Anne T. Donahue
February 05, 2015 12:09 pm

I claim to have real feelings for Leo. I tweet at him. I have a fan book from 1997 that I found in a Value Village. I saw Romeo + Juliet a couple weeks ago in a movie theatre, thanks. I get Leo. I know Leo. I’ve even accepted his cargo shorts.

But what I can’t accept is how long it’s taken me to write about a movie I saw a freakish number of times despite it hurting my soul: The Man in the Iron Mask, aka a movie about a man, an iron mask, and another man. Also: a wig.

Oh man, that wig. That hair. Those layers. I felt like AJ in Empire Records declaring his love to Cory: “If I can love her in that skirt, I must really love her.” Same story for me and the wig. Unfortunately, I did not have Twitter in 1998, so he never learned my true feelings, and he was forced to date models from then until now.

But that’s just one of many things I learned from this movie (although, let’s be honest, it was the main one).

Leonardo DiCaprio‘s wig was the true star of this film

Look at that wig. LOOK. AT. IT. Look. It’s so textured. It’s got so many dimensions. But most importantly: why are the sides slicked back? WHY ARE THE SIDES SLICKED BACK? I remember asking that out loud to myself as a 13-year-old girl. Were they pinned? Did he use gel? I could’ve accepted the hair had it not been for the sides. WHY ARE THEY SLICKED BACK.

Not even a bobby pin. Not even a hair elastic. I would break up with a guy if he did that, and I’m not joking. I am very shallow, but also, it terrifies me.

This movie wasn’t about history, it was about helping us love something as much as Titanic

Let me take you back. The year was 1998. The month? September. Titanic had been available on VHS for a few months, and WHOOP THERE IT IS: The Man in the Iron Mask available right next to it. In fact, this movie came out in theatres in March, shortly after Titanic‘s initial release. Why? Because that’s when it was scheduled for release. But ALSO: because they knew we loved Leo. They knew we needed more Leo. And by the time fall rolled around, The Man in the Iron Mask helped us transition from Titanic to what would be Celebrity and the other movies I don’t think I saw because they were rated R and/or just looked bad.

EITHER WAY. Without The Man in the Iron Mask, we would’ve suffered. We would’ve gone through a withdrawal of which no human being had ever known. I watched this movie every time I babysat my cousin, courtesy of my aunt and uncle’s satellite dish, and I was grateful. Why, again? Because Titanic took EONS to get a satellite/pay-per-view release, and I had to honor my boyfriend and his slicked back wig. (Alternate title: The Man in the Iron Mask: Not Titanic.)

Leo can act 

And, well, duh. But think about it: for one half of the movie, he’s the kind and innocent Man in the Iron Mask, and for the other half, he’s that hateful king, Louis, who is the *~literal worst~*. Frankly, THE MAN COULD ACT. Did I recognize that? Absolutely not. I noticed the wig and hoped he hadn’t grown out his actual hair, IRL. Did the critics recognize his immense ability? Absolutely not. The only thing that evades our dear Leo is an Oscar. Did anybody? Not really, because the movie didn’t do particularly well. But this is our “WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN” moment. HE ACTED LIKE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. He pulled an Orphan Black, but less complicated. And all we gave him was grief (and complimentary cargo pants, I think). The fault was ours for not recognizing this earlier.

Approximately zero of us would do well in the French court

Why? Because you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Take Louis’ brief girlfriend, aka the woman he FORCES to be with him by KILLING HER FIANCE. That, as a woman, is her only choice: be with Louis or die. And so she chooses death. Ultimately, regardless of your position, you’re either in or you’re out, and even a smidgeon of out means your life probably will stop being a thing that exists.

And all of us opinionated humans would probably hate that set-up. Which means we would not survive. Further backing up my Knight’s Tale theory that the only acceptable era to want to live in is this one.

Truly, Louis and Philippe (aka the Man in the Iron Mask) are the Marcia and Jan of French history

And that is a fact that will FOR SURE lead to you failing history class, so please don’t quote me. But at the same time, I’m totally right: in the end, after D’Artagnan dies, Philippe a.k.a Jan becomes king, and, despite how TERRIBLE Louis has been to him, pardons him fully and gives him a house. How end of A Very Brady Sequel is that? (#SureJan) Only Jan—and Philippe—would forgive their siblings for a LIFETIME OF WOE. This isn’t The Lion King. This isn’t . . . some superhero movie. This is some serious Brady magic. Or madness.

Either way, here’s another thing I learned: you will cry at the end of this movie. I don’t know why. You don’t even get attached to the characters until D’Artagnan’s funeral. And yet, boom: you find out Philippe gave Louis a country house, got the throne, and became a wonderful king and that he’s finally not living with an iron mask on his face anymore. AND HERE COME THE WATER WORKS.

So blurry from the tears that I won’t even ask the most obvious question: as he grew, did they just give him a new mask, or what? And what if he had a runny nose?

OKAY, I’M DONE. Leo, please call me.

(Images via, via, via, viavia, via, via.)

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