Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
The mask that you wore, my finger would explore
The costume of desire, excitement soon unfolds. . . .
-- “Easy Ride,” The Doors
Dress has long been used as a means of controlling women. However, the use of “costumes of control” is not what this post is about. It’s about masks. More specifically, it’s about the masks worn by horror movie villains, the “masks” that, in fantasies of pain, suffering, and death, we “would explore,” not so much with our fingers as with our minds.
- Leatherface, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, wears a mask.
- Hannibal Lecter, of The Silence of the Lambs, wears a mask.
- The Shape, of Halloween, wears a mask.
- Ghostface, of Scream, wears a mask.
- Jason Voorhees, of Friday the 13th, wears a mask.
|Hannibal ("The Cannibal") Lecter|
For viewers of these films, these masks are the true faces of the villains who wear them. Their true identities are the hideous personas, or public faces, they display to the world--and, more importantly, to their victims. Designed, as is Spider-man’s mask, to instill terror in the hearts of their adversaries (and their victims), these masks suggest the inhumanity of the human monsters who wear them. Therefore, they are often either ugly and repulsive or featureless and blank.
|Michael Myers ("The Shape")|
Since the beginning of the horror genre, physical ugliness has symbolized spiritual deformity. Monsters are often--maybe usually--repulsive, with bulging eyes, split skin, flesh full of writhing maggots, rotten teeth or fangs, liver-colored lips, mottled skin, scars, and a host of other unsightly and unseemly facial features.
There are a few beauties among the bevy of beastly killers, usually femme fatales. However, it is more likely that, if a psychopath or a sociopath is not ugly, he or she is nondescript. His or her face is more or less featureless, or blank, as if there is no one home behind the mask of flesh and blood, as if the human who occupies the mask is him- or herself inhuman, a soulless soul, as it were, upon whose plain and vacant, expressionless countenance we may project our own worst fears and suspicions.
They’re faces, in short, that not even a mother could love.