subverted expectations instead of satisfying storytelling. And I’ll admit it—maybe I’m still dealing with a bit of fangirl PTSD from that finale because I was nervous going into the Superstore series finale on Thursday night. I hadn’t loved this last season like I’d hoped I would. I didn’t think they handled America Ferrera’s exit in a satisfying way. And I was afraid that this finale would be similarly ambiguous or bittersweet rather than the kind of warm, hopeful happiness I need in my series finales right now.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

Every bit of that last hour was a love letter to these characters, their relationships with each other, and the fans who’ve loved spending time at Cloud 9 over the years. It was one last chance to watch Sandra be a badass, to see Glenn take care of Mateo (and make me cry in the process), to have Jonah voice the frustrations of so many Americans working at jobs like the ones these characters have, to have Dina make me laugh (her “because I’m a racist” line had me in tears from laughing so hard), and to have Jonah and Amy find their way back to each other with humor, heart, and some help from The Americans.

And in the end, this finale also provided one last chance for us all to think about what it means to be a part of a workplace family. Because yes, sometimes companies say their employees are a family when they want people to have no lives outside of work. But sometimes workplace families form all on their own—through common enemies, small victories (and sometimes big ones), inside jokes, and years of sharing both the memorable and the mundane with the same group of people.

That’s what Garrett’s final monologue was all about. It wasn’t some glorification of work. That’s not what Superstore has ever been about. No, it was an honest admission of the fact that work is usually terrible. But then, every so often, it’s not. Every so often, you get what this show memorably called a moment of beauty.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: BTS, The GRAMMYs, and That Fangirl Feeling

Every fangirl knows that feeling.

You’re watching a TV show and two characters share a look, and you know they’re going to be the next fictional couple to keep you up at night writing fanfic in your head. You’re scrolling through Tumblr, and you see a GIF of an actor, and you know that you’re going to be looking up their entire filmography on IMDb. You’re watching a movie trailer, and you know this is going to be the only movie you want to talk about for the next 6 months.

You’re watching a band perform at the GRAMMYs, and you know that you’re going to be headed down a YouTube rabbit hole of every version of that song and every staging of that choreography.

Before Sunday night, it had been a long time since I’d felt that feeling. It’s that little spark in your fangirl soul that a lifetime of bouncing from one obsession to another tells you is going to grow into a fire that’s bright and warm and all-consuming. And I’d started to genuinely worry that I’d lost the ability to feel that spark—that this year had taken away the part of me that can throw herself into a new fandom with reckless abandon, happy tears, and lots of capslock.

I feel the most like me when I’m deep in that feeling (and usually when I’m dragging other people into it with me—or enabling the ones already there), and without it, I didn’t feel like me anymore.

Who knew all it would take to bring back the best version of me was 7 guys from Korea dancing on top of a building in snazzy suits?

Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m obsessed with BTS.

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Using It: Pain, Purpose, and a Year in a Pandemic

I knew it would be hard.

But I had no idea it would be this hard.

Exactly one year ago today, I sat down at my dining room table to work from home because COVID-19 was spreading into my part of New York State.

I thought it would be for a couple of weeks. Once we flatten the curve, it’ll all go back to normal, I told myself.

Then two weeks went by. Once summer comes, it’ll start to get better, I told myself.

Then summer came and went.

I stopped telling myself anything.

This pandemic has taken so much from so many. And I’m luckier than most—a year later, I still have my job, my health, and my family.

But no one escaped this year without losing something. A graduation. A wedding. A vacation. A concert. A movie’s opening night surrounded by friends and fellow fans. The sound of laughter in a classroom before a teacher says to quiet down. The feeling of hugging your best friend. The sight of a stranger smiling when you compliment their shoes while you wait in a long line for coffee.

The version of you that you used to be. The version of you that you were becoming.

Exactly one year ago, I knew who I was. It had taken me 31 years to get there, but I felt confident and content in a way that I’m not sure I’ve felt since I was a kid. I knew what made me happy—what made me feel the most like me.

Planning trips. Flying to new places by myself. Saturday afternoons in a darkened movie theater. Sitting with my team at work and helping them through problems and giving them advice. People-watching at the mall. Making little kids laugh. Walking into a crowded restaurant or hotel lobby or airport in my high heels, finding the friend I’m supposed to meet, and hugging them like my life depends on it.

I thought I’d just be giving up those things for a few weeks.

Then, I thought I’d just be giving up those things for a season.

Now, one year later, I’m still trying to figure out who I am—what makes me happy and what makes me feel the most like me—without those things.

It’s like the last year slowly, painfully dug these deep holes in my sense of self, and there’s a whole lot of nothing where my plans, dreams, and extroverted energy used to be.

I know I’m not the only one with those holes. I know we all have them to some degree. But I also know so many resilient people who’ve worked to fill those holes with something new—who forged new fandom connections, picked up new hobbies, and learned new things.

I admire these people so much.

I envy these people so much.

I don’t want to feel like I wasted a year of my life.

I don’t want to look back on this year and realize I came out of it a worse person than I was before.

I don’t want these holes in me to turn into scars.

But maybe they already have.

And maybe that has to be okay.

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Understanding My Power: WandaVision as a Journey of Feelings and Forgiveness

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Source: TVLine

When I was 17 years old, I had a breakdown inside the Electric Umbrella restaurant in EPCOT.

