With the donning of a black mask and the whipwhipwhip of a dainty sword, Don Diego becomes Zorro– saving the pueblo from the evil Monastario and leaving a trail of caped, mustachioed “Zorro Imposters” in his wake. “Who is the real Zorro?” is a theme that runs throughout this 1960 live action film. Nobody knows the identity of the real Zorro, not his father as he looks into his own son’s masked eyes, nor the eager townsfolk, nor the guards shooting at Diego’s wingman dressed as Zorro to defer suspicions about his master’s identity. The tyrant Monastario certainly doesn’t know either as he flounders his way through finding him. He never does, in fact.
This film, come to find out, is comprised of segments cut from the 1957 television series, “Zorro”. As a first time viewer, I couldn’t really tell. At the same time, I wasn’t surprised by this trick as the plot did seem to rise and mend around small conflicts in quick succession. The effect was light and fun, the only downside being that I only got to hear the Zorro theme song once.
Answering the question, “Who is the real Zorro?”, is one that doesn’t need a cantina sword fight brawl to solve. Zorro is a facade. Not an alter-ego, but a mere disguise. He’s great with a sword and he saves the day. Don Diego hides behind a disguise to do good because he doesn’t need the accolades. He seeks the outcome, not the credit. Give Zorro the glory because Don Diego is just pleased the job is done. So who is Zorro? Someone serving justice for justice’s sake. Someone serving quietly. An anonymous do-gooder who finds acknowledgment can get in the way. In my years teaching students who have disabilities, I have been the recipient of well-intentioned praise from strangers who have never seen me teach. “It takes a saint to do what you do.” “You are an amazing person to work with those kids.” Or what I have deemed the most cringeworthy: “It takes a special person to teach Special Ed.” I’m always quick to shirk away from these statements because they glorify me and portray my students as kids whose challenges outweigh their strengths. Sometimes we’re all better off without the applause, especially when it feels misguided, because it’s not why we do what we do. What I’m saying is, I see what Don Diego had in mind. And I’ve learned a thing or two this year about wearing a cute mask while I get the job done.