The Masked Singer surprises me. Not with its signature format of literally unmasking musically talented celebrity figures, but with the realization that its format creates a safe space for people to freely be themselves. I, somewhat unexpectedly, find the reality television spectacle of it all incredibly entertaining, but the real surprise of the show is how it highlights the equalizing weight of pressure we all face–famous or not!

I often find myself frustrated by our cultural impulse to quantify human value, which, unfortunately, can be the focus of some celebrity fandoms. We all know in our hearts that no person is worth more than another, regardless of what surrounds them! Sometimes though, people can’t help but shift their admiration of a public figure into an unspoken sense of self-doubt, or a crushing desire to be like someone else. 

Oddly enough, The Masked Singer helped me enjoy celebrity exposure in a way that fortified my own sense of personal value. Even with its elaborate costumes and pyrotechnics, there is something intimate and human about the way this show works. 

For me, it is the unique ability of reality television to illuminate the similarities between myself and these public figures who are loved by so many, rather than highlighting our differences that resonates the loudest. Over many episodes, The Masked Singer has sparked in me the idea that the biggest, and perhaps only, difference between those in the limelight and the rest of us is nothing more than the scale of public exposure.

For some people, even the mention of reality television provokes an eye-roll. We all know there are very large media production companies behind those dramatic “reality” shows pre-arranging events and calling the shots. You might also think that non-scripted lifestyle shows are simply too silly to be taken seriously by any meaningful measures. Dismissive, but I get it.

Honestly, who really needs a television show to tell, or teach, us about life and “reality”?

That being said, there are so many options and formats of reality television programs available that if you’re open to it, there really could be something for everyone. Done right, the transparent nature of reality television is what makes these shows fun, enjoyable, and accessible in the first place!

I sit somewhere between these two extremes–I like to have fun and laugh, but I also like to learn and improve myself while watching something. At this point, I give a reality TV show a shot based entirely on the trust I have in the opinions of my friends and family.

This is how I found myself watching FOX’s The Masked Singer.

Yes, I love music, live performances, and surprises.
Yes, I love movies and have a willingness to try the opening ten minutes of anything.
Yes, I love tight race competitions between talented contestants.

NEVER, would I have imagined that I was going to enjoy, let alone find something endearing about, The Masked Singer. I blame my younger sister!  

Apparently, my entire family was getting together to watch this television show called The Masked Singer, which is essentially a live music competition where all the contestants are celebrity figures disguised in beautifully elaborate mascot-like costumes. At face value, I struggled to take my sister seriously about enjoying this seemingly childishly comedic reality TV show that was clearly created to be more fun than fulfilling!

Helmed by Nick Cannon doing what he does best–playing the series host and frontman–a panel of judges (comedian Ken Jeong, celebrity figure Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, musical artist Nicole Scherzinger, and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke) take turns trying to guess the identities of the costumed celebrity performers. Guesses are based on their voices and performance style, as well as a series of clue packages that are unveiled as the competition progresses. At the end of each episode, a contestant is essentially voted off the show by the live studio audience and viewers at home. Finally, the celebrity figure takes off their mask and is revealed.

Without spoiling too much, the range of public figures who perform on The Masked Singer’s stage stretches from unquestionably legendary musical artists to…Mickey Rourke. Now, while I would love for this article to pivot into an elaborate detailing of how Mickey Rourke is a stealth musical genius, it can’t! 

Knowing the format, before I had seen a single episode of the series, I was already very judgmental, hesitant, and, frankly, confused as to why my sister would promote this particular TV show to me. Basically, The Masked Singer fell into the “silly” category of reality television for me, and only the “silly” category.

Now let me be very clear…The Masked Singer is VERY silly! I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in the show view it while in a…specific combination of happy, hungry, and sleepy!

With that cleared up, I eventually caved and decided to at least give the series the ten-minute benefit of the doubt I like to give any recommendation, even the questionable ones, when offered by my sister. 

SMASH CUT! Here we are now, with me writing this article having seen every single episode that has ever aired!

The Masked Singer has all the elements of a live performance reality show featuring big-name celebrity figures that one might expect, but with plenty of engaging and unique twists. The prerequisite enormous musical performances from talented musical artists, comedic guest appearances, and cliffhangers every episode are just the tip of the iceberg with this particular series.

As I watched, I especially appreciated the way that The Masked Singer developed its presentation rhythm as it grew in production value and in scale. Even now, every new season there seems to be some unique element that is introduced into the show–like a new obstacle that the contestants will need to overcome, or a new challenge that puts pressure on the judges’ guesses. This ever-changing approach to production development keeps the show fun and funny, as the performers, hosts, and audience all navigate the show’s format changes together. 

