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TV Shows Are Giving Us A Bigger Dose Of Our 2020 Reality, Mental Health Be Damned



In the year 2020, it’s normal — and very reassuring — to see our friends and family members in face masks. It can be off-putting, however, to see a favorite TV character wear one.

For most of us, television is an escape. We cling to it, knowing it may help us get out of our heads. But when the shows we depend on to soothe our minds start giving us a dose of a reality — about the pandemic, election and other news — things can get complicated, according to mental health experts. There are positive and negative effects to seeing real-life scenarios play out on screen, depending on the type of content we’re consuming.

Specials like Freeform’s “Love in the Time of Corona” and sitcoms including NBC’s “Connecting…” and Netflix’s “Social Distance” were made in and about the pandemic, but preexisting scripted series are also choosing to tackle coronavirus storylines. Showrunners for “This Is Us,” “black-ish” and “The Conners” are already addressing the pandemic and its effects on their characters. And network shows about essential workers, including “Superstore,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19, “The Good Doctor,” “9-1-1 Lone Star” and the “Chicago” franchise, all plan to take on the early days of the coronavirus lockdown.

But is it healthy for viewers to absorb visual retellings of our pandemic lives?

The Season 17 premiere of "Grey's Anatomy" picks up one month into the pandemic, and it's all-hands-on-deck as Meredith, Bail

The Season 17 premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” picks up one month into the pandemic, and it’s all-hands-on-deck as Meredith, Bailey and the rest of the Grey Sloan doctors find themselves on the front lines of a new era. The “Grey’s Anatomy” season premiere airs Thursday, Nov. 12, on ABC.

“At a time when social distancing guidelines have increased isolation and decreased ― or, at the very least, complicated — opportunities for social connection, these storylines and the people in them may be the next best thing in terms of connecting to others,” said Enrique W. Neblett Jr., a professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan. “The storylines can help people normalize and process events and experiences they are having with others. They could potentially also provide a sense of control over an environment that is often uncertain and unpredictable, especially in the context of national events, like the election.”

Melissa L. Whitson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Haven, said that while fantasy series offer viewers a respite from the news and our day-to-day, dramas like “This Is Us” and “Grey’s” have been known to realistically address lived experiences. Viewers respond to storylines they can identify with and relate to, whether they be about the adoption process or someone’s battle with cancer.

Critics and fans alike have commended “This Is Us” showrunner Dan Fogelman for diving headfirst into topics other Hollywood writers avoid, including pregnancy loss and the foster care system. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he tweaked Season 5 scripts to reflect the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has affected his characters.

Eris Baker as Tess, Faithe Herman as Annie, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, and Sterling K. Brown as Randall on "This Is Us." T

Eris Baker as Tess, Faithe Herman as Annie, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, and Sterling K. Brown as Randall on “This Is Us.” The latest season of the show addresses the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police violence. 

In the two-hour premiere of “This Is Us” that aired last month, Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his fiancee, Madison (Caitlin Thompson), navigated a pandemic pregnancy. His brother Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and his family grappled with civil unrest following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fogelman said he was initially torn between avoiding the horrors of 2020 and attempting to comment on them through his scripts.

“I can’t tell you the amount of debate that has gone into everything from our show existing in a world that corona has not happened — like many shows are going to choose to do — to making an entire first nine episodes all happening during a quarantine period in our off-season,” he said. “We’ve been all over the map. I think we have a plan that splits the balance.”

Similarly, on the Season 7 premiere of “black-ish,” front-line worker Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) balances the fight against COVID-19 and her family’s quarantine habits. Star Anthony Anderson also said the show will address how the protests against systemic racism affect the Johnsons.

The season premiere of "black-ish" shows how the pandemic affects Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her family

The season premiere of “black-ish” shows how the pandemic affects Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her family. 

“Even though we say we want to escape and to forget about things, watching people struggle with these issues and seeing different ways they deal with it might actually be somewhat restorative or calming,” Whitson said.

But other psychologists said watching certain situations play out on a fictional TV show can be hard for viewers.

“It is important to understand that not all ‘escapes’ are healthy ones,” said Dr. Teralyn Sell, a psychotherapist and brain health expert. “Perhaps it would be a better idea to tune into television that is unrelated to what is going on in the world today, to offer our stress hormones a much-needed rest.”

Neblett said it can be mentally damaging to reexperience trauma and overengage with shows and films that touch on the pandemic, especially for those grappling with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The same questions that arose around repeated exposures to trauma, be it with 9/11 or social media footage and clips of police violence, may be relevant in considering how repeated exposure to these storylines could be triggering and lay the foundation for post-traumatic reactions and responses,” he said.

