The Debate Was So Stressful People Watched ‘The Bear’ to Relax


Like many red-blooded Americans, I can justify my actions by using therapy talk, thus freeing me from shame and responsibility. Case in point: Due to my ongoing mental health journey, I set some firm boundaries yesterday and decided not to watch the presidential debate.

My general philosophy regarding the election cycle this year is that the news will find me. And indeed it did. Because I went on Twitter (if the Supreme Court gets to call X “Twitter” and Meta “Facebook” then so do I). I noticed a striking pattern. Lots of us didn’t watch the debate. And those who did, had to turn it off midway through, because it was too stressful. You know what a lot of us did instead? Started watching The Bear, which released all episodes of Season 3 on Hulu yesterday. Apparently the most stressful show on television was less stressful to watch than the presidential debate.

If for some reason you had to work during the day because you’re not an underemployed journalist, you had the tough choice to make between the stress of The Bear or the stress of the debate.

Not so long ago, the question on the internet’s mind was, “Which would you prefer to encounter out in the world, a man or a bear?” While women were the primary target of the question, many people across the gender spectrum chose bear, which speaks to our deep distrust of men in general. Last night, again America was faced with a choice: Do we want to spend our evening with a Bear or two men? Bear all the way, baby!

Writer/Director Jessica Ellis went so far as to joke that she would watch the epically fraught “Fishes” episode from last season instead of the debate. To the comment, “Do you think the debate will also be nominated for an Emmy for comedy?” she said, “I think our country might be.”

SOS to Clinton and Obama: You Can End the Biden Nightmare after That Debate

Some people did divide their time between both the men and The Bear. The joke I saw over and over across all platforms is that people chose to watch the high-octane restaurant show as a way to relax after the debate, insinuating that watching Carmy and Richie scream expletives at each other in between shots of dropped plates and sweaty brows is a way to step down from watching two men in or near their eighties argue about golf instead of how to take care of the country. The IMDb trivia for the second Bear episode (yes, I’m the nerd who reads the IMDb trivia as I’m watching) says, during the 22-minute run-time (including credits!), the f-word is used 68 times, as compared to the word “chef” which was uttered a mere 24 times.

Joking at the end of the world: Why do we do this? The cliché is if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, but why can’t we do both? Is self-schadenfreude a thing? Do we delight in the misery of ourselves? I guess that’s just hating ourselves, and masochistically commenting on the terror around us in a humorous fashion instead of curling into a ball and screaming. In our own contemporary way, it’s a bid for connection, the “water-cooler” discourse of today. As with all viral phenomena, having some shared love or hate is what brings us together more than geography, our families, friends, or any other real tangible thing. Many people find community online that they do not have in their IRL day-to-day. Being able to be terrified together and to joke about it does bring a kind of comfort, a diffusing of tension.

Some people fully escape into fluffy, happy fictional worlds, obsessing over the Eras tour or the latest season of Bridgerton instead of the more hyper-realistic drama of The Bear or previous super-popular show Succession, which was and still is cited often on social media. It doesn’t have to be one or the other: I myself vacillate between dark political drama and TikToks about Bridgerton’s Polin or Swift backup dancer, Kam, which bring me a purer, more escapist kind of entertainment. However, darker humor in a world closer to our own does seem to be a go-to when things get a little too intense.

‘The Bear’ Season 3 Premiere Is Ballsy as Hell

Writer/director/comedian Zack Bornstein got over 100k likes and nearly 2 million views for his comment after the debate: “not to be controversial but personally i think we should have more options than a gently alive corpse and the dumbest Hitler of all time” (sic).

Not everyone enjoyed the joke, of course, because at a certain point, we do remember that the debate was real. People can either deal with their feelings or retreat. Since dealing with existential dread such as the state of the union is such a daunting task, many of us work out our stress in the fictional worlds of media. The catharsis of experiencing the trials and tribulations of fictional characters second hand instead of having to navigate such tumult ourselves helps us feel better at the end of the day. Running a restaurant is objectively less important and stressful than running a country, but it’s a stress we can handle right now.

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