How “The Masked Singer” Got Me Through 2020

When I first heard about The Masked Singer, I burst out laughing. The concept is ridiculous: B-list celebrities dress up as campy animals, foods and monsters and sing their hearts out in disguise. The episodes wrap up with host Nick Cannon prying a headpiece off of the celebrity with the weakest vocals while an overly enthusiastic crowd chants “Take it off!”.  With the likes of Wendy Williams, Lonzo Ball, Sarah Palin and Jojo Siwa all gracing the stage of The Masked Singer, the show can only be described as a fever dream. 

Despite my initial scoffing, during the pandemic, I’ve fully fallen in love with The Masked Singer. Boredom last spring led me to take a break from binging my usual BBC dramas and tune into season three. After just one episode, all of my knee-jerk snobby judgments flew out the window. I quickly discovered that the manufactured insanity of The Masked Singer was the perfect lighthearted escape from this year’s real-life chaos. 

The isolation which defined the past year cost me many of my usual sources of fun and relaxation. Social distancing prevented hanging out in person with friends, my favorite exercise classes were canceled and I couldn’t go out to movies or concerts. I even struggled to find joy in many of my favorite TV shows because the complex plots and drama failed to satisfy my need to escape from the pandemic with stress-free me time. As quarantine dragged on, I began replacing many of my self-care rituals and old viewing habits with watching wholesome programs like the Great British Baking ShowQueer Eye and of course, The Masked Singer.

The Masked Singer manages to capture the exact balance of relaxation and entertainment I craved this year. The clueless yet affable judging panel is always encouraging and complimentary of the contestants, and I’ve found their positive spins on even the strangest performances unironically heartwarming. The actual singing is often top tier, with music industry big names like LeAnn Rimes and Tori Kelly (and even rappers like Lil Wayne!) putting on thrilling performances that put The Voice and American Idol to shame. The guessing game of who’s under the masks taps into an addicting type of curiosity that has never failed to keep me on my toes during the days of quarantine’s monotony. Above all else, the show’s constant, self-aware embrace of absurdity helped me see the bright side in embracing the absurdity in my own topsy-turvy pandemic life.

By season four this fall, The Masked Singer was a solid component of my quarantine self-care routine. For the one hour it aired each week, I was able to mentally set aside my stress about schoolwork and the world around me and fully let myself indulge in silly entertainment. I allowed my excitement leading up to Wednesday nights to add fun structure to my weeks, and I embraced speculating and debating with family members over which celebs might be secretly competing. 

The recent finale coincided with both my first college finals week and my late December tendency towards self-reflection. I watched a giant mushroom in a skirt, country singing sun and pink sparkly crocodile duke it out on stage, and my appreciation sunk in for the role this show has played in keeping me sane throughout 2020. With a new year on the horizon, I’m certain that my love of The Masked Singer will serve as a model for incorporating more guilt-free guilty pleasures into my routine.