My housemates watch this show called The Masked Singer. It might be their favorite show and has been on the TV at least 5 hours per week the last several months. I don’t watch TV but I’m always curious what messages it’s putting out and why people like the shows they do. I guess I’m a bit of an ‘alien conducting human research’ in this part of life.
Anyways, the premise is that celebrities of all sorts dress in these giant padded costumes, maybe an alligator, a mech warrior, or a lollipop princess and they get on stage sharing the story of their character and why they not only are grateful to be there but deserve the glory to be crowned champion of the competition.
I do not remember the judges. But if I had to guess they were Simon Cowell, Katy Perry, Chef Boyardee, and ‘that guy from that movie that goes “eeeey”’. They not only judge the competition but they are the true detectives who sort through the clues to determine who is behind the mask.
Nick Cannon is the host and while he achieved some high quality style, he looks tired and under contract.
With the voice-disguiser now off, it’s time to sing. Anyone like Journey? And maybe I live under a rock, but there are some songs in there that I have no freaking clue what they are, but everyone in the audience (and my housemates) is singing along passionately with every word, swaying as if the spirit of Pop Jesus had entered that room, shining his neon light upon all.
My housemates kick back on the far ends of the wrap-around couch, looking moderately satiated, drinking their evening beer, high-gloss 4K reflections in their eyes. I sit at the kitchen table on my chair around the corner. I eat my dinner in silence. They love the part where the judges guess who is behind the mask and participate. If I catch a minute, I might venture a guess too. It’s the most that the housemates and I have connected in the 8 months I’ve lived there.
Anyways, the most disturbing part of the show is when they are ready to reveal the Masked Singer, (the apex moment of the show, the judges let the crowd know what’s about to go down. The crowd then encants their headline command, “TAKE IT OFF!! TAKE IT OFF!! TAKE IT OFF!!”, demanding to see who is underneath, stomping feet, banging chairs while the judges eagerly bang on the table, thirstily awaiting.
Nick Cannon then walks up to the masked singer and begins to pull on their mask, while the masked singer attempts desperately to keep it on. It’s all obviously a farce and light-hearted, but the situation at hand is clear.
The rapacious force and desire of the crowd, of the judges, of Nick Cannon, of America are too powerful to overcome. The masked singer is rendered helpless and succumbs to the will and strength of the force, and gives up resistance allowing themselves to be unmasked.
Wow, what the fuck.
What are we teaching about consent here? That if we yell, kick, and scream enough, that we can get someone to “take it off”? That through force, we can get what we want?
What if they just asked the singer: “So…are you ready to share your identity with us yet?” And if they say yes, they can take off their mask and the crowd can go wild, and we can all feel better knowing the game isn’t modeling assault and coercion.
And if they say no, Nick Cannon says, “That’s okay, we respect your right and agency to remain anonymous” And the masked singer walks off stage never to be revealed.
In other news…
I recently read the story of “The Real Lord of the Flies“, about a group of 6 Tongan boys who marooned on an island. It was a remarkable story of cooperation contrary to the violent and horrific narrative of the novel that many of us had ingrained into our consciousness from a very young age.
What if the story of the Tongan boys was the one we read in school? How would it shape our beliefs, attitudes, and understanding of human nature?