Hello, hello, hello! Welcome back to Learning the Lessons of the Twilight Zone. I’m having fun, are you? 😛 The second episode we’re going to be learning from is The Masks (S5E25). Warning: There will be spoilers.
We all wear masks. Metaphorically, the masks are there to hide those qualities of ourselves that we really don’t want people to see. Sometimes we wear these masks for good and sometimes we wear them for bad. Sometimes they help, sometimes they hurt, but we all know we hide behind them. In The Twilight Zone, the fifth season episode The Masks takes this idea and turns it around to where those masks that we wear can become physical manifestations of what we know. Before I get to that, let me tell you about the episode first.
The place? New Orleans. The time? Mardi Gras. Who doesn’t like to party with the best of them? But there’s no time to party when you have some unfinished business to attend to. The Masks starts off with a dying man. More importantly, it starts off with a rich dying man. Jason Foster is this man and he’s waiting to walk through death’s door at any moment. Before he does, he calls together his family for one last hurrah before he goes into the light. And let me tell you, this family is quite something when put together. Jason’s daughter, Emily Harper, is a wallowing hypochondriac. Wilfred, her husband, is a greedy business dude with skeevy ways about him. Of their two children, Paula is a self-indulgent narcissistic girl and Wilfred Jr. is basically in the beginnings of being a serial killer. He likes to torture animals and people and is a very big bully in general. Jason’s family is set to inherit a huge fortune, each and every one of them, but there’s a catch. They must stay with him in his house that Mardi Gras night and wear masks. These are special types of masks though. Remember that character traits I told you about? Jason sarcastically warns they will wear the face that is “the opposite of what’s inside them”, but little do they know what they’ll find when they take them off.
This episode of The Twilight Zone is a cool one and never fails to make me laugh. It’s a pretty straight-forward episode, but still gives you that mighty twist at the end. A small fun fact about The Masks before we get into the lesson. This is the only episode of The Twilight Zone to be directed by a woman. I kid you not. Ida Lupino was a actress, singer, producer and director who made her debut in the episode “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” (S1E4). She played a woman stuck in her golden days of film. This wasn’t her first directing credit, but a first for The Twilight Zone because she was the only one as well to both act and direct an episode for the show. Cool, huh?
The Lesson: We, as humans, tend to hide behind a mask for many different reasons, but if you’re paying close attention to this episode, you can be in real trouble for what you hide behind. Our awesome host knows of his family’s greed, deception and lies. He knows that the only reason they’re in his presence is to get his inheritance. He knows that in order for them to truly find out who they are on the inside, he has to make a way for THEM to truly find out what they are. Jason presents these masks in a way that still makes me laugh. The story behind the masks was important, so if you were confused before, let me break this down for you really quick.
According to Jason, the masks were created by an old cajun. They have “certain properties” about them and have to be worn during a Mardi Gras. The ritual to this is that they have to pick a mask that is the opposite of the personality they have. Jason introduces the masks to his family, but tells them what they are and what they’re the opposite of. Wilfred thinks of himself as a friendly, outgoing and extroverted man, so he’s equipped with the mask that shows greed, avarice and cruelty. He “thinks” of Emily as brave and courageous because she’s standing so tall with his being sick. *cough cough* sarcasm *cough cough* He gives her a mask of self-centeredness and being gutless. He deems Paula beautiful and selfless and gives her a mask of vanity and ugliness to put on. Last, but not least, is Wilfred Jr. who Jason says is timid, gentle and courteous, but gives him the face of a dull clown that dimwitted and not too bright. Oh, and his face? He wears the mask of Death because it’s right at his door. Very clever, huh?
Now back to the lesson, Jason knows damn well that his family is out for one thing and one thing only and that brings us to the end of the episode. He tells the family about their true natures and basically tells them to go f*ck themselves. He basically tells them that they finally get his money, but each of them are so ugly inside that he really needed to teach them a lesson. They’re all caricatures.
After our favorite dude dies, they rejoice. They’re rich now, they’re going to be rich for a very long time, but now it’s time to take the masks off. Wilfred unveils himself first still happy and in glee. Emily shrieks. Wilfred being confused, we, the audience, see his face for the first time, it’s the same face as the mask he was wearing. The greed, avarice and cruelty is permanently on his face now, leaving him with the ugliness that was inside of him. This includes the other family members too. All of them, one by one, take off their masks to reveal that was truly inside of them manifested to the surface. The Masks teaches us about the ugliness that can surface inside of us. One of the many main takeaways from this episode is that you should never be ugly on the inside. The mask that you wear and show to people should be one that you show all the time. Don’t be a caricature of yourself. The mask that you show can become a physical manifestations of what you truly are. Also, just… don’t be a dick dude.
Check out other instalments in this series below: