This is a subscriber-only edition of Humans Being, a newsletter that unearths deeper meanings in pop culture.

I am 6 foot 2. I lift weights and talk about sports. None of my friends have seen me cry. I present as a masculine man who was raised to the standards of a Ford-truck commercial or a men’s lifestyle magazine. Many of my male friends do too. But I have a group chat with two of my friends, Alex and Alessandro, that has evolved into a backlash against portrayals of hypermasculinity. It wasn’t intentional, and it initially did begin as a place to argue about sports, but eventually, the chat changed to focus on a different competition. The chat’s name: The Great British Bake Off Chat.

The three of us have seen every episode of the 13-season series (known in the U.S. as The Great British Baking Show), which crowned its most recent champion yesterday. It’s one of the most wholesome shows on TV, with contestants who support each other in their shared goal of being named the best amateur baker of the season. Cheering for Bake Off contestants is like enjoying sports we love without the punditry and toxicity that come with them. We’ve streamed the series on Netflix and used VPNs to watch episodes on U.K. time; when I couldn’t wait to watch the latest finale on Netflix this week, I downloaded it in … other ways. During Bake Off seasons, me and my two bros talk about baking like we do the NBA—full of faux armchair analysis, heartbreak, and anger.

A cast photo of ‘The Great British Baking Show’ bakers, presenters, and judges

To read the rest, subscribe to The Atlantic.

Already a subscriber? Sign in