Americans have had an odd relationship with face masks since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Look, I don’t want to debate whether requiring face masks is constitutional and I’ll acknowledge that there are medical conditions that make them impossible for some to use. What I do want is to flip the tone of the conversation. Sure, studies show that wearing face masks can help slow the spread of the Coronavirus, but I’m not trying to say you should have to wear them, per se—I’m saying you should want to.
Not because they’re important (even though they are)—but because they’re fun! And, barring another pandemic, we may never get this opportunity again.
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Let’s acknowledge the cultural barriers: Americans have long been taught to hide sickness, to consider it a weakness. We’re a nation of people who save our sick days for when we’re well, so we can actually enjoy them. And we’ve been told that soldiering on, even when incapacitated, is admirable. So, wearing a mask, for some, can feel like a scarlet letter. But times have changed.
Let’s also acknowledge that a lot of masks don’t look good. As Americans, we’re used to seeing them when we go to the doctor or the dentist, but they’re jarring outside of a medical environment. They’re clinical and conjure images of ER’s and surgeries. No one wants to be reminded of stuff like that when they’re out and about. But times have changed and, more likely than not, folks are wearing homemade masks fashioned from fabric like bandanas.
Until 2020, the idea of wearing a mask while shopping or running errands was something akin to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater: A way to create panic—not to mention a criminal record. That makes this moment in time both unprecedented and ironic. We should enjoy, if nothing else, the novelty of wearing masks—because when things go “back to normal” we’ll never have the chance again. Years from now, we’ll pull out these old masks like artifacts, and we’ll tell our kids about the days we got to go out in public looking like bank robbers!
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Now let’s be honest, horror fans: Don’t we just love wearing masks? Remember how masks were centerpieces of Halloween costumes back in the 1980s? Remember how sad it was to see masks fall out of favor in the 1990s? Teachers wouldn’t let us wear them at school and parents wouldn’t let us roam the streets in them. Sure, make-up and prosthetics can be fun, but masks were part of an era. So let’s revel in the return of the mask—even in this previously unimaginable incarnation.
Think of it as “Quarantine-oween”. As a lead-in to every horror fans’ favorite holiday, we can elevate the spooky spirit of every season. Companies like Terror Threads and Threadless (Rob Sheridan) have already started making some killer (pun intended) horror-themed face masks that are to die for. I’m anxiously waiting for mine to arrive as we speak!
So let’s can the ambivalence and enjoy, celebrate, and love wearing face masks. Let’s be Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and Leslie Vernon. Let’s be Ninjas or members of Cobra. Let’s be Baby-Face, the guy from The Strangers, Peach Fuzz from Creep. Let’s be Hannibal Lecter, Sam from Trick ‘r Treat, or the animals from You’re Next. No, no, I’m not saying wear replica masks (and I’m not suggesting anybody behave like someone mentioned above). I’m saying embrace your inner creepiness, awaken that pre-adolescent mentality that loves playing make-believe. Be creative; find a mask that fits your personality and have some fucking fun with it!
Or don’t. I’m not trying to tell you what to do.
But I know I’ll be rocking masks for as long as studies suggest it’s medically beneficial to do so–and having a blast while doing it! If you make horror-themed face masks and want me to show them off on Dread Central, drop us some links at firstname.lastname@example.org.