By Megan Hein
For most people, Aug. 17 was just another day during quarantine. For Emmy Santos, it was the beginning of a new obsession. Even a deadly pandemic couldn’t keep me away from my best friend. She sat on my twin bed, trying to persuade me to watch the movie Maleficent with her for the third time. I accepted on the condition that we would also watch something of my choice: an episode of my favorite show, Glee. Although Santos was “vehemently against” the series, she reluctantly agreed.
The teenage comedy centers around the glee club at McKinley High, and follows students as they navigate high school, growing up and finding themselves through show choir. Aired from 2009-2015, the show blends humor and musical numbers while tackling serious issues that are still relevant today, such as homophobia and economic recessions.
As a desperate ploy in my several-years-long attempt to get Santos to watch Glee with me, I scrolled through Netflix and carefully selected an episode that I hoped would squash her predispositions about the show and its reputation as being childish. I decided upon my personal favorite episode, season three’s “Mash Off,” which follows a song mash-up competition between two rival glee clubs at McKinley.
From the opening scene, a rendition of Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher,” Santos’ negative outlook on the show had vanished. Between the electric performance and her favorite actress, Idina Menzel, dancing on a table in an overdramatic fantasy sequence, she was hooked. “It really painted a picture and changed my whole perspective on the show,” she said. Ever since, Glee has been a prominent force in her life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santos established a routine of going to my house (specifically my bedroom, which we christened as “The Glee Room”), eating snacks such as cookies we baked into shapes of characters from the show, and watching up to six hour-long episodes at a time. With the endless laughter, singing along and banter between us during our viewing sessions, we made a pact to never watch the show without each other.
In between school, work, family issues and stress from the pandemic, Santos said she could always rely on the upbeat nature of her “emotional support TV show” to provide joy and comfort while distracting her from reality. “There’s not a lot of stuff that makes me laugh, but Glee makes me laugh,” she said. “It’s serotonin… it’s a little escape.”
The show has also exposed Santos to new things that she might not have otherwise been interested in, such as musicals. Before starting the show, she regarded musicals and theater kids as “annoying.” However, now scattered throughout Santos’ continually growing Spotify playlist of her favorite Glee songs are covers of musical theater hits. She also took up watching musical movies mentioned in the show, from Broadway productions such as Wicked and Funny Girl to cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Although asking her to choose her favorite episode of Glee is “like asking me to choose my favorite child,” Santos reminisced about season two’s “Blame it On the Alcohol.” This episode follows the glee club as they decide to get drunk during alcohol-awareness week at school. In anticipation, we brought home a six-pack of Bud Light Lime and decided to join in on the fun.
Although we were just in my room, when the characters were at the gathering they coined as The Rachel Berry House Party Train Wreck Extravaganza, it felt like the two of us were really there celebrating with them. Three bottles each later, we were doing the Cotton Eye Joe while singing along to their honky-tonk cover of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” Despite my mom screaming at us from the living room to be quiet, we kept dancing until the episode was over.
Glee acted as an escape as well as a source of laughter and friendship amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As said in the show, “Glee, by its very definition, is about opening yourself up to joy.” In becoming a self proclaimed “gleek,” Santos was able to do just that.
Although she is only half way through the series, Santos already plans to re-watch it as soon as she finishes. And after that, “Hopefully I’ll be on to bigger and better things at that point in my life. If not, then I have no idea.”
By Jared Pinder
Jacob Brady has had a stressful year. He’s a nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, every day at work has been draining.
“My life was just filled with so much stress,” Brady said. “I tried watching TV shows and playing video games, but nothing was working, and I just needed something in my life.”
When Brady needed help finding an activity he could do to wind down, he turned to his brother, Zach, who helped him by introducing him to a show he used to watch when he was little, Dragon Ball Z.
Once this happened, Brady started to quickly get addicted to watching the show and immediately binged the whole series in three months during the spring and summer, and he still goes back and watches the series over again today.
Brady had already watched the show when he was younger on Toonami’s program but hadn’t watched the show in nearly 14 years.
