A short film about a guy who removes all of his skin just to make his girlfriend happy? Something like that probably just exists for nothing more than the gross-out factor, right? Well, don’t be too sure.
Okay, so it’s a little gross. Still, there’s more going on in director Ben Aston’s little horror-drama than just the icky stuff (which is done extremely well, by the way). Writing in her paper, The Psychological Significance of the Skin from Freud to Today, Harvard University’s Jennifer van der Grinten suggests the following…
“The skin, the human body’s largest organ, exists as a physical barrier between the milieu intérieur of an organism and everything in the outside world… From a psychological standpoint, the skin demarcates the outer surface of the self and is the part of a person most readily accessible to the observant eye; it therefore appears to be the most appropriate site for the somatic transformation of subjective psychological contents.”
From there, van der Grinten moves into Freudian territory…
“As a semi-permeable membrane, the self exists as an ever-changing, quivering substance that exists only as a result of the physico-chemical reactions occurring between the biological substrate of the id and all of the events occurring in the outside world. In other worlds, the ego is the semi-permeable membrane that exists between the milieu interieur and the exterior world.”
Yeah, I’m not going to pretend to follow all of that. The gist of it appears to be that the ego is something of a psychic skin that acts as a barrier between the id and the exterior world. So, if you really want to get to a person’s id, that primitive and instinctive component of their personality, you have to remove their skin, so to speak.
Now, at the risk of over-generalizing, it’s probably safe to say that one of the common complaints among women is that their men don’t open up enough and let others see what is going on inside. So, wouldn’t it be great if men would just rip off that psychic skin and expose their inner selves to the world?
Maybe, maybe not. As an article at Psychology Today notes…
“Although men may not always know what they’re feeling, there’s one thing they’re sure about: They’re convinced they’re in a major double bind. Society encourages men to express their feelings, but when they do, their partners are often petrified, if not horrified. Women, they may believe, want their partners to show their feelings, but only certain feelings, and only in doses they can handle. In fact, results from numerous research studies—as well as clinical experience—tells us that men may be right to be wary of women who implore them to show their true feelings. Men who deviate from the traditional masculine norm by being emotionally expressive and talking about their fears are often judged as being poorly adjusted.”
So, yeah, removing your psychic skin just to make your lady happy can be a messy and unnerving thing. Just as happens in He Took His Skin Off For Me, the man becomes more vulnerable and it’s a lot more work for the woman to deal with. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be done. Just, you know, understand what you’re really getting into before the skin comes off. And by all means remember, as the ending of the short suggests, it can’t just be a one-way thing.