Friday, April 30, 2010


People wear masks to hide who they really are, at least that's the idea. Kids wear masks on Halloween to score candy and they aren't hiding anything, but that's different. For a kid, wearing a mask is like playing "dress up" and being someone you aren't. That brings us full circle to why the rest of us wear masks.

Conversation goes like this. First person asks, "How are you?" Second person, who just had a fight with her boyfriend over whether or not she should have an abortion replies, "I'm fine. How are you?" First person, whose Mom died last month, whose been too depressed to go to class because of it, and is now flunking out of the spring semester says, "I'm fine."

They're both wearing masks. The faces they have on underneath are too ugly to show anyone. People don't want to see ugly, so we wear masks to hide it. The masks are the smiley faces people expect us to wear all the time. If we didn't wear them, we'd have no friends. Even strangers would shun us. No one wants to look at pain, depression, anger, or despair.

Most of the time, I wear a mask. You can't see it because when I come here, I take it off. My ugly face is bare. That's probably why no one will read this. No one wants to read ugly. No one wants to see it. That's why thousands upon thousands of people can be unemployed but the Associated Press and Newsweek reports that the economy has recovered...not recovering...recovered. It's over. All's right with the world. Let's have a beer.

It's the mask people want to see. Not the ugly reality of people out of work.

When I was a kid, I used to be scared of the old Invisible Man movies. Yeah, they're pretty lame. Lousy special effects, but hey, the first one was made in 1933.

Anyway, I was afraid of the bandages. The guy had his whole face covered, like he was all scarred up underneath. Like there was nothing but ripped skin and blood underneath. The mask was scary enough. What was underneath was a lot more scary than blood and disfigurement. What was underneath was nothing at all. Invisible. You couldn't see it. But it could get you.

I talked about Batman and Rorschach in my last blog. They wear masks, too but then, which face is the fake and which face is the real person? Turns out the stuff made of cloth and plastic is the real face. The face of the guy inside, under the skin. The flesh and blood mask is just what they wear because that's what the world wants to see.

Bruce Wayne, well Christian Bale anyway, is pretty. He's a good looking guy. If you look at him, you won't be scared of him (until he goes off on you, but that's another story). Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earle Haley in the film) isn't all that pretty, but he looks more "normal" than Rorschach. Even Kovacs was kind of edgy, but you really didn't expect him to try and kill you if you crossed the line. Wayne and Kovacs are the masks. Their real names are Batman and Rorschach.

I like superheroes. I'm not into jumping off rooftops at night or beating people up because they spit on the sidewalk, but I like the masks they wear, or rather the faces they wear. The masks of social acceptability keep us safe in one way, but they exact a terrible cost...who we really are. When we take off the mask and roam free, saying what we want and being who we are, we can see the world and the world can see us. There's a price to pay here too, though. No one wants to see our faces, so we're alone.

Tough choice. Wear your mask and have a bunch of friends who only hang out with you if you're socially acceptable and politically correct, or take off the mask, be completely honest and (yes, I'll say it) "transparent." People will hang out with the fake, but they're being fake, too. Take off the mask, and everyone runs away from "the monster." Maybe, they just don't want to be reminded that, under their masks, they're monsters, too.

People are lying when they tell you they want you to be honest. People are lying when they say they want you to be real. No one wants reality. Why do you think fantasy is such big business? No one goes to see Watchmen, or Avatar, or Kick Ass, or Iron Man 2 because it's reality. They go for the fantasy; the escape.

I come here to "be real", but I can't stay. The "fantasy" of my masked life keeps dragging me back by the demands of friends, family, and job. I have to live in the world, so every morning, I shower, shave, get dressed, and put on my mask. When I come here, it's like Batman going into his cave. For a little while, I can be who I am in a dark and secure cocoon. Too bad it never lasts.

Time to suit up again. Where's my "face?"


Thursday, April 29, 2010

I am more

In the 2005 film Batman Begins Bruce Wayne, caught by his would be love interest Rachel Dawes on a night of debauchery with a couple of "European swimmers" (if you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about), tries to explain to her that:

This isn't all I am. I am...more.

Her response becomes the code phrase that lets him tell her (as Batman) who he really is later in the story.

I'm also more than this, but this is becoming a more insistent part of my personality. This is the part of my personality who is depressed about life, misanthropic, agoraphobic, and generally wants to wad up the world and throw it in the toilet. Frankly, I think I'm just about too late. The world is already in the gutter and being swept in the flood of blood and pain toward the open grating leading to the sewer.

I am more than this, but I don't always want to be. I need a place to retreat from trying to be better than I am. This is it. Maybe I'm just hoping that I am more, and this is just a part of me who emerges when I feel particularly beaten down, ignored, discounted, and feeling like crap. I hope that's all this is. My fear is that this is who I am at the core and ultimately, this is all that is left of me after you strip away the veneer of civilization, political correctness, and everything else the world expects of me.

In Batman Begins, near the end of the film, Rachel refers to Bruce's face as his mask. The Bat mask becomes his face, "the one the criminals now fear." In the film (and comic book version of) Watchmen, the character Rorschach refers to his rather unique mask as his "face". There's a blurring of identities both characters endure as a result of the paths they've chosen, or the paths fate chose for them.

Is this a path I've chosen, or does fate or God control what happens next? Am I more, or am I only what you see? Who am I, the mask or the face?