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Scene Breakdown: The Emphasis on Belief in Ted Lasso’s “Tan Lines”

A gif of Ted Lasso tapping the "believe" sign above the office in Ted Lasso's "Tan Lines."
Source: Apple TV

The emphasis on belief is at the forefront of this show’s spirit. Ted Lasso is incredible for a myriad of reasons, but one word, seven letters, and we all instantly feel a little warmer on the inside. A little more comforted. A little more hopeful.

In Ted Lasso’s Tan Lines,” sadness is a protruding presence by the end, but it isn’t perpetual. It’s there lingering in the air, but we aren’t engulfed by it. We aren’t marinating in it—we’re looking onward, forward. And it’s because we are shown to believe. When Ted first hangs the sign in the Pilot, I wondered when we’d be hit by its importance in the form of a lasting blow, and it finally happens in episode five.

It’s why the seven letter word means so much to Ted Lasso fans. It’s why the yellow background with the blue all-caps writing screams deep into the voids to all our demons. Let’s talk about the sign for a moment because as someone who’s also a graphic designer, sometimes I love flashy signs. I love flowers and colors and symbols. Though new, the Bridgerton wisteria could be recognized from miles away now. We all know something is inspired by the F.R.I.E.N.D.S logo when we see it. But the simplicity in the “believe” sign is what gives it its depth, and its colossal influence because it’s so much more than a word plastered onto bright construction paper.

The Emphasis on Belief

This could be about Ted’s childlike innocence shining through in the brightness, but it’s also the intention behind the sign’s purpose. He’s a father away from his son wanting to believe in the fact that good things can come from this separation. He is a coach in a new country, with a new team, wanting to make an impact. He is a person who wakes up every single morning wanting to believe that more than anything, everything will be okay.

It’s a deliberate choice. In the same way that it’s on his bathroom mirror, (which we learn later), it’s why it’s in the locker room, too.

Its simplicity can be reflective of the fact that it’s anything but simple to believe, it is a choice. It’s anything but simple to accept changes, but if laced with the belief that good can come from it, we’ll all be okay by the end. Belief doesn’t have a linear path, but where it lingers even in the shadows, it’s impactful. If the tapes were perfectly cut and evenly distributed then it would take away from the emphasis on belief. It would take away from the detail that the decision to believe isn’t something that’s always pretty or perfect.

Sometimes belief stirs us in the wrong direction, sometimes we don’t get what we believed in, but it never once takes away from its importance so long as we keep looking toward the light—onward, forward, through hope. (It hits as evocatively in the finale because of this moment right here.) Whether it’s through Nathan Shelley’s promotion, or Roy Kent learning to lean on Keeley.

A Conscious Choice

When Ted tells his team to pay attention to what he’s about to do before he taps the sign, he shows them that it’s a conscious choice. It’s not going to be easy, and even after moments of great success, there will still be darkness. However, to look toward something bigger than ourselves is the very essence of hope. It’s a choice to accept the changes, it’s a choice to accept brokenness, and it’s a choice to accept that belief can fill us with the hope that we need.

Belief cannot always score goals or restore broken relationships, but belief can heal in the aftermath, and it can help. We even see a quiet glimpse of Roy trying to exercise the same form of channeling belief by the very end of “All Apologies.” When everyone has left the locker room, he stays and taps the sign. He chooses to carry on belief in that moment even if it isn’t as strong as it is in Ted. He chooses to carry belief even though his body might not agree with him in the final game. It’s a start. And it’s a crucial one.

Change is hard. Optimism is hard. Believing in something, hope, especially is hard. But it’s a choice. And with the yellow background, the sign almost promises joy to us.

It’s easy to believe in this show and the message because when you break it apart, the promises scream louder than the bright yellow paper. And though blue is sometimes associated with sadness and trepidations, it’s also a color that represents freedom—the seas and the sky, and the endless possibilities within both that are so immense, we can take eons trying to excavate it all.

The sign tells us to believe through bold simplicity, and it succeeds because the deliberate choices to carefully craft it as imperfectly as is has made it a wonder. It’s that much more hopeful.

As viewers, it’s easy to be filled with a sense of hope every time we catch a glimpse of the sign. This show isn’t going to rip the rug right out from underneath us and pepper our viewing experience with darkness. It’s going to heal our hearts because that’s the intent behind the simple magic that’s found in every corner of its set design—every spoken word, every relationship, every character.

It’s simple, and yet so evocative, there are very few words despite how much it can be broken apart. This is a scene that shows us that belief is a choice, and this is a scene that shows us the importance of intentions. It’s a scene that shows us the importance of looking forward, and it’s a scene that shows us that if we choose to believe, we choose to have hope.

We choose to try one more time, a little harder. It’s effort, and it’s effort that matters—even while it feels like there isn’t progress, even while there is loss, the choice to believe, in and of itself is the most powerful form of strength we have.

And belief doesn’t just inspire the believer, it inspires all those around them too. If Ted didn’t believe in the team as fiercely as he does in spite of his own heartaches, they wouldn’t have made the progress they have. They wouldn’t have won this game even if losses follow. If he didn’t believe in their unity, they wouldn’t believe in each other either.

Belief is infectious, it’s monumental in its domino effect, and it’s unmistakably beautiful as this show’s motto.

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