New Campaign Aims to End the Problematic Way Physical Differences Are Shown in Movies


It’s common for movies to make a villain look “evil.” Unfortunately, this is often done through facial differences like scars or burns. A new campaign,  “I am not your villain,” is a call for people in the film industry “to stop using scars, burns or marks as shorthand for villainy.”

The campaign is from Changing Faces, a U.K. nonprofit which provides support to people living with “visible differences” on their faces or bodies. The move is in an attempt to eliminate stigma associated with facial differences. Using physical differences to imply evilness or creepiness is a connection that can transfer over for some, especially younger children.

“It’s particularly worrying to see that children don’t tend to make this association until they are exposed to films that influence their attitudes towards disfigurement in a profoundly negative way,” Becky Hewitt, Changing Faces’s chief executive, told The Telegraph.

Many films use facial differences for villains as a way of making the characters seem “scarier” or more intimidating. Examples include Scar from “The Lion King,” the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” and Freddy Kreuger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Disability and facial or body differences are sometimes used as an arc for a character. A character becomes a villain because they become disabled or have a visible difference. One such character is Two-Face from multiple “Batman” movies. Harvey Dent, Two-Face’s name before half his face was burned with acid, was a successful lawyer. After the injury to his face, Two-Face begins committing crimes and has a “fractured mental state.” 

In support of the nonprofit’s campaign, the British Film Institute (BFI) will no longer fund films that use characters with facial differences as villains, according to The Telegraph.

“Film has such a powerful influence on society,” said Ben Roberts, the film fund director at BFI. “It enables us to see the world in new ways, enriches lives and can make a vital contribution to our wellbeing. It also is a catalyst for change and that is why we are committing to not having negative representations depicted through scars or facial difference in the films we fund.”

In addition to the #IAmNotYourVillain campaign, BFI has also set “inclusion targets” for films they’re involved in. This includes a target to include more people with disabilities in projects it funds and people it employs. The initiative also includes efforts to address other diversity issues such as race, gender and LGBTQ representation.

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