It’s like something from a Guillermo del Toro film: a grotesque fantasy creature disrobes, only to reveal an even more horrifying monster underneath. But that’s what viewers will see when the US version of The Masked Singer, Fox’s incognito singing competition, returns at the end of this month.
The show, in which a panel of judges and the audience try to guess the identity of celebrity vocalists dressed in furry theme-park costumes, is taped in advance of airing. But Deadline reports that at the first episode’s climax, when the eliminated singer reveals their true identity, it was Rudy Giuliani whose head popped out of the costume. Judges Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke walked off the set in protest. Quite a good reflection of how bad a guy you have to be when rape-culture chanteur Thicke, the singer of Blurred Lines, decides you’re beyond the pale.
The disbarred attorney and former mayor of New York, who played one of the largest roles in trying to end 250 years of American democracy, is now under investigation for bribing foreign powers to investigate his political opponent, lying about election fraud, and trying to actively overturn votes, in some cases by seizing voting machines or ignoring electoral counts. It would be fair to say that the only reason the results of a democratic presidential election were not overturned is because Giuliani’s attempts were thwarted.
So what better place for this cuddly henchman to hide from law enforcement than on a cosplay singing show. No footage has yet been released of what outfit Giuliani was wearing, although he doesn’t need a monster costume to scare children. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how the producers came up with something more grotesque than his own smirking face, seen recently on the Borat sequel making creepy sex eyes at an actor he believed was a young journalist as he thrust his hand down his trousers.
The Masked Singer began in Korea, but has been exported round the world and become one of the most successful non-scripted series in the US of the last decade. Stars from every era, including Gladys Knight, T-Pain, Jojo and Jewel, have found career rejuvenation after appearing on the show as furrier versions of themselves.
But the masks have also been a way on sneaking controversial figures who may not normally be accepted on primetime TV. Logan Paul, who uploaded footage of a suicide victim to his YouTube channel, was eliminated in season five, and in season three a cuddly pink bear that rapped Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back was revealed to be former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin later commented that her appearance was “a walking middle finger to the haters out there”.
Reality TV provides a fantastic and powerful form of reputation-washing, in which all participants are celebrated “for being able to laugh at themselves”, as if that was a greater attribute than not being a fascist.
There is a reason Giuliani, Palin, Sean Spicer (Dancing with the Stars), Anthony Scaramucci and Omarosa Manigault Newman (Celebrity Big Brother) have attempted to use entertainment, rather than politics, to revive their reputations, and it’s not just because they enjoying turning network television into a moral-less Hunger Games universe where propagandists with blood on their hands shimmy in sparkles in between adverts for pharmaceuticals and Tostitos. Shows like The Masked Singer encourage viewers to think of politicians’ personalities as somehow separate from their political positions.
We’ll have to wait until next month to find out what Giuliani wore. Until then, we’re left to imagine what stench uncontrolled flatulence might create in a costume that producers have previously warmed can get dangerously hot.