According to Twitter, some audiences seem to agree. A lot of people on the platform are complaining about pandemic-focused plots and how they fuel anxiety.

Dr. Frank Farley, a professor of psychological studies in education at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association, said he strongly believes reevaluations of our current reality can be detrimental.

“We are, in general, a life-seeking, stimulation-engaging species overall ― pursuing change, overcoming challenges, motivated by tomorrow’s possibilities, invigorated by variety, engaging the new, battling boredom,” he said. “Thus a reliving of what is already in front of us and all around us, and is interfering with any semblance of a good and happy life, is not in general a healthy offering of the media.”

“It is a piling-on of misery, an overload of negativity,” he added.

Whitson, however, said it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“We don’t have to remind anybody about the pandemic; we’re all impacted by it and we’re all living it,” she said. “So I don’t see that there’ll be a lot of negative impact.”

Indeed, some viewers sound excited to see how their favorite TV doctors will handle the pandemic.

Like Fogelman, “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner Krista Vernoff went back and forth on whether to incorporate COVID-19 into her medical drama, but ultimately decided that she’d balance out activism with escapism.

“I wanted to tell the story of the impact of the pandemic on our ‘front-line’ workers,” she told The Seattle Times. “Think about that: Doctors and nurses and orderlies are being called front-line workers. But they have not been trained or equipped to fight a war.”

The same is true for “Superstore,” whose Season 6 premiere featured the Cloud 9 team facing their new masked-and-sanitized normal as grocery store workers. The half-hour comedy, of course, takes a more humorous approach to the pandemic than “Grey’s.” Still, it will be triggering for some people as our country braces for a possible surge in cases, Neblett said.

“TV shows and culture might provide some semblance of control and connection that viewers may find reassuring,” he said. “However, I imagine no one will be interested in an overwhelming number of stories about death and dying, particularly if they are experiencing these losses and impact of the pandemic directly and personally.”

The comedy "Superstore" is another TV show addressing the coronavirus pandemic and realities of essential workers in its new

The comedy “Superstore” is another TV show addressing the coronavirus pandemic and realities of essential workers in its new season. 

There will always be those who crave coronavirus storylines, even if they are mentally scarring.

As lockdown started earlier this year, people began watching media about pandemics to better understand best- and worst-case scenarios. Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded 2011 thriller “Contagion,” about the rapid spread of an Asia-originated virus, topped the most-watched charts in March. The docuseries “Pandemic,” as well as films like 1995’s Ebola-in-the-U.S. movie “Outbreak” and South Korea’s 2013 “Flu,” also experienced spikes in viewership.

Whitson said even the controversial Michael Bay-produced “Songbird,” an upcoming film starring KJ Apa and Sofia Carson that envisions a four-year lockdown caused by a coronavirus mutation, will attract plenty of attention. She said that what really matters is how how viewers digest these outbreak stories.

“It’s so difficult right now for us to think about what the future is going to look like in the next three months, in the next six months, in the next year. Some of us are trying to think positively about what it might look like, but there’s also a lot of people who are thinking, ‘Well, what if it doesn’t look like that?’” Whitson said. “Our ability to think out those different scenarios is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we don’t get fixated on, ‘Oh, this is definitely going to be horrible.’ That sends you into this vicious spiral where you’re not able to see any potential positive outcomes and then you become depressed or withdrawn.”

Deborah Ann Davis, an award-winning author and parenting skills coach, counters that idea: “Once you watch a pandemic movie in the middle of a pandemic crisis, you can’t un-watch it. If it generates emotions and fears in you, there’s no escape from that.”

Watching something like “Contagion,” she added, might leave viewers reevaluating their own lives, and depression or fear could skyrocket with every coronavirus news alert.

As a solution, Farley said showrunners or filmmakers who choose to tackle a pandemic storyline should incorporate realistic solutions to our public and private problems, and address complaints about lockdown life.

“Any means of having fun, finding connections and staying alive will be embraced, in my view,” he said.


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Joe Rogan Admits He’s A ‘F**king Moron’ After Offering Selfish COVID-19 Vaccine Advice



Wildly popular podcast host Joe Rogan admitted he’s a “f**king moron” and “not a respected source of information, even for me” when he addressed his selfish comments about young, healthy people not needing to get vaccinated from COVID-19.

Rogan, whose audience is in the hundreds of millions, drew backlash — and a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert — when he said on an episode of his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast released on Spotify last week that “if you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”

On Thursday, Rogan clarified in a video shared on YouTube that he was “not an anti-vaxx person.” “In fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take them. My parents were vaccinated,” he explained. “I just said, ‘I don’t think that if you’re a young, healthy person that you need it.’ Their argument was, you need it for other people.”

