If you grew up in the '90s then you no doubt remember how exciting it was when a new Jim Carrey movie came out, especially one where he was allowed to lean into his rubber-faced weirdness. For that reason, 1994's The Mask initially looked prime to be a Jim Carrey classic. His character had a green face and wore a yellow suit! He danced! He had a catchphrase! Who knew that The Mask would be one of Jim Carrey's weirdest movies?
The movie essentially depicts a man whose libido takes over his body when he wears an ancient mask, sending him out into the night to do strange deeds. This isn't just a strange movie made sense of within the context of the '90s. The Mask is actually horrifying, ranking it in that cult genre of kids movies that are actually scary.
If one considers The Mask within the wider scope of Jim Carrey’s personal and professional life, it's easy to see how it plays into some of the darker aspects of his life. Like his character, Stanley Ipkiss, Jim Carrey has often portrayed some maniacal sensibilities under that wholesome nice-guy exterior. The most disturbing things about The Mask are the aspects that highlight the main characters' very real problems with sex. And that’s just scratching the surface of the Freudian nightmare that is The Mask. Read on for all the reasons it's a wonder any child of the '90s was allowed to watch this film.
The Mask Pulls Out A Used Condom As Some Sick Gag Joke
Here's something that's super gross and not at all fun to see. In Stanley Ipkiss's first outing in his Mask persona, he runs afoul of some street toughs who demand to see what's in his pockets. The Mask digs through his pockets and reveals a bunch of cartoonish items until he pulls out a used condom and says, “Sorry, wrong pocket." Not only is this super gross but it raises a lot of questions. The primary question is, of course, why is this sort of joke in a kids' movie? From there further questions can only get more disturbing about what this scene implies about The Mask.
Unfortunately, a used condom is just one gross drop of rain in an ocean of gross scenes.
Stanley Ipkiss Is Your Standard Not-All-Men "Nice Guy"
Stanley Ipkiss isn't overtly rude to women, but the film goes out of its way to condone his disdain for the women around him. He's awful to his apartment manager, who's understandably upset about her new carpet getting ruined.
At the beginning of the film, Ipkiss buys tickets for a woman to a concert and is then disappointed she doesn't invite him along. In fact, Ipkiss goes out of his way to consistently refer to his "nice guy" status. Both of which are red flags. It makes sense that Stanley's alter ego is a sex-craving maniac who won't take "No" for an answer. The worst part about all of this is that the film affirms Stanley's attitude towards women when reporter Peggy Brandt sells him out for $50,000 so she can pay off her condo. Women!
The Mobsters In The Movie Are As Brutal As Any R-Rated Gangster Movie
The villains of The Mask feel like they were chosen for a different kind of movie. Every single one of them is a vicious mobster looking to get theirs. When the main antagonist, Damian, goes to see his boss, Niko, he's thrown to the floor by Niko's henchmen. From there, the scene grows more violent as Niko monologues like a Bond villain while his henchmen hold a gun to Damian's head and shove a golf tee into his mouth. Niko talks while he hits a golf ball off the tee, bloodying Damian's face in the process.
The scene feels like it could have just as easily appeared in Goodfellas and not a comedy about a guy with a green face who does the Lambada.
The Male Gaze Is The Primary Lens Of The Film
If you watched The Mask as a child, it shouldn't be surprising for you to discover you didn't pick up on the fact that Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) exudes toxic masculinity throughout the film, both as himself and in his mask persona. One of the most famous scenes from the film is when Ipkiss (as The Mask) turns into a cartoon wolf when he sees Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) perform at the Coco Bongo. His eyes bulge. His tongue wags. He howls as she sings. This is the film's hero, a man who can't keep himself from sexually harassing a woman at her place of employment.
It's not just Ipkiss who has his relationship with sexuality twisted into a knot. The entire film treats women like objects. Tina Carlye is introduced by a lingering shot of her breasts squeezing out of her dress. The next shot of Diaz focuses directly on her posterior before pulling back to reveal the rest of the scene. Done correctly, this could serve as meta-commentary for over-sexualizing women in film, but that's not what's happening here. The film affirms Ipkiss's male gaze by its very filmmaking style.