Manly Masks

Bro culture cringes at mask-wearing

Welcome to Going Downs, the newsletter about the intersection of celebrity and politics.

Hello Going Downs readers! Claire’s husband Brenden here. Through hard work, determination, and no favoritism or personal connections whatsoever, I’m pleased to announce I have been given regular weekly column space in this newsletter.

As Going Downs’ masculinity correspondent, I wanted to address the current controversy around masks being manly. 

I think masks are manly. And, more importantly, they prevent you from dying of the plague. In my opinion, there is nothing more manly than staying alive.

My plaid-print mask fits well with the rustic writer aesthetic I try to cultivate as I grapple with the alienation of being born in a small town and then moving to the big city only to write scripts about small towns. What’s more manly than that?! See, masks can communicate all sorts of manly things, like a weird dynamic with your dad, anger management problems, and alcoholism. See below:

History is on my side with this argument. Ninjas wore masks. Bandits wore masks. Zorro wore a mask. And of course, Jim Carrey wore a mask in The Mask and was still, “Smooooookin!”

Despite the robust historical record that proves masks are manly, researchers have found that some men correlate mask wearing with weakness. Writing in the Scientific American, social science professor Peter Glick found that, “appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness.” Glick concludes that men in leadership with this view of masculinity can lead to catastrophe. He uses Trump, Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro as examples, which is pretty compelling. 

I’ll add that a source of frustration in many of my friends’ lives has been that their elderly relatives refuse to wear masks. Perhaps admitting weakness would remind them of their mortality. Ironically, for some older folks, fear of death is leading to untimely death.

Yes, this is not only an outmoded view of masculinity, a hangover from America’s frontier past, and it is also crazy. However, it is still very real and something we have to contend with. Just look around ostensibly liberal Hollywood. Numerous male celebrities associated with worn out ideas of masculinity are going maskless.

Vince Vaughn, once known for being the most swinging dicked Swinger, stepped out without a mask in May.

Here’s Adam Sandler and Chris Rock taking a long walk on a public beach without masks last week.

Ben Affleck, who is the first man in history to have the idea that he may be able to preserve his vitality by dating a much younger woman, was going maskless until he faced paparazzi scrutiny.

Dean Cain, who has parlayed once playing Superman on TV into being one of those guys who records front-facing videos about how mad he is at liberals, predictably hates the mask. He said that he felt “brain damaged” after wearing one.

And, surprising no one, Joe Rogan said, “Only bitches wear face masks,” and was promptly owned by Bill Burr. Burr straddles the line of being reasonably progressive while telling the hard truths that might “trigger” liberals, and may be the only person in the world who is good at that schtick. So, of course, he is pro-mask.

This rebellion against mask-wearing by cranky conservative has-beens who now play way too much poker with guys named “Sully” and “Schmitty” has been met by a campaign of well-intentioned celebs encouraging mask wearing. 

The fame of these men has run the gamut from the most famous actor in the world Tom Hanks... the guy who plays Superman on the Greg Berlanti shows I think?

Liberals have also taken to doing that thing that politicians like Beto O’Rourke do when they want to seem serious and cool: saying “fuck.” The cringe-y rallying cry of centrist libs, much like “Pokemon Go to the Polls” and “Register to Fucking Vote,” is “Wear a Fucking Mask.”

I’ll admit that the cornier mask shaming is annoying, and the COVID issue in America is way more about structural failures of the government than individual choices. However, no one is coming to save us. Even if Biden wins in November, America is a country that puts profit over public health, so don’t expect a Southeast Asian style test and trace system any time soon. 

We have no choice to make mask-wearing seem macho, even if it means tapping into our nation’s strategic Realtree camo reserves. 

If we are going to overcome the powerful forces of Vince Vaughn’s Celebrity Poker Roast and suburban QAnon ladies screaming at Trader Joe’s, we need to team up with corny YouTube parody singers and C-List social justice celebs and howl in our most manly baritone voices…

“Wear a mask.”