“So you don’t transmit the other virus,” said his cohost.

“That makes more sense,” agreed Rogan. “But that’s a different argument. That’s a different conversation.”

Rogan, whose show was snapped up by Spotify in a $100 million deal last year, later attempted to explain away the comments by saying how he doesn’t plan what he says on air.

He’s often high or drinking alcohol during the shows, he said, before accusing “clickbaity” journalists of blowing his comments out of proportion.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m a fucking moron and I’m a cage fighting commentator who’s a dirty standup comedian who just told you I’m drunk most of the time and I do testosterone and I smoke a lot of weed but I’m not a respected source of information, even for me,” he said.

“If I say things, I’m always going ‘check on that Jamie, I don’t know if that’s true,’” Rogan added. “But I at least try to be honest about what I’m saying.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus


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Gabrielle Union Talks Baby Kaavia’s Free Spirit: ‘Shade Is Her Super Power’



Gabrielle Union recently talked about her daughter, Kaavia James, and her funny “shady” moments, characterizing those times as her 2-year-old’s “super power.”

“Shade is her super power because when Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” the actor told People in an interview published Wednesday.

Union and her retired NBA star husband, Dwyane Wade, welcomed Kaavia in November 2018.

The couple has since poked fun at the toddler’s occasional adorably shady facial expressions — and hilarious side-eyes — like when a photo of Kaavia seated on a couch looking pensive and slightly unbothered became a meme last year.

Or when the little one looked less than pleased with the outcome of her face paint design at her second birthday party:

Inspired by Kaavia’s witty personality, Wade and Union created an Instagram account for the little girl, often using the hashtag ”#Shadybaby” in the posts’ captions. The couple also collaborated to write a Kaavia-influenced children’s book titled “Shady Baby” due for release next month.

Union explained in Wednesday’s People interview that she celebrates Kaavia’s freedom to be her authentic self amid a long history of harmful ways Black women and girls have been treated in society.

“The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women,” she added.

In addition to Kaavia, Wade is father to Zaya, Zaire and Xavier. Union and Wade also parent his nephew Dahveon Morris.

Wade told People that he and Union make a point to encourage their children to be their true selves.

“If we allow our kids to be their true selves we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”

Last month, Kaavia took a side-eyeing break to enjoy a sweet play date with 2-year-old Cairo, the daughter of actors Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict.

After some hugs, Kaavia generously took Cairo for a spin in her toddler-sized electric car:


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Anne Heche Says Ellen DeGeneres Didn’t Want Her To ‘Dress Sexy’



Anne Heche took an unexpected swipe at former girlfriend Ellen DeGeneres this week during an online fashion retrospective.

In a short TikTok video Tuesday, Heche looked back at some of her favorite looks from years past, including the 1998 VH1 Fashion Awards and a memorable “Dancing with the Stars” routine from last fall.

The actor’s enthusiasm for nostalgia, however, notably dipped when she came upon a photo of her and DeGeneres from the 1998 Golden Globe Awards. The pair appear to have color-coordinated their outfits, with DeGeneres in a navy suit and Heche in a blue velvet gown and matching coat.

“Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy,” Heche, who has starred in films like “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days, Seven Nights,” declared. After giving the look a zero out of 10 and a thumbs down, she added, “Bye, no!”

Heche and DeGeneres dated from 1997 to 2000. During their time together, the women were among Hollywood’s most-buzzed-about same-sex couples.

The former couple has remained mostly tight-lipped about the specifics of their relationship in the media. Heche, however, touched on her ex in a number of interviews timed to her appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” last year.

Chatting with Mr. Warburton magazine last year, she recalled angering Hollywood executives when she brought DeGeneres as her date to the premiere of 1997’s “Volcano.”

“I was told by Fox Studio executives that if I brought Ellen to the premiere, my contract would be terminated,” she told the publication. “I brought Ellen despite those threats, and we were escorted out of the theater before the lights came on by security and not allowed to attend the premiere party because they did not want any photos of us together.”

Ellen DeGeneres (left) and Anne Heche at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.

“I was a part of a revolution that created social change,” she added, “and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight last October, Heche noted that she hadn’t spoken to DeGeneres “in years,” but would be open to a reunion under the right circumstances.

“With relationships, I think many of us have [been there], you come to a fork in the road, ‘What do you want and what do I want?’” she said. “Those goals, that intent in life, is determined by the individual. Her intent and my intent were different and that’s why we separated.”


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Elliot Page Emotionally Shares What’s Given Him The Most Joy Since Coming Out As Trans



Elliot Page is sharing the moment that has brought him the most joy since he announced he was a transgender man in December 2020.

