Guilty Pop pleasures: The Masked Singer is joyful surreal weirdness

When I read about the US version of The Masked Singer, I was immediately intrigued. I am all for singing talent shows but to add colorful costumes and Mystery-Person-guessing? A dream (phone) come true.

I was therefore quite startled when I read Doreen St. Felix’s review on the show in the New Yorker. Now (!), the New Yorker is probably the last place where I want my guilty pleasures reviewed. Although their TV reviews are usually amazing, these tend to focus on high quality TV dramas and not glam-glittery peacocks singing musical tunes. The Masked Singer, St. Felix writes, is a rebrand of “the dystopia as wacky”. But what kind of dystopia does she mean?

Personally, I enjoy the show so much because it is exactly NOT concerning or a horrible comment on our society and our relationship with talent. It strikes me as somewhat weird to call out a show where celebrities choose to have a lot of fun in front of a jury of peers and a very adoring audience when shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice” exist that pen „ordinary“ people against each other who have to deal with public scrutiny without knowing what that entails. Who have to give all of their sad stories to get more sympathy, who have to show all. The Masked Singer, in contrast, allows its performers to show exactly as much as they want to show.
Or why not call out shows like “I am a Star get me out of here”, a show that revels in celebrities fighting over food, looking horrible and eating disgusting things to amuse the audience because look, they are not just like us, they are worse, they are wrecks! That’s Black Mirror-like dystopia, but surely not a show that seems almost child-like in its performer’s joy.

There’s no negative criticism, there’s no reason to regret taking part of the show. The costumes/personas are created with a lot of love by true professional Marina Toybina (read more about her here) and therefore are not there to humiliate but rather to explore a known or lesser known side of the person inside of the costume. The jury – bless them all – is honestly the least interesting part of the show but they seem truly excited and invested in the performers which is nice.
And the performances: look, if the incredibly famous NFL star Terry Bradshaw can go on stage dressed as a giant monster deer and sing emotional pop songs, it’s not even close to dystopian, it’s lovely, fun and almost innocent to watch him, especially if it’s being followed by amazing performances like that of the queen bee.

In times, when it’s more and more en vogue to show celebrities but also ordinary people at their most vulnerable, to invite cameras to detox programs, to look into people’s messy homes, go through their emotional and physical baggage to comment in front of a gigantic audience, a show like The Masked Singer is actually the closest we have to pure, harmless entertainment because no one gets hurt, no one gets humiliated, heck, no one even has to lay down their soul in a sob story. Honestly, this show is utopian escapism where we can still feel giddy over a Alice in Wonderland-rabbit that moves like my teenage poster dreams from the 90s. Everyone can do and not do as they like and enjoy the ride.

Plus: T-Pain without Autotune equals amazing vocals is the exact kind of thing I want from an entertainment show.

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