“When I put on the mask, I'm transformed. The mask gives me strength. The mask gives me fame. The mask is magical...” — El Hijo del Santo
Under the harsh lights, mythic warriors take stage. A ceremonious spectacle. Modern gladiators of the Mexican ring. The painted pig skin transforms them into phantasmal heroes. But what do we make of the masks men wear beyond the limelight? Away from the amphitheater. Who lurks inside the armored façade?
In the coliseum of life, boys are initiated into a cult of masculinity. Taught to repress vulnerability, their emotions distorted like echoes in the underground. The true self recedes, usurped by a phantom.
From tender youth boys don masks of adamant, false versions of manhood. Their humanity muted by prideful arrogance. The rites of passage that mold boy into archetype. “Man up.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Take it like a man.” Words often reinforced by mothers, sisters, and female peers.
But behind the stoic veneer, does anguish fester? This obsession with masculine strength and repression of vulnerability creates troubled men, absent fathers, and lost boys.
Unmasking toxic machismo reveals the diverse spectrum of manhood in all its beauty. Better to glimpse the authentic self, naked and unvarnished, than worship empty heroic tropes.
Words by Nicole Albarelli