There’s a long history of characters in books, movies, TV shows, and things like that trying to hide their true identities for one reason or another. Some classic examples include the Lone Ranger, Zorro, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Elastigirl, Dread Pirate Roberts, and Robin. They go about it by putting a mask over their eyes. I don’t know where this convention started, but we’ve all become mask experts over the last couple of years, and I’ve realized that they are doing it wrong.
When a person wears a mask over their eyes, they still look like themselves. Everyone can see the nose, cheeks, jawline, and lips. That’s what really make faces distinctive. A mask over the nose and mouth, on the other hand, is a brilliant disguise. All you can see is eyes, forehead, and hair. Hair changes all the time, so that doesn’t help much for identification. And it turns out that lots and lots of people have very similar eyes and foreheads.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve seen repeatedly over the last two years with their masks on and gotten to know them pretty well. Then, when I see them for the first time without their masks, I literally don’t recognize them. A cowl never kept Batman from looking like Bruce Wayne. But surgical masks make us all anonymous.
Looking back, this should have been obvious all along. People pick on Superman all the time because his disguise is just a pair of glasses. (Wonder Woman does the glasses thing, too, but no one ever comments on it. Of course, her real disguise is distracting everyone by stripping down to a corset.) That’s no worse than Black Lightning’s goggles, though. Think about it. People wear sunglasses all the time and we never get confused by them. Not even the giant, bug-eye ones.
I’m glad COVID taught us this lesson. It certainly doesn’t make the pandemic worthwhile, but at least I have one positive thing I can take away from all this. I now know how to see through a superhero’s disguise.