She’s standing tall and stoically, altering the atmosphere of the new office. While she’s at it, she casually fires a misogynistic football coach, who doesn’t hesitate to throw envious words her way. But she’s gotten used to it. She is, after all, a powerful woman in a masculine world.
Ted Lasso does not begin as one might expect. Instead of introducing the titular character, the creators devote over three minutes of the series’ start to another: Rebecca Welton, AFC Richmond’s new owner, who is also a sophisticated, recently divorced woman. The new boss of the British soccer club, superbly portrayed by Hannah Waddingham, incites particularly complex, initially antagonistic emotions. She attempts to destroy the club from the get-go as it is a cherished passion of her ex-husband. What better way to accomplish this than to hire the person who is the least qualified for the job?
But the creators of Ted Lasso thoroughly surprise viewers by giving Rebecca a role that breaks the stereotype of the Boss Bitch trope. With the second season of Apple TV+ original, Rebecca evolves and learns to open her mind and heart to new experiences. But how exactly does this well-written character deviate from the stereotypical and toxic metaphor that we’ve seen in films and television for years?
The greatest element of Rebecca’s character is that she catches the audience off-guard as the series advances. When we are introduced to the club’s owner in the first season, we automatically assume that she will continue her mission of driving the football team to ruin by hiring an American coach—the ever-kind Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis). The reason for being suspicious about Rebecca is quite simple, and even if we are aware of this phenomenon, we can still fall into its trap. It comes from years and years of films and TV shows exhibiting the same patriarchal, stereotypical depiction of women in positions of power. She usually doesn’t have a personal life, often “living and breathing” her professional work. The female character of the Boss Bitch trope possesses no qualms about achieving her goals, even if it means hurting people in the process. But here the writers have bestowed upon us a new version of this rather worn-out and old-fashioned idea.
Rebecca Welton is constantly evolving and changing due to her environment and the people around her. As the first season concludes and the second begins, the audience gets to see more of her other features, not just the “working side,” as is often the case with this particular trope. The newly single woman reveals herself to be a tender person who is very supportive and uplifting, and that is most visible through the lens of her relationships with Keeley and Ted.
Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) is Rebecca’s true confidante, her ride-or-die best friend. They grow even closer in Season 2 when Keeley takes over the Public Relations department, supporting each other during difficult times. The pair is also an excellent example of breaking damaging stereotypes about female friendships on television; Ted Lasso presents a new perspective through Rebecca and Keeley’s beautiful connection, rather than pitting them against each other as is more often the case between female characters. Another key to transformation is learning from one’s mistakes, and thanks to the former model, Rebecca recognizes her previous errors and wishes to correct them all—including coming clean to Ted about the real reason she hired him in the first place. The coach’s gentle attitude and forgiving nature then show Rebecca that there are people in this world who are good, and who deserve good things in life.
Ted is another person who helps Rebecca open up. In one of the most endearing scenes between them, they have what Lasso refers to as “girl talk.” Rebecca informs him that she’s seeing someone new. “Is he nice to you?” he inquires, making certain she is at ease. When Sudeikis’ character returns to the football field, he waves his hands with color-painted nails in front of coach Beard, explaining that he had to assist the boss in selecting nail polish for a date. Is there anything more charming than this? Possibly. In the new holiday special episode, “Carol of the Bells,” Rebecca goes with Ted from door to door, giving gifts to other people. “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay,” she says as they walk.
Waddingham’s character evolves in front of our eyes, and that development reflects on her relationships outside of work, particularly with her goddaughter Nora (Kiki May). If we recall Rebecca beautifully singing “Let It Go” in Season 1, we should also remember that it was dedicated to Nora. The teenager then makes a surprising appearance in what happens to be my personal favorite episode of the second season, “Do The Right-Est Thing,” where she is shadowing Rebecca at work and is in awe of her workplace.
Rebecca’s character also demonstrates that money doesn’t take precedence over the morality of her or her players—another instance of breaking the toxic trope that portrays powerful women as destructive and greedy. In the same episode, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), an AFC Richmond player, struggles to accept that Dubai Air, their main sponsor, is owned by an oil company that pollutes the Niger Delta. Rebecca, influenced by her astute goddaughter, consolidates all of her assets and terminates her partnership with Dubai Air, even if it means losing the sponsor.
Contrary to the trope presented, Rebecca not only cares about her employees and friends, she also listens to their advice—even if it comes from the often-gruff Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein). In the first episode of Season 2, “Goodbye, Earl,” Rebecca goes on a double date with her “gentleman suitor,” as well as Keeley and Roy. In anticipation of their candid feedback, Roy doesn’t hesitate to tell Rebecca what he truly thinks. “He’s fine. That’s it. Nothing wrong with that, most people are fine. But it’s not about him. It’s about why the fuck you think he deserves you. You deserve someone who makes you feel like you’ve been struck by lightning. Don’t you dare settle for fine.” And Rebecca doesn’t. Instead, she continues to explore a budding relationship with a mysterious man on an online platform, Bantr—also a new sponsor of AFC Richmond.
Hannah Waddingham and the brilliantly crafted character of Rebecca Welton present a new and refreshing take on female bosses in television. It’s time to put an end to the cold-hearted, often selfish, and perpetually lonely portrayals of powerful women. We deserve complex representations that are uplifting, empowering, kind, and inspiring, like our biscuits-loving Rebecca in Ted Lasso.
Zofia Wijaszka is a Los Angeles-based film and television critic. She writes for Awards Watch, Nerdist, and First Showing. You can connect with her on Twitter – @thefilmnerdette.
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