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. Unlike the bloody and depraved comic it was based on, the film looked to be much more light-hearted. Carrey's 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 most overwhelming proof that The Mask is full of toxic masculinity is how the titular character believes that he's owed something - namely, sex. The one scene that defines Ipkiss's Mask incarnation is when he meets Tina Carlyle (Diaz) in "Landfill Park" for a date. From the moment they meet, until the cops show up to rescue her, he's trying to pounce on her. He doesn't care about conversation. He doesn't want to know if she's comfortable in the moment. He certainly isn't starting any conversations about consent. He just wants to get physical.
Lest the audience miss what, exactly, is going on, The Mask says that he's going to have to "divide and conquer" to get what he wants. A clear euphemism if ever there was one. Thank god the police show up when they do.
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.
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.
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!