Documentary Review: The Mask You Live In
What does it mean to be man? Does it mean to be in control, to use force instead of words, to ride yourself of all things feminine and emotional, to emasculate others, and above all, to lose any bit of humanity you have left in you?
The Mask You Live In is a 2015 documentary about the American perception of masculinity exploring what it means to be a man in America and how boys and men struggle to fit the idea of masculinity in today's society. This film is a part of the Representation Project an organization that, inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes no matter race, age, gender, background- through the use of film.
From an early age boys are taught through verbal phrases like don't be a sissy, toughen up, take control and through physical means of violence (often from other males) that these are things you must endure to be considered a man, A boys definition of masculinity is rooted on the idea that a man must not show emotion and must use any means necessary to get what he wants. The film does a great job dissecting every inch of masculinity explaining how one in four boys are bullied and discouraged through acts of violence to be anything but a man. How being seen as feminine, gay, or anything that society does not consider as manly makes you week. It even explores how our idea of masculinity has morphed our views of women (built specially as an object for men), rape culture, and creates this fear of homophobic tendencies.
Men, Mental Health, and Being Weak
It's also created a society of boys and men who rarely seek help especially in the realm of mental health with fewer than 50% of males seeking help for depression-because of our views on males and anger, signs of depression and other mental care issues often go unnoticed. The film did a great job sharing statistics, interviewing Psychological experts, students, and teachers, This can lead to violent outburst and often boys are taught to channel that anger and lack of emotion into sports, a industry which also contributes to the idea of what a REAL MAN should be. While men in sports and entertainment industries are often revered as the Perfect Man their representative roles as role models often damage a young boy view of himself. While Caucasian males are seen as man children or the silent hero with a lack of emotion, Latin/African American males are left with representations of thugs, money hunger villains who only want money, drugs, and women.
What I loved about the film was not only that it examine the ideas of mental health of a growing American boy, but it explored the idea of sexism and homophobia. And how society seems to send mix messages when it comes to both. Being seen as sensitive makes you weak, and to prove you aren't neither, you must use violence. It also brings up the issue of rape culture and pornography with many teens in the video being confused about how to treat a woman, With our abstinence only programs we preach about waiting but we indirectly (through as) allow boys to view and become addicted to porn and to prove that they are not gay or weak they must be able to control a woman and be forcefully, which in turns contributes to rape culture and makes men believe that they must hate their feminine traits and dominate a woman. The documentary ties everything together and even explains how because of societies skewed view on masculinity boys grow up to be men who often don't value their lives or the lives of others and with 1 in 6 boys being sexually or physically abused, the 90% of Homicide perpetrators being males makes sense.
UnMasking The Man
It's not because women aren't depressed, violent, or have been abused, it's because men have been taught to forgo feeling and emotions and to externalized pain, in doing so, their psyche and view of the world becomes warped. So how does one begin to let go and in the words of one commentator become whole? You must be able to reconnect the heart with you head and re-humanize the boy within the man.
Facts From The Film
The Film puts into prospective our narrow views of manhood and answers the question: Are we failing our boys? The answer being yes, but it leaves us with so much more. There are men from previous generations willing to stand up and not only fight for future generations but also, reexamine their experiences, taking off their societal mask, and fighting for their younger selves. In a way, the film show us how men no matter age or generation are standing up and being the man they wish they had in their lives.
I give this documentary a 5/5. Because it teaches us that gender is more of a social construct and being a man and the definition masculinity is more than having strength, using violence, and achieving control-its about being who you are which is being human.
To learn more information about the Film, The Representation Project, and how you can help visit-http://therepresentationproject.org/