Icons of the Mask-Wearing World

As I’m sure everyone is aware, the world is still in the grips of a global pandemic. It’s pretty scary! I, personally, have been losing a bit of sleep over health concerns, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. One thing that is exacerbating the situation: in America–a nation that has already bungled its response to COVID-19 to an astonishing degree–the use of face masks to prevent the spread of disease has somehow become a controversial, political issue.

Just to set the record straight: wearing a mask in public to protect others is not in any way ‘political.’ It’s the absolute bare minimum you can do if you value the lives of other human beings. To paraphrase one of my favorite speeches: protecting others (by, in this case, wearing a mask) is right. It’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. And you can trust the guy who said that–he’s a Doctor.

On top of that, though, masks are cool! Across the years, there have been countless pop culture icons who wore masks. Let’s take some inspiration from these folks:

Spider-Man

When it comes to wearing a mask for the benefit of others, Spider-Man is one of the most iconic examples. Peter Parker knows how important his mask is to protecting the people close to him. Without it, any old villain could figure out who he is and target Aunt May, Mary Jane, and others, so he doesn’t go web-slinging without it! He shows real dedication to mask-wearing, too–if he can’t access his iconic head-covering for some reason, he’ll toss on a paper bag instead. Your friendly neighborhood web-head understands that a bit of personal discomfort is a small price to pay to keep his loved ones safe. He’s a great role model any time, but especially in times like these.

Bane

Now, you might be thinking, “Spider-Man? That guy is a nerd! I want to be a badass, and I can’t do that in a mask!” If so, Bane would like a word with you. Look at this guy! He’s Tom Hardy buff, he wears a sick bomber jacket, but he’s still considerate enough to mask up. Take a peek at that thing: full mouth and nose coverage. No way are droplets getting out of there! It’s efficient and cool-looking, but that’s not all–the mask has done wonders for Bane’s social life. “No one cared who I was until I put on the mask,” the big guy admitted. It makes sense, too–who wants to hang out with someone who might get you sick?

The Phantom of the Opera

“Okay, maybe a mask can be cool,” you’re saying. “But can it be sexy?” Well, my friend, I think the answer to that is obvious. Our boy the Phantom has been bringing the heat in a mask for decades. If anything, the mask only adds to his mysterious allure. Alright, I admit, the one he’s wearing is not going to be very effective at preventing the spread of disease–that’s a bit of a problem. We’ll need to work on that. But on the plus side, he’s taking another important precaution: social distancing! The Phantom keeps himself sequestered beneath the Paris Opera House, and he doesn’t leave except to make necessary trips. He’s certainly not going out to restaurants or anything frivolous like that!

The Blue Spirit

In this country, there are a lot of protests happening–and rightfully so. Systemic racism has gone on far too long in the United States, and the continuing protests in cities across the nation are vital to helping end centuries of abuse. But please, remember to mask up before you go out to these events! After all, who could forget Prince Zuko’s turn as the mask-wearing Blue Spirit in Avatar: The Last Airbender? The mask helped protect both Zuko and Aang as they opposed the fascist Fire Nation and its oppression of other cultures and peoples. On top of its other benefits, the Blue Spirit mask also helped Zuko protect his identity while he was opposing his corrupt government, which is just an interesting bonus that I’m mentioning for no specific reason. Sure, sure–Zuko was acting more out of his own interest than a genuine desire to tear down the power structures of the Fire Nation, but it’s still a great example of how effective masks can be.

Char Aznable

You didn’t think I was going to write a whole piece on iconic masked figures and not include Char, did you? When it comes to masked men (and I am focusing on men in this post, because for some dumb reason my gender feels like their hyper-masculine identity is threatened by a small piece of cloth) there’s no better example than the Red Comet. Okay, yes, he’s got the same problem as the Phantom in that his particular mask won’t actually stop the spread of droplets. That’s an issue. But you know what? I don’t think he’d have any problem fixing that if it were pointed out to him. After all, when Lalah asks him to start wearing a protective normal suit during space engagements, he does so without hesitation, because at the end of the day he’s a pretty considerate dude. But what really earns Char a spot on this list isn’t just his mask-wearing; it’s his ability to inspire others to wear masks. Char is perhaps the most influential mask-wearer in fiction; what started as a simple way to hide his identity from his political enemies has become a legacy spanning four decades and countless alternate timelines. Even our last entry, Zuko, was likely inspired to wear his Blue Spirit mask by Char! Remember: wearing a mask is great, but getting other people to mask up too is even better. The more of us wearing masks, the safer things get!

As you can see, there’s really no reason to not wear a mask. You’ll look cool, you’ll stay safe, and you’ll help out the people around you. If you can avoid going out, that’s perfect, but if you have to leave the house, for the love of God, put on a mask. It’s what Char Aznable would do, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for you.

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