November 17, 2017

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The Mask You Live In | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarThe Mask You Live In. 92 min. Dist. by Virgil Films. 2016. $19.99. UPC 829567121429. The Mask You Live In

Gr 9 Up –A selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom addresses the American idea of masculinity and its rejection of the feminine. Newsom suggests that men are taught from an early age to become hypermasculine, to lock down all emotions except anger, to use violence to solve problems, and that being a man is based on power, possessions, athleticism, and sexual conquest. After many years of hiding emotions, loneliness, and psychic pain behind this facade of masculinity, it becomes difficult to take the mask off. Newsom describes the extremes of masculinity and femininity in TV shows and movies that feed into stereotypes. She provides statistical factoids (without citation) related to gender. For example, more than 90 percent of homicide perpetrators are men, the average boy tries drugs at age 13, and every day at least three boys commit suicide. More than 21 percent of teenage boys use pornography (mostly online) daily. As a result, women are defined by young men as “existing for men to have sex with them” and porn is used to teach men how to treat women. A brotherhood code of silence is also discussed. Toward the end, the film asks, “Can we do better?” Newsom concludes that we need to teach boys to reconnect their hearts to their heads, to create a safe place for them to show emotion, and to tell boys that they are good enough. It should be noted that there are mature language and content throughout. VERDICT This eye-opening film should be shared with high school students, teachers of students of all ages, and parents. It would be a good conversation starter for any of these groups singly or in combination.–Ann Brownson, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2016 issue.

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