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Baking, champagne and witches: A feel-good holiday roundup

<p>In spite of pandemic restrictions, "The Great British Baking Show" managed to deliver a mostly normal season to viewers in need of a little levity this holiday season.</p>

In spite of pandemic restrictions, "The Great British Baking Show" managed to deliver a mostly normal season to viewers in need of a little levity this holiday season.

It is a tradition for my family to celebrate the holiday season all together. Cousins fly from near and far, usually to my grandparents so that they do not have to travel. This year, however, I found myself isolated from my other family members, leaving me with more down time. Naturally, I spent all this extra time watching new TV shows and listening to new music. Below are some of my favorites that occupied my time over the break.

First, one of the most popular music artists in the world right now, Taylor Swift, released a new album “evermore” mid-December. This was a huge shock to her fanbase, as she released a surprise album “folklore” just a few months earlier. The album is a far cry from some of her past albums, such as "1989," which feature more carefree pop songs. "Evermore," to me, represents an evolution in her genre and lyrics.

My favorite song off of this album is the melancholy “champagne problems” because the song is slower, showcases her vocal talent and range all the while remaining true to herself and her past albums as a songwriter, centering around themes of love, relationships, and heartbreak. Her voice is backed with heavy emotion to mirror the meaning of the lyrics; she drops to melancholy, low notes when she sings the words “champagne problems." From a layperson’s point of view, I think working in this range is a recent feat for Swift, as the tone of her voice in past albums has never reached this same level of resonant emotion. Since I was a little kid, Taylor Swift has always been one of my favorite artists, and this album did not disappoint.

Ranking second in my winter culture roundup is the rest of the newest season of “The Great British Baking Show” (GBBS). Last semester, I wrote about the first episode of the season, and since then, the rest of the episodes were released on Netflix.

In my opinion, this was a season of the show that was well worth watching over the break because of the extraordinary sacrifices that each baker, judge and production member made in the name of keeping others safe and healthy while giving the audience a somewhat normal season of the show. 

The most notable sacrifice came in the final episode of the season. Normally, the show brings out each finalist’s family and friends as well as bakers who were eliminated in earlier episodes of the season. Because of COVID this year, however, this gathering could not take place safely, so the show opted instead to have the production staff who were already in the GBBS bubble greet the finalists at the end of the competition. I thought this moment was the cherry on top of an already great season of baking, as it highlighted everyone who made the show possible and demonstrated the show’s commitment to safety. 

The last piece of culture that rounded out my winter break is the fourth season of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, which was released to Netflix on Dec. 31. 

If you are able to accept some cringe-worthy moments, the show is a great watch, the newest season especially. It combines a healthy dose of fantasy and horror elements with more cliché, universally relatable elements. For example, the main love triangle of the show revolves around Sabrina, the protagonist and teenage witch, falling in love with a stereotypical “bad boy” despite already having a relationship with a “nice guy."

The show also intertwines and advocates for inclusivity and social justice within its plot lines and characters. One of the characters is a trans man, Theo, whose personality and relationships are developed as fully as those of the show’s cisgender characters. It would be easy for television series to fall into the trap of writing in a “token” LGBTQ+ character in order to call themselves progressive, but this show does not, which is refreshing.

The final season of the show develops Theo’s relationship with new boy Robin and follows Sabrina’s intimate relationships, all the while keeping the viewer intrigued with the looming threat of cosmic terrors that want to end the world.

In my opinion, these shows and Taylor Swift’s new music are the best new releases that came out around the holidays, so if you are looking for some feel-good entertainment to fill up the last few days of break, consider checking these out.

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