Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday The Thirteenth: Mask

"One of the principal ethnographic mysteries is conceded to lie in the general use of masks in primitive society. An extreme and even religious importance is attached everywhere to these instruments for metamorphosis. They emerge in festivals - an interregnum of vertigo, effervescence, and fluidity in which everything that symbolizes order in the universe is temporarily abolished so that it can later re-emerge. Masks, always fabricated secretly and destroyed or hidden after use, transform the officiants into gods, spirits, animal ancestors, and all types of terrifying and creative supernatural powers. (...) The eruption of phantoms and strange powers terrifies and captivates the individual. He temporarily reincarnates, mimics, and identifies with these frightening powers and soon, maddened and delerious, really believes that he is the god as which he disguised himself, cleverly or crudely, in the beginning. The situation has now become reversed. It is he who now inspires fear through his possessing this terrible and inhuman power". Roger Caillois, "Man, Play And Games".

"Everything behind the mask is mysterious. When the mask is taken seriously, as in the cases we are discussing here, no-one must know what lies behind it. A mask expresses much, but hides even more. Above all it separates. Charged with a menace which must not be precisely known - one element of which, indeed, is the fact that it cannot be known - it comes close to the spectator, but, in spite of this proximity, remains clearly separated from him. It threatens him with the secret dammed up behind it. Unlike a face, there are no passing changes in which it can be interpreted, and so he suspects and fears the unknown that it conceals.
The true mask is something, which never changes, but remains permanently and unmistakably itself, a constant in the continual flux of metamorphosis. The mask is perfect because is stands alone, leaving everything behind it in shadow; the more distinct it is, the darker everything else. No-one knows what may not burst forth from behind the mask. The tension between its appearance and the secret it hides can become extreme. This is the real reason for the terror the mask inspires".
Elias Canetti, "Crowds And Power".

So what to make of "Friday the 13th"'s mask, which first appears at summer camp, a festive interregnum when parental order is temporarily abolished for teenagers? What to make of the mask, which stays the same, constant, whether it is at Camp Lake Crystal or in outer space? What to make of that utterly impersonal, expressionless ice-hockey mask? It's whiteness is a blank - not so much signifying nothing as signifying absence; absence of a human face; absence of a human head; absence of human speech; absence of human thought. Jason Voorhees is headless, the acephalous monster, the minotaur in Camp Lake Crystal's labyrinth.

1 comment:

Squish said...

Wow, that first quite is perfectly appropriate. It may even lead one to think that research was done into the psychology of the mask before the third film it emerged in. In another world perhaps producers opened books to add atmosphere. In this one, propbably saw it on the side of his cup @ McDonalds that one day.