In a peek at an interview with Oprah Winfrey slated for release on her Apple TV+ series “The Oprah Conversation” on Friday, the 34-year-old said that he’s found “the most joy.”

“Getting out of the shower and the towel’s around your waist and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re just like, ‘There I am.’ And I’m not having the moment where I’m panicked,” he said, before breaking down in tears. “It’s being able to touch my chest and feel comfortable in my body for the — probably the first time.”

The actor added his tears were “tears of joy.”

Earlier this year, Page talked to Time magazine about his decision to get top surgery and described the experience as something that allowed for him to recognize himself. Page recalled puberty as “total hell” and told the publication that the surgery “has completely transformed my life.”

He also told the publication that he spent much of his energy being uncomfortable with his body and the surgery has helped bring that energy back.

Page notably came out to fans last year with a heartfelt Instagram post, sharing that he would be using the pronouns “he” and “they” and said: “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”

He went on to say: “I love that I am trans,” Page wrote. “And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”  


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‘Bachelor’ Matt James Is Seeing Final Rose Recipient With Racist Past



It isn’t over.

Matt James, who became the first Black lead of the dating reality series “The Bachelor,” told People on Wednesday that he’s been seeing Rachael Kirkconnell, the woman he chose but then rejected after her past racially insensitive social media posts were unearthed.

“I’ve seen Rachael a handful of times,” James said. “I’m not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it.”

Kirkconnell received James’ final rose on ABC’s reality series. After the season was in the can, pictures emerged on social media showing Georgia native Kirkconnell attending a slavery-era plantation-themed party and liking photos containing Confederate flags.

Kirkconnell apologized and said she “will continue to learn how to be anti-racist.” James said in the “After the Final Rose” episode last month that they broke up and that Kirkconnell had work to do on her own.

As for her progress, James told People “that’s something you could talk to her about.”

A report last week said the two were not speaking to each other, but that does not appear to be the case.

Stay tuned.


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Halle Berry Reacts To A Joke About Her Blunt Bob Debut At The Oscars



Halle Berry joined the fun on Twitter after she debuted her new bob hairstyle at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday night.

The Oscar winner responded to a Twitter user who linked her new ’do to a popular lighthearted video from rapper Saucy Santana, who channels Nicki Minaj from the B.o.B. song “Out of My Mind” while rocking a bob.

“Halle Berry tonight,” the user tweeted on Sunday alongside the video. Berry retweeted the post on Tuesday and playfully responded with two emojis, including a laughing-face one:

Berry stunned on the Oscars red carpet in a pink-toned Dolce & Gabbana gown that featured a prominent bow. She showed off her new bob with bangs after she teased the hairstyle on Twitter earlier in the evening with a photo that only showed her hair chopped off.

Her hairstyle sparked a lot chatter on Twitter, with people sharing memes and all sorts of opinions of the ’do.

The legendary actor and style icon, who made history becoming the first (and still only) Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, apparently wasn’t phased by the blunt-bob-detractors.

Berry arrived at the ceremony with her Grammy-winning musician boyfriend Van Hunt.

Hunt posted photos on Instagram Monday of him and Berry getting ready to attend the ceremony. His caption said it was the couple’s first date night. The two publicly confirmed their relationship on Instagram in September last year.


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Kate Middleton, Prince William Mark 10th Anniversary With New Portraits



Kate Middleton and Prince William are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with brand-new photos.

Kensington Palace released two portraits on behalf of the couple on Wednesday, one day before their anniversary. The new pictures were snapped earlier this week at the palace by photographer Chris Floyd.

The two appear to have recreated the official photo William and Kate released for their engagement, which was taken by Mario Testino:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have been together nearly 20 years, officially tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. Millions lined the wedding procession route, while an estimated 2 billion tuned in from around the world.

Celebrities including Elton John, Guy Ritchie and David and Victoria Beckham made up some of the 1,900 guests invited to the ceremony. Ellie Goulding performed at the couple’s evening reception, an honor she called quite “scary.”

“I did their first dance and like, talk about scary,” the singer told Vanity Fair in 2016. “I was so nervous, my hands were shaking.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

Ten years since their wedding day, the duke and duchess now have three children: Prince George, 7; Princess Charlotte, 5; and Prince Louis, 3.

William and Kate celebrated Louis’ birthday last week by releasing a brand-new photo of their little one taken before his first day at nursery school.

Louis’ birthday is just two days after his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s big day.

The queen turned 95 on April 21 and released a statement thanking people for the tributes to her late husband, Prince Philip.

“My family and I would like to thank you for all the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said. “We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life.”


Kate Middleton’s Most Memorable Looks Of 2019


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