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Bad guys + facial scarring make for negative stereotype, says British Film Institute-backed campaign

Contributed by
Nov 30, 2018

Does Heath Ledger’s permanent Joker rictus somehow make his character more loathsome? Do Anakin’s horrific facial features suggest that Darth Vader’s even more flawed on the inside? And does the mark on Harry Potter’s wizarding forehead inadvertently betray some sinister beast within?

Setting itself against a movie culture that both vilifies and ennobles some of its most distinctive characters by making them memorable not only for their actions but their appearances, the British Film Institute is backing a nonprofit campaign that aims to separate movie villains from their facial scars — all in the name of doing away with what it perceives as a negative stereotype.

Via The Wrap, BFI has pledged to stop funding movies that feature evil characters who bear facial scars, as part of its alignment with Changing Faces, a British nonprofit that seeks to disassociate the stigma of facial scarring from suggestions of villainy. The charity “provides advice, support and psychosocial services to 1.3 million children, young people and adults in the U.K. with facial scarring, burns or marks,” the report notes.

While BFI and Changing Faces argue that facial differences automatically invite negative (and obviously unfair) judgment from the public, many movie fans have taken pride in identifying with facially scarred characters both good and bad. But BFI appears to argue that distinguishing facial marks are a one-way street when it comes to public perception.

“It’s astonishing to think that films have used visible difference as a shorthand for villainy so often and for so long. The time has come for this to stop. Changing Faces is doing an incredible job of changing attitudes towards disfigurement and making a positive impact on people’s lives and this campaign will enable people — from the film industry through to the public — to gain a better understanding of the lives of those with a visible difference,” BFI’s Ben Roberts said in a reported statement.

While it’s an idea that doubtless comes from an abundance of consideration, it might not sit well with all the heroes and good guys in cinematic history — from Thor with his eyepatch, to The Goonies swashbuckling Sloth, to The Princess Bride’s scarred Inigo Montoya, and beyond.

What do you think? Should only good guys in the movies be allowed the luxury of facial disfigurement? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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