Friday The 13th (1980) - What Good Is A Hockey Mask Over A Disfigured Face?
Jason is a tortured soul. A child abandoned to the lake by those who were assigned to protect him. A drowned sack of boy bullied into a sociopath. Jason’s face was hidden beneath the white abject of a hockey mask.
Not just any hockey mask, the mask is a mask of a goalie. The protector of the net. The only player on the team who can manipulate the puck with his hands. The goalie is the last guardian against the score and the only one wearing a stylized mask.
What exactly does Mr. Vorhee’s share with the goalie? Is he guarding something? If so what? The mask does not hide either’s identities. The mask is the identity. The goalie’s mask is decorated to personify team spirit. Decorated with the team’s symbolism and icons. Jason’s mask is whitewashed and representative only of disassociation.
Jason has lost every trace of his self. Stripped of his ego, he is lodged firmly in a lost-ness. The mask personifies the separation from humanity. A mass produced and lazy Halloween costume. There is a sense in which Jason could have used anything to cover his face. A paper bag would do as well as anything. Jason’s objective is only to hide his birth defect.
But why does Jason care if horny teenagers react negatively to his fugly face? One the one hand, Jason has all the power. Not only does he carry the machete, but more of than not controls the terms of engagement. He sneakily shuffles up on his victims, killing them before they notice that they are not alone On the other hand, Jason’s vulnerability leaks forth when his mask is removed. As if somehow when Jason’s face is made visible he reconnected with the shame he is keen on disassociating from.
Jason’s childhood was punctuated with a series of personal horrors. He was made the target of perpetual bullying and teasing. Even the mildest manner child either joined in or stood as a bystander to cruelty. Jason came to know clearly the transference, he inspired in others. His face horrified children.
Jason’s face terrorizes by showing how shallow human empathy can be. Rather than seek to understand the young Jason, his peers ousted him from the community of peers and from his own humanity. This social rejection functioned by identifying and policing what is and is not accepted into the society of the playground.
The bullies reaffirmed their assumed superiority through public acts of cruelty. Using fear to police the peer group and secure their own sense of existence. By turning Jason into a victim, they elevate their presence. What the bullies did not plan for is Jason’s over-identification with his victimhood.
Jason’s mother, rather than putting him in therapy, supported Jason’s pathological decline. Donning the motif of avenging angel, Ms. Vorhee’s encodes her son’s narrative into the guts of unsuspecting teenagers. By rewriting Jason’s narrative in the blood of horny teenagers, she frees her son from the burden of being a totalized victim. By taking up his mother’s footsteps, Jason breaks free and disassociates from the cowering victim.
Freed, he establishes himself with a new kind of power. Unlike the bully, that seeks to continually reestablish victim/aggressor dynamic, Jason seeks a revolution in the production of victimhood. He seeks, not only, to create victims, but to escalate the victim into a martyr or tribute to his personal emancipation.
Jason taking the Hockey mask from Shelly’s possession was not just a coincidence. Shelly’s was all too aware of the impact that his face had on others. If you remember Shelly’s introduction into the plot, he was wearing mask reminiscent of something Michael Myers would wear, as he slowly walks towards his friends with a knife held high.
When Shelly is confronted about his rationale for his shocking and divisive behavior, he makes the case that is that it is better to be fully recognized as a freak than his really existing self. Is this not the same unstated rationale for Jason’s behavior? Better to be viewed as a malicious killer than as a fully embodied person. Because if either Jason or Shelly had to confront their really existing selves, they would be confronted with a horror stronger than the terror they inspire. Unsheathed of their disassociating visages, they would be left with the memories over-saturated with the pain only trauma can provide.