Superhero Masks Don’t Make Sense Anymore

By Robert Scucci | Published

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A common thread in superhero movies is the fact that many of them wear masks to conceal their “secret identities.” But if the MCU has taught us anything, it’s that wearing a mask doesn’t really make sense because most people within this universe are fully aware of their secret identities.

In other words, superhero masks seem more like an aesthetic choice or an opportunity for brand recognition rather than a means of concealment.

Starting With Iron Man

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If you need an example to illustrate this point, all you need to do is watch Iron Man, in which Tony Stark proudly proclaims “I am Iron Man” during a press conference.

In the context of saving face (pun intended), Iron Man definitely needs to wear a mask for functional purposes (surviving getting shot in the face, for example), but that’s the only reason.

Everybody knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man because Tony Stark wanted to be transparent about his identity from the beginning.

The Avengers Don’t Need Masks

It goes without question that superhero masks have important functions in certain applications, but they really don’t need to be designed in a way that obscures the face of whose identity they’re supposedly trying to protect.

The cat’s also out of the bag for most of the Avengers; Hawkeye and Black Widow are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America has an entire museum dedicated to his legacy, and Thor is … Thor. What’s more, Ant-Man is a known criminal so his identity is well-documented, meaning he doesn’t really need to be wearing a mask either.

Even Spider-Man Isn’t A Secret

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Looking back at Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, which predates the MCU, Peter Parker’s identity wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret either.

Though Peter Parker had a great reason to conceal his identity early on (to protect his loved ones from harm), there were dozens of witnesses on the train car in Spider-Man 2 who saw the superhero without his mask.

This raises the question: when a superhero’s identity is figured out, why do they still keep wearing masks?

Only Brand Recognition

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There’s only one good reason for superheroes to wear masks, and that’s because they signify that help is on the way (brand recognition).

If I were getting attacked by a bunch of thugs on the streets, I’d feel so much more at ease knowing that Spider-Man was on his way to save the day instead of some high school student whose biggest problem in his civilian life is getting his homework done.

Just Be Superheroes First

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Conversely, if Peter Parker just started blasting webs out of his hands and throwing haymakers in the name of justice, I think I’d be okay with it because my primary motivation is getting out of immediate danger.

In other words, Spider-Man, and every other superhero for that matter, don’t need masks if they’re able to demonstrate why they’re superheroes in the first place.

Larger Than Life

But still, superhero masks look cool, so it’s safe to assume that the primary reason for adhering to this genre convention is to make everybody seem larger than life.

At the end of the day, superheroes don’t need to wear masks anymore, but watching a bunch of regular looking people fight crime isn’t really appealing to the senses either.

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