Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Mask: (Part II).
The persona is a fascinating and important aspect of the mask. In fact, it probably comes closest to what most people would mean by mask: something which is manufactured and distant from its creator. In Jungian psychology, the persona is not part of psyche’s processes, but an archetypal figure; not the soul speaking as it were, but a figure of speech. For Jung, the persona belonged with the Anima and Animus, but it did not interest him as much as these deep, life-enhancing images. Why? Because they belonged to the deep whereas the persona belonged to the surface. I imagine my idea of the persona by thinking back to childhood, back to a time when I am floating on my back in the sea whilst looking up at my father. I know that I am in touch with something enormous, the Ocean, but what I show to my father is the mask that he wants to see: I am happy. I gaze with a fixed-expression that hides whatever thoughts are truly mine. My thoughts are partial, but the mask is complete. Because of its completeness, the mask is safe. Jung, like the watching father in my image, looked down on the persona. It was satisfying. It was also false. And yet accepted. Because self-satisfaction is so important, feeling certain wins over the alternative, the acceptance of multiple anxieties.

Artifice is far safer. The persona is a second face made in response to society. To use the original meaning of persona: it is an actor’s mask which functions within a play— a modern social documentary. It is part of a story, with facts and events, a fixed face that allows a person to adapt to changing events and survive the outside world. The world demands certain things, the individual struggles to reply, so the persona steps in to answer and say what is needed. The persona is a double protection. Not only does it keep the outside at bay but it also avoids pressures whereby the individual might have to turn his or her face inside out and look inwardly at truth.

This concept of distanced and moderating second-self is present in many modern day uses of persona.

Persona is a network communication system—an alternative reality, one that can be selected.
It is a method of contraception—it controls and intervenes, removes from life.
It is a security device—it locks away, can only be opened with a personal image.
It is a novelist’s second voice—not a character, but a second consciousness that is separate from the author.
It is a cosmetic brand—an applied screen that makes the self attractive to the outside world.
It is a robotic devise—an artifice that mimics its owner.
It is a clear and manufactured product-image: it is purposely designed to be accepted and purchased.

The way that the word has extended its meaning truly shows the method of the persona. The persona merges with society.


Unsane said...

Do you think that certain cultures make more use of the persona than others?

eshuneutics said...

Now that is a far-reaching question! Ohhhhhhhhh! Strangely, I have just been re-reading Fanon, as you have. You'll know why. A debate comes to mind from many years ago about irony as a disease of poetry. Irony, I suspect, is a function of the mask. I find DCM difficult because he is so direct: against my ironic sensibility. The mask, as we both know, is a global symbol, but I do suspect that the
narrowest sense of persona is not as widespread and--yes--more important to certain cultures.