The competitors on The Great British Baking Show are all amateurs. They don't live together in a drama house, they go to work all week, see their families, and practice for the next weekend. They don't fight over space in an overheated kitchen, they're in a tent set among rolling green hills and gamboling lambs. Really. And they don't have judges shredding them with harsh words, they have two hosts encouraging and sometimes helping them, and two judges giving direct, but not unkind feedback. Even the music has no ominous bass. It's classical.
If you compare it to the setup for most reality shows, it sounds like a recipe (ha!) for failure. But the show has done well and I am addicted. It's fun to see normal people create extraordinary things...even if I question the British definition of dessert on a regular basis.
Week one, something happens. Everyone cries. well, not the judges, but almost all, if not all, the competitors cry at some point. It's interesting for two reasons. One, I didn't think British people did that, like, ever. Two, after seeing other reality shows, the comments or situations that spark tears don't seem that bad. But when I step back and look at the situation, I get it.
These people are truly good at baking. They're probably the best of anyone they know. But now, everyone is good. It's intimidating. It makes you question if you're actually talented, or if you just thought you were. And while you're intimidated, two famous experts point out the flaws in your work, which, again, is definitely a first. It feels like confirmation that you're an imposter. You aren't actually good at this, and you're embarrassed that your best isn't good enough. Add to that time limits, and camera people watching you, and I'm pretty sure anyone would shed a few tears.
The other thing about it is I don't look at these people and think, "Suck it up, sissy. You're too sensitive. Get over yourself." I feel for them in that moment, knowing what it's like to put your best foot forward and wonder if it's enough.
After the first week, no one really cries again (unless they have an absolute disaster, or if they have to go home. And then everyone else cries too because they're going to miss the person.) It's like, that initial cry is almost necessary to clear the glut of emotions the new, scary situation brings up, and after that, they're fine.
It makes me wonder if sometimes, when I'm working super hard to hold it together, to suck it up, sissy, and not be so sensitive, maybe I need to just have a good cry instead of tamping emotions that just continue to back up like a clogged drain. And I don't even have to do it on national television, which is awesome because sister is not a pretty crier. But if I clear those emotions, maybe I'll be free to metaphorically bake dessert while lambs gambol around.