Brady watches the show at night when he gets home after a long day at work. He usually watches the show by himself, but occasionally his fiancé, Cassidy, will join him.
Brady started to get into the show because he began to relate to the characters and what they go through, and he wanted to see how the story would turn out.
“I watch the show to see how the characters struggle through the challenges that life has and how they overcome them,” Brady said. “Every time a new, more powerful villain shows up in the show, the characters have to struggle through to beat time, and every time they do, it feels better than the last.”
Brady said his favorite character in the show is Vegeta. The character’s story is filled with a dark past, and he overcomes this and becomes one of the strongest warriors in the world.
“I think we can learn a lot about ourselves when we look at Vegeta,” Brady said. “He starts at as a villain, but he sees the errors of his ways and changes to become a stronger person until he becomes one of the strongest people in the world through his hardships and struggles, we can learn a lot about ourselves when we look at Vegeta.”
The types of challenges Vegeta is facing comes from the different forces of evil that come to take over the world. Characters such as an evil gang of advanced robots from the future, a giant monster who steals powers named Cell and a being known as Majin Boo nearly destroy the world. Vegeta had a massive part in beating all of these foes, and each one of them got harder to defeat as the show went on.
Brady stated that this is why Vegeta stood out to him because he never stopped and continued to work despite going through all this pain and faced any adversity thrown his way.
Brady also connected it to his life because he realized that he needed to be like Vegeta and get ready to face anything that came his way.
Watching this show is essential to Brady not only because it calms him but because it has themes that he can relate to. He said the show itself represents life, as the show is all about a group of people defeating threats that get bigger with each encounter. The characters beat these threats by putting their heads down, getting stronger with every loss and eventually overcoming the threat.
By Ruth Ogunsanwo
Ever since Busayo Phillips was young, his friends and family regularly watched soccer. They were all Manchester United fans, so he automatically gravitated to being one as well. Man-U is a professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, that competes in the Premier League, the top flight of English football. Watching soccer for him is “an escape from reality,” Busayo said. “It really helps reduce my stress level as I don’t have to think about work when watching a game.”
After a long week of work, Saturdays are his favorite time to watch a soccer match. Sometimes he gets to watch it with his younger brother, Ayoola, 23. They both share the same love for Man-U, which makes each game even more interesting. His brother has his eyes on his favorite player, Frederico Rodrigues, while Phillips has his eyes on Marcus Rashford.
When the game is about to start, there is a certain way that he knocks on his brother’s door; he knocks and moves his hands in three different places, and without saying a word, his brother knows that it’s soccer time. He gets a cup of wine (Taylor port), while his brother enjoys a bottle of Heineken. They enjoy watching the game in their living room that is surrounded in LED lights. They watch the game on their 65-inch smart TV and bounce on their black leather couch with their legs stretched out on their round glass table.
When a game is about to start, they dim all the lights and increase the volume all the way up. “It feels like we are watching it live at a stadium,” Phillips said. “When our team scores, we shook hands and shout, ‘Let’s go, that’s what I am talking about.’”
Since working remotely, Phillips spends close to 12 hours working Monday through Friday. Mostly on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s, he leaves his work to watch a soccer game.
“There’s no better feeling than this,” he said. “I get a chance to catch my breath and release my stress.”
When he starts watching a game, he gets so caught up in the moment that it’s sometimes hard for him to get back to work. During a game, he gets a chance to reflect on things that makes him happy rather than thinking about things that stresses him out. When he is working, he is always so serious that he shuts himself out from everything around him. Since he is a software developer, a lot of what he does is programming a software for the world to use. When a program he is developing doesn’t work, he puts all his anger and frustration on himself. Watching his team still play and win a game during this pandemic is a reminder to him that there is still hope. It gives hm the zeal to keep pushing.
“Soccer gives me the medicine I need to be able to have control over my thoughts and emotions,” he said.
When Phillips watches soccer, it gives him a chance to clear his mind and express raw emotions in a way that he can’t when working. These players play in Europe, halfway across the world.
“I see it as a way of escape, a way to bring people together,” he said.