I eventually found myself watching episode after episode of The Masked Singer, running a gamut of surreal emotions–

Sometimes I would laugh at how shockingly good these iconic song covers were!

Sometimes I would laugh at myself for being invested and guessing along with the judges.  

Sometimes I would laugh at just how big and elaborate The Masked Singers performance productions were–each performance feels like a mini arena concert all on its own! 

There were even times I would find myself thinking, The Masked Singer is one small step for man, one giant leap towards a Hunger Games-style of reality media entertainment–categorically ridiculous, definitively spectacular, and almost shamefully hilarious! 

Here is a taste.

As I watched, more and more celebrities from all kinds of artistic and public disciplines unmasked themselves and shared their personal experience about performing on the show. Hearing these interviews, I started to realize that a humbling and inspiring common denominator was shared amongst the contestants–many of the participants expressed a freedom from their notoriety that allowed them to both perform as their true selves, and just have fun playing around on stage anonymously. 

Some of the costumed characters were once musical performers. Others were famous figures who loved music, but because their careers took off and fame followed, never got the opportunity to explore becoming musical artists themselves.

Some contestants would share that they came in carrying a heavy sense of losing faith in themselves as performers, but their time on the show allowed them to see that the expressive fire inside them not only continued to burn–it still had the power to light up a room! Others just joined the show to surprise their children!

The Masked Singer as a television series gradually became, for me, a great illustration of how celebrity personalities are at their core people, just like any of us.

On the one hand, I understand the allure of achieving celebrity status. The thought of being gifted enough, or influential enough, to bring a community together with a shared enjoyment of your talents sounds like it would be a very spiritually fulfilling, fiscally stable, and exciting lifestyle. People can’t help but cling to the idea of being “the best.” This idea is obviously an unattainable goal and at the same time, somehow, a standard we hold upon ourselves and others…

On the other hand, I cannot imagine how uncomfortable I would feel if my entire life was something to be evaluated, not just by myself and those closest to me, but by anyone who has ever been interested in my work, looks, or even the inner workings of my mind.

I would hate to be required to present, or even create, my personality based on what my audience needed me to be.

I would hate for my desire to share ideas to be turned against me or used as a way of deciding my value.

The Masked Singer’s intention as a show is clearly to create a fun and entertaining space, and they certainly succeed at that. However, and luckily for us, the show’s structure as a musical competition full of masked artists gives its viewers a rare introduction to these admirable individuals, while also giving the performers the chance to be seen for their talents and nothing more.

Continuing down my own personal rabbit hole, I found myself thinking about the question: “What is that person worth?”

The standard reply is to delve into finances, placing a burdensome narrative upon the subjects and revealing the self-destructive point of view of those inquiring. It is a question that says as much about the person asking as who they’re asking about.

Generally speaking, celebrities tend to be the subjects of such inquiries and “civilians” tend to be the curious ones. Especially with social media, celebrity culture has shifted to not only sharing their talent with their community of followers but sharing their personal and private lives as well. People now expect it, achievements, failures, and all!

It sometimes seems counterintuitive to me, but this pressure-filled barrage of interest and public imposition is often the result of an inciting instance of love and admiration. I know some people excuse this behavior by saying that the public and shared love (or fear) of an individual or entity is exactly what makes them a household name, but there is more to it than that.

Celebrities are adored beyond their professional talents for their messages of motivation, cultural influence, unattainable seeming beauty, their stories of redemption, and really any other cause for inciting love there ever was. When I discover someone I admire, I truly like to see them doing what they love to do, and to get a glimpse of what a satisfying life can bring out of them, and in turn, perhaps me as well.  

Unfortunately, these public feelings of affection and admiration can come in conflict with the reality of societal expectations of perfection. This places a high burden upon some celebrity figures to live as flawless models of what an immaculate, or terrifying, lifestyle can be.

The scale of public exposure may differ, but parts of this rather frustrating type of existence resonate with me. I too am loved, and feel the pressures of being perfect, or “the best”, for those closest to me. The intensity of feeling good in the eyes of those that care for me is very real and can be difficult to manage.

While watching The Masked Singer, I found myself confronted with this conundrum and remembered that I do not have love for any of these leading figures because they are different from myself, but rather because I know that they are loved people doing what makes them happy.

Under those elaborate masks, they are just like me, and I am just like them…

Still not convinced?
Allow me to tempt you further…