Looking back on it, it’s easy to see what caused it. It was my last family vacation as a high school student, before I “grew up.” It was also my last family vacation with my grandfather—my Disney trip buddy for my entire life up to that point. He was getting older and slowing down, and we didn’t know it then, but we’d lose him about 6 months later.

But in the moment, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t name it. All I knew is that whatever I was feeling was too much. So I cried into my Disney World french fries—not quiet, gentle tears, but ugly, loud, scary sobs that felt like they were never going to end.

I didn’t even feel like a person. I just felt a vessel for feelings that I couldn’t control.

And all I really remember were the looks on people’s faces. Confusion from my grandfather. Fear from my little sister. Embarrassment from my parents. Concern from the strangers around me.

In that moment, my feelings weren’t just mine anymore. They overwhelmed not just me but everyone in my path. And I couldn’t stop it.

Sometimes I still can’t stop it.

I have big feelings. I feel things deeply and express my feelings openly. And there’s power in that. It makes me a better writer, it helps me forge deeper and more honest connections with people, and it often makes me a bright light to be around—because when those big feelings are enthusiastic and warm and good, they’re infectious; they spread positivity and encourage others to embrace their own vulnerability.

But when those big feelings are dark and difficult and bad, that power isn’t used to help people. It makes me more impatient and melodramatic, it causes me to lash out or cut people off, and it can make me a hard person to be around—projecting my pain onto others just so I don’t have to carry it anymore and making myself the main character in everyone else’s stories because my pain feels more pressing than theirs.

Sound familiar?

Wanda Maximoff’s journey through WandaVision meant so many different things to so many different people. Some people empathized with her path through grief. Some people connected with her story of self-acceptance.

And for me, I learned a lot about myself through Wanda’s struggle with her powers and how deeply they’re tied to her feelings.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: Acceptance, Truth, and the Dream of Being Seen on WandaVision

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Source: Vulture

“I just wanted to see you clearly.”

That’s all most of us want, isn’t it? To be seen clearly. To have someone turn a light on when we want to hide our pain in the dark and make us feel like it’s okay for us to exist in that moment exactly as we are.

To have someone see us—really see us—and choose to keep looking until death do us part.

That’s what Vision gives Wanda at the end of “The Series Finale” of WandaVision. And that’s what Vision always gave her—someone who saw her for exactly who she was. Not a hero, not a villain.

Just Wanda.

And that was enough.

Losing that—the one person who accepted her for everything she was—turned Wanda into the worst version of herself. In her inability to sit with her grief and make peace with it, she lashed out and let her emotions control her. She hurt people—without meaning to initially, but that doesn’t make the pain she caused any less damaging. And in “The Series Finale,” Wanda had to face that truth and choose what to do with it.

In the end, she chooses acceptance.

WandaVision is a journey through the stages of grief, so it makes sense that it ends with acceptance—of Vision’s death, of what he’d meant to Wanda, and of what losing him had done to her. But the end of this part of Wanda’s journey wasn’t just about accepting that the Vision she’d loved was never coming back.

It was also about accepting that part of herself was never coming back either.

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Right in the Feels: The Derry Girls Dance

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many Right in the Feels posts here at NGN! This feature will break down some of my favorite emotional moments from TV shows, movies, books, etc., so feel free to share some moments you’d like to see me cover in the comments or on Twitter!

Oh, my life is changing every day
In every possible way
And oh, my dreams
It’s never quite as it seems
(Never quite as it seems)

There’s no better song to capture the spirit of Derry Girls—a show about teenagers growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1990s as the Troubles surround them with sectarian violence—than “Dreams” by The Cranberries.

This is a show about the universal life changes all teenagers deal with, but like the song says, it’s never quite as it seems.

Growing up in the middle of a traumatic historical event changes things.

And never was that dichotomy between ordinary teenage life and extraordinarily violent times made more explicit—or more moving—than at the end of the show’s Season One finale.

As Orla performs her step aerobics routine at the school talent show, she becomes the target of snickering and jeering before her cousin Erin and the rest of her friends (Michelle, Clare, and James) stand up for her and join her onstage. It’s a pitch-perfect moment of friendship that would have been enough on its own to end the season on a moving note, but it’s what comes after that takes this scene from an uplifting celebration to something far more bittersweet—and more beautiful.

As the teens dance, Erin’s family is shown watching a news report of a bombing that left at least 12 people dead. As the adults take in this traumatic event, the background music from Orla’s routine cuts out, allowing the tension to make its presence felt in a visceral way.

But then, the music starts again, and this time, it’s The Cranberries singing about life changing every day.

The episode ends with intercut moments of triumph and tragedy—life and loss. The teens continue to dance and laugh, blissfully unaware of what’s happening, while the adults stare right at the carnage on their TV screen. It’s a perfect visual representation of innocence in a world that is anything but innocent. They’re not dancing while the world around them burns because they don’t care; they’re doing it because they don’t know. Because they’re kids. And kids shouldn’t have to know.

But in the same breath, they’re not really kids anymore, either. Teenagers occupy a strange space between being too young to ignore the horrible parts of life and being too old to fully understand and accept them. So we know that once they get off the stage and get home, their worlds will get a little scarier; they’ll grow up a little bit more. Some part of the carefree light that surrounded them on that stage is going to dim.

But we also know it’s not going to go out completely.

Because they have each other.

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