Why Your ‘Mask-tenna’ Goes Off Every Time You Watch Netflix These Days

masktenna cat

The best way to decompress during a pandemic: Netflix and a tall glass of wine. But turn on The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown, heck, even The Great British Bake-Off and there—right in front of your face—you have it: People fraternizing in large groups…and not wearing masks.

TBH, it’s pretty jarring. Watch any show nowadays and, instantly, your ‘mask-tenna’ goes up. Compete in an indoor chess tournament with no open windows during a pandemic? Oh right! The pandemic wasn’t a thing in the 1960s. Queen Elizabeth had the nerve to host a Christmas gathering and masks weren’t mandatory? Deep breaths. Netflix isn’t real life.

Still, there’s that anxious, panicky feeling. After all, it’s hard to remember that these fictional worlds don’t have to adhere to rules like handwashing, social distancing and more. In fact, it only makes sense that we would feel compelled to yell at the screen now that, in a pandemic, we’ve been trained to spot a mask-less person a mile away.

As a result, consuming content now feels like watching an alternate reality. Robert Thompson, founding director for the Bleier Center for Television and Pop Culture said it best in an interview with Deseret News: “It’s like all of a sudden, the most terrifying thing about Jurassic Park is the social proximity of crowds, not the fact that dinosaurs are trying to take over the island.” So true.

Even more bizarre is how this ‘mask-tenna’ mindset has the ability to make every TV show or movie feel dated, too. Some days—like when you decide to quick refresh the stats on COVID cases in your area—it requires an active suspension of reality just to get through a single episode of Schitt’s Creek. (LYMI, Moira.)

Still, that’s where the beauty sets in: As much as our ‘mask-tenna’ puts us on edge, it also has the potential to calm us down since, when checked, it feeds our nostalgia and the deep-rooted hopefulness that, yes, we will meet mask-less in large groups again. (Fingers crossed.)

In the meantime, the only thing to do is try to embrace your ‘mask-tenna’ as a credit to your own mindfulness. When you cue up The Great British Bake-Off, are you aware of the COVID counts, the ethics of mask-wearing, the critical need to social distance and stay home? Absolutely. Can you put it aside for 60 minutes to let yourself escape into a world where the biggest stressor is a mask-less Paul Hollywood assessing the showstopper challenge? God yes.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...