“The Mask” show confidence


Why have young men been raised to not show emotion? Why can men not share their emotions without being called feminine? In what ways has the media in our society changed the way boys are raised? Many of these questions and more are answered in the 2015 documentary “The Mask You Live In” written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

The documentary follows the stories of young men and how they were raised in our society with a high level of toxic masculinity. The young men who were interviewed for this documentary tell their stories on the ways their parents raised them, how their lives changed due to ideals society has placed on them, and the influence of abuse by parents or guardians. Those interviewed range in age and different ethnicities. Many of the stories told the same key idea that men are not supposed to show emotions, no matter their age. If men portray emotion, then they are seen as weak, “a pussy,” feminine, soft and other demeaning descriptors.

The use of humanity in the storytelling of different young men’s stories gave the documentary emotion and realness. These stories were from young men who were troubled in their early life, men who are now in all walks of life from criminals to activists. Having stories from men of different backgrounds gives the viewer a wider range of the issues brought up in this documentary. The use of psychologists, sociologists, educators, and neuroscientists helps give viewers a better picture of how men are raised in a toxic society.

If this documentary has one idea that ties it all together, it would be “confidence.” This is a hard subject to talk about, but Newsom does this well in her storytelling. There may be a lack of confidence in young boys that follows them through adulthood. The media that surrounds young men, starting around middle school, affects and shapes their mindset. Rape culture, drinking, the screening of unwanted pornography, abuse, suicide; these are the issues and experiences that drive the idea of toxic masculinity in our society.

“The Mask You Live In” was a well written and produced movie. While there is much to be learned, the film poses many questions that go unanswered. The documentary has the focus on the negative aspects of masculinity, but never speaks on the positive. There was no definition of masculinity before the movie began its course. The movie has a variety of men who spoke on their lives and how much they noticed negative traits affect how grow up to be the men they are now. That being said, there were not many stories focusing on racial dynamics or the impact of fraternities in college; these were touched upon, but left viewers wanting to know more.

“The Mask You Live In” does only focus on men and the issues that many men have to face in their lives. The director, Newsom, has written and produced “Miss Representation.” This documentary speaks on the lack of role models for young women due to how media represents women. Both of these documentaries should watched by everyone so that society may see itself and its negative effects on young people.