Take Off That Mask Take Off That Mask As sad as it seem first impressions often dictate the way people feel about one another. In most cases the way a person looks doesnt at all reflect on their personality. This stigma of the way a person looks goes far beyond being pretty and ugly. All to often people are assumed mentally retarded because of a facial deformity when in fact that person is as able or in many cases more then able to perform and task they are asked to perform. Ironically in this modern society where such stigmas exist, some movies are able change our thinking if not remove the stigmas altogether.
The film Mask is a perfect example. This movie shows the stigmas for what they are and at the same time changes our impression of facial deformity. This movie enables anyone who views it look at a person and see them for who they are and not what they look like. The film Mask we see the story of Rocky Denis, played by Eric Stoltz, is a teenage boy dealing with the effects of craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. Craniodiaphyseal Dysplasia also known as Lionitis, is a life shortening disease that causes calcium to accumulate in the skull. The calcium make the head grow to twice the normal size.
Rocky obviously does not look like the average teenager. This is an observation we can see right away. Outside of the way Rocky looks his lifestyle is also slightly different from most teens. His mother Rusty, played by Cher, is affiliated with a gang of bikers. She drinks and uses drugs, and although she seems to try and hide these things from Rocky he is well aware of what his mother is doing. The movie is quick to bring some of the stigmas about Rockys disorder to our attention. In two scenes we see how people outside of Rockys immediate family treat his disorder.
First we see how the principal of the local public junior high school views Rocky. He tells Rocky and Rusty that, There are special schools for children like Rocky, the principal upon looking at Rocky immediately thinks he is mentally retarded. Rusty shows him this is far from the truth by giving the principal his grades from lower levels of schooling. She then threatens to sue the school if he does not enroll Rocky. Rocky shows the principal a thing or two when he goes on to graduate with awards for excellence in almost every academic subject.
The principal also shows Rocky a little surprise when he offers him a job at a summer camp for blind children. The second scene is particularly disturbing because it takes place in a hospital. In this scene a doctor that is not familiar with Rockys case tries to explain to Rocky and Rusty the unfortunate truth of his life expectancy. Rocky and Rusty deal with the situation by pretty much brushing off everything the young doctor says. The reason this scene is disturbing is because the doctor inadvertently makes himself no better then a common person misjudging Rocky. The one place you would think Rocky can be free from these stigmas seems to be worse then the outside world when a doctor gives off the emotions of a person seeing Rocky for the first time. The film again captures the view of Rockys face and the first impression people have when Rocky goes to his first day of school.
At the junior high school the students see him and make their impression and Rocky carries on as he always has. The students seem to overlook the fact that a biker from the gang dropped Rocky off at the school. In most junior high schools a student that is dropped off by a biker would get the full attention of bystanders. In this case all they notice is Rockys facial deformity. As time passes the students like the principal accept Rocky for who he is.
The acceptance of who he is is a very important theme that constantly comes up in the movie. At one point Rocky gets in an argument with his mother in which he asks her Dont you get it, its girls? Rustys answer to this is quite shocking. She goes to a bar to find a prostitute so that her son can experience being with a girl. After meeting her Rocky ends up talking to her and giving her advice and seems to form an emotional bond with her. The end of this scene takes place when Rocky has a conversation with Gar.
Gar, played by Sam Elliot, is the only true father figure Rocky has in the absence of his real father. During this conversation Gar explains that Rusty may not always to the right thing but she always tries to do what is right for her son. As a whole this scene shows us how Rocky feels about love and romance with a girl. The argument he has with his mother shows us that he does not feel he can have a relationship with a girl because of his face. Although the prostitute is paid to be there with him the conversation he has with her shows us that Rocky is fully capable of creating a relationship of the kind he is looking for. The conversation he has with Gar also gives some insight of his lifestyle, it gets the viewer thinking that maybe Rockys lifestyle has a little bit to do with what goes on in his life and the way people look at him.
In essence Rockys difference in lifestyle takes the viewer of the film away from his face. After all of these interesting new emotion take hold Rocky decides that he will take the job at the summer camp. The camp is for blind children so chances are he will not be troubled with his face making false first impressions. From the moment Rocky arrives at the camp he is greeted and judged as someone without a facial deformity. This is evident when he is asked to remove his mask. Rocky jokingly shows that he cant take off a mask because he isnt wearing one.
The reason this is a warm and non-judgmental greeting is because the person was not saying it in order to upset Rocky. It was just that from the distance that he was standing it looked like a mask. It is more evident as we watch Rocky and his relationship with Diana. Diana, played by Laura Dern, is a blind girl his age that cant judge Rocky by his face because she cant see it. Diana eventually becomes Rockys first girlfriend and at the end of the summer exchanges phone numbers with Rocky and promises to keep in touch. At the end of the summer Rocky goes back home and back to high school. With all of the new students in his new school Rocky is again stuck behind his face and trying to make a first impression.
This time we see someone tell him to take off his mask, and Rocky reacts by pushing the person into a locker while shouting back Ill take my mask off when you take off yours, this is a very emotional scene in the movie. We have seen Rocky for who he is and this scene makes us feel how he feels, and that is angry with this other boy. The results of the emotions we watch Rocky endure are that we feel them ourselves. The movie is able show us how a person with a facial deformity is a person. The only thing different about a person with a facial deformity is that they do no fit the mold we have stereotypically put on how a face should look.
This movie enables the viewer to throw this stereotype out and view a person with a facial deformity as a person. Bibliography Mask Dir. Peter Bogdanovich. Pref. Eric Stoltz, Cher, Sam Elliot, Laura Dern. 1985.