Monday, July 31, 2017

Disfigured Villains In Films Harm Real People

Batman's nemesis Two-Face, the Harry Potter series' Lord Voldemort, and Wonder Woman's Dr. Poison-- all of them are villains, and they all have disfigured faces. It's a common trope in fiction to show the internal ugliness of a character's evil deeds and thoughts be reflected by giving the character facial disfigurement. Popular culture reflects the world around us, which society reflects back, creating a feedback loop that further reinforces harmful stereotypes and makes the lives of people with facial disfigurements worse, because audiences have internalized these messages. In an interview with Brendon Connelly, when asked why so many James Bond villains have disfigurements, James Bond producer Michael G. Wilson said it was meant to honor the narrative device that Bond novel author Ian Fleming employed, "the idea that physical deformity and personality deformity go hand in hand in some of these villains.”

Writing for Teen Vogue, Alaine Leary outlines how Wonder Woman's Dr. Poison portrayal feeds into that idea and reinforces an already painful stigma for people with facial disfigurements:
Dr. Poison falls into the easy trope that suggests disability — and in this case, specifically facial disfigurement — means that a character is evil. We never find out Dr. Poison’s backstory and whether her facial scarring caused her to become a villain or happened after she already was one, but the message is the same: We should be afraid of people whose faces and bodies are different from our own... When we pigeonhole disabled characters into basic roles that are easily defined, such as sympathetic and pitiable or villainous and evil, we’re reinforcing the idea that disabled people don’t live full, meaningful lives the same way non-disabled people do. We need more media that offers a diverse perspective on disability and facial disfigurement, and doesn’t just boil our vast experiences down to a plot point.
Ariel Henley, an author with Crouzon Syndrome, has also talked about how Dr. Poison affects her as a person with facial disfigurement, saying "As someone with a facial difference,... [t]he only evil most of us have experienced has been at the hands of a society that refuses to accept us."

Honestly, I agree. The idea of someone's outward appearance reflecting anything about that person's inner life and worth is junk, and the "Evil Makes You Ugly" trope is cliched, lazy, harmful nonsense that had worn out its welcome ages ago.

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