The Mask You Live In
There are so many mass shootings lately, CNN barely cuts away from election coverage to tell us about them anymore.
Plus, everyone on TV gives the same tired explanations for the killings. People on the Left say that it is the fault of our gun laws. And people on the Right counter by saying that the shooters are mentally ill.
It’s safe and easy to dismiss shooters as nothing but gun-loving monsters or loner lunatics. Nobody in the media has the guts to ask the meaningful question: why are young men in our society feeling so catastrophically angry that going out in a murderous blaze of glory sounds appealing?
“The Mask You Live In” is a thought-provoking documentary about the emotional hazards of growing up male in America. The film doesn’t have all the answers. But it is a fresh, honest take on an overlooked subject.
While there is a Women’s Studies Department in most major American universities, there isn’t even a word for the male equivalent of feminism. We should name it now. Should we call it Meninism? Broducation? Dude-Eronomy?
Writer/director Jennifer Siebel Newsom asserts that boys’ and girls’ brains are 90 percent similar at birth. As boys grow up, society systematically robs them of virtues that are considered feminine. The parts of the male brain that were built for empathy, sensitivity, self-exploration, openness and unguarded sociability are suppressed. And in the place of these virtues, boys are taught to value strength, power, and physicality.
Depression and anger are normal feelings for adolescents. Girls tend to deal with their pain by becoming more quiet and reticent at school. Depressed boys, on the other hand, are less likely to understand their feelings and are more likely to express their anger with misbehavior and violence.
If every troubled young man had someone to share their feelings with, Siebel Newsom argues, these anger problems wouldn’t get so far out of hand. But boys are taught to bottle up their feelings and hide their weaknesses until they explode.
This is why boys are vastly more likely to be expelled at school and to drop out. While a depressed young woman is quietly working her way toward college, a depressed young man is making bad decisions that may eventually land him in prison.
Siebel Newsom predicts that if families, schools, and society would stop forcing boys to suppress their feminine virtues, they wouldn’t have as many catastrophic vices. Young men wouldn’t have a suicide rate that dwarfs young women. And angry loners wouldn’t be as apt to steal their mother’s gun and take it to school.
“The Mask You Live In” is unfocused, overlong, and not always convincing. However, I think it is a valuable and admirable film. Dude-Eronomy is a brand new field of study, and we have to start somewhere.