When watching a game, he gets the chance to reach out to some of his friends who he might FaceTime during a game to hear their reactions and then they play catch up on each other’s lives. It helps them stay connected.
Since the pandemic started, even if he works remotely, he doesn’t get to see his brother as often as he still must go out and work. Watching soccer games together gives them a break from their everyday routine. It gives them time to talk, laugh and argue even if they support the same team. During COVID-19, it can be hard to find ways to express pure joy and emotional release. Soccer does it for him.
“It gives me joy to see that even if we might not always see, the connection we share and express is real,” he said of his brother. “As long as we keep watching these games together, we are bonded for life.”
By Vay Laine
When COVID-19 was first discovered in China, I will be the first to say I didn’t think it would become what it ended up being. As cases rose and it began to hit closer to home, the world around me started changing swiftly.
It was a typical Tuesday in March. As I sat at work at the community center desk in Marshall Hall, the residence hall I called home during my third year at Towson, everything seemed normal. The daily packages were flowing in from their respective couriers. Residents were milling about in the lobby. The charcoal gray entrance doors clanged consistently as people came and went. Life was as it should be.
Moments later, all Towson students received an email that informed us of spring break starting early. This email was the first in a long string of emails that were to come over the next few weeks. Students were told to stay home for the rest of the semester.
During virtual school, I always had some lengthy discussion board or weekly quiz to occupy my time. Once school ended, the days started to blend together. I no longer had assignments filling my days, and I had no routine to keep me flowing. After a few weeks, I realized I needed to stop slouching and get myself in gear. I created a daily routine for myself that consisted of showering, eating, taking the occasional walk and more. The main part of this routine that kept me sane over the coming months was binge watching television shows and movies.
Watching these shows was the first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I did while falling asleep. Scrolling through Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max and so many more overpriced streaming services, I constantly found my days filled with a multitude of characters and storylines.
Some days, I would watch an entire season of one show, and others I would watch a few episodes of multiple shows. Whether it was sitcoms, drama, action or animated, these shows were the only thing keeping me sane.
Every morning when I woke up, I would eat, shower, throw on a pair of black leggings covered in lint and a graphic t-shirt. Once all of those were finished, it was TV time. Before settling on my bed, I walked into my kitchen and grabbed my essentials: snacks and water. The bright blue bag of Tostitos chips caught my eye in the pantry; I crumpled the bag into my hand and began rummaging around the fridge for none other than the accompanying jar of salsa. With everything salty, there needs to be something sweet. I opened the pantry again to grab a handful of fruit snacks. With my snacks and water in hand, I walked back to my room as carefully as I could, trying not to topple the mountain of things in my hand. Once back in my room, I plopped onto my bed and grabbed my remote. As I adjusted my position, my 20-year-old mattress moved with me. The constant creaking of the springs inside it was a noise I’d heard way too often. I powered on the television and its bright colors greeted my tired eyes. Once I finally settled on my show for the day, the sitcom “Moesha,” an I instantly smiled.
Never did I think a collection of moving pixels could bring me such relief.
There were multiple reasons why I found watching my shows so comforting. For starters, they were quality entertainment. There were days when I laughed extremely hard, and days where the shows pulled at my heartstrings and I shed a lot of tears. Some of the shows I watched were even informative, which I appreciated since I wasn’t in school at this time. Another reason that watching these shows helped me is that during a time where everything around me was changing, the shows remained the only consistent thing in my life, aside from my family and friends, of course. With constant news updates about regulations and the changing state of the world, my shows remained the same and in the same place.
The main reason that I think the shows helped me through that difficult time in my life is because while watching the shows, you’re seeing characters interacting and living life as it once was pre-pandemic. It was like taking a look into the past and admiring it, knowing life might never be like that again. Even when the pandemic comes to its end, we will be living in a new normal. Restaurants, trips to the movies and other public outings will always require distance, and some places may still require masks. Even allergy and common cold symptoms will almost always make a person question if you have COVID-19 or not.
A year after the pandemic began, there’s some return to normalcy, but life is still different. I am not sure when this pandemic will be over, or if it will ever truly be over, but I do know that I will be watching my shows throughout, hoping for better days to come.