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The Mask You Live In (2015) Movie Review

The Mask You Live In exposed the strict gender roles which remain perverse in American society. A fascinating aspect in this thought-provoking documentary is the powerful articulation of the impact of the rigidly enforced expectations that gender roles place on young boys and girls in contemporary society and how these assumptions affect young people. The most exciting part for me was the clear demonstration of how teenagers today continue to live in highly gendered environments.

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Unfortunately, society still emphasizes traditional stereotypes about how males and females ought to act, speak, appear, dress, and behave based upon culturally negotiated sex. The most influential people in their life (such as parents and teachers) are the actual perpetrators of these misconceptions. As depicted in The Mask You Live In, many significant others still rigidly adhere to masculinity norms. For example, some male figures are still concerned that a boy who does not exhibit typically masculine interests and characteristics implies that they have failed as parents (Newsom, 2015). Males are still taught and expected to be strong, aggressive, and bold.

Adolescence is one of the most fundamental stages of human development. Most importantly, this phase is integral to forming a healthy personal identity (Crocetti, 2017). A strong character leads to an integrated and cohesive sense of ourselves and continues to impact our behavior and growth for the rest of our lives (Crocetti, 2017). In this respect, the strict gender expectations have severe consequences on young people’s health and overall well-being in society. Majorly, biased assumptions requiring boys to be “tough” or “man-up” hinder them from expressing their emotions freely, besides making them more vulnerable to ridicule and unfair mistreatment (Newsom, 2015). For instance, a boy who may express his feelings openly by crying might be told to “be a man”; thus, many male students feel uncomfortable to show how they feel.

Furthermore, such gendered expectations contribute to boys and young men’s high tendency to present a confident face to the world, which is not an accurate reflection of their true identity. As depicted in the documentary, people to live in masks daily to help them maneuver through many situations. Some of the reasons for social disguise include a desire to be socially accepted, to be liked, to conceal emotions (such as excitement, anger, pain, fear, depression, anxiety, and happiness), hide the truth or vulnerability, deceive, or manipulate (Newsom, 2015). I firmly believe that it is normal for a person to put on a mask at some point in life because it is part of human nature. However, questions arise when this behavior becomes the norm because people tend to lose themselves when they attempt to please others.

The tendency to hide our true selves may encourage many behavioral problems among young people, such as bullying, racial abuse, homophobia, aggression, depression, despair, and suicidal thoughts. As demonstrated throughout the film, many boys and young men endure these negative experiences due to fear and insecurity (Newsom, 2015). Buying into what the culture and society say about men and women can have a devastating impact on young people. The consequences that caught my attention were the startling statistics presented in the documentary, particularly related to the alarming suicide rates and mass shootings.

In conclusion, there is a strong need for our society to consider learning how to treat males in a manner that can help them develop a sense of self and personal identity to enable them to stay true to themselves. We need to create an environment in which young people receive proper encouragement and positive reinforcement to allow them to explore their independence and develop a strong sense of self. We need to create more awareness about the masks we wear and the impact of assigning stringent gender roles and expectations.


Crocetti, E. (2017). Identity formation in adolescence: The dynamic of forming and consolidating identity commitments. Child Development Perspectives, 11(2), 145-150. Web.

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Newsom, J. S. (2015). The mask you live in [DVD]. New York, NY: Virgil Films.

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