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What Villains With Facial Differences Mean For People With Facial Differences

The U.K. charity Changing Faces recast some of movie's most famous heroes as people with facial differences for its campaign, "I Am Not Your Villain."
The U.K. charity Changing Faces recast some of movie's most famous heroes as people with facial differences for its campaign, "I Am Not Your Villain."

During a recent conversation on 1A (our monthly “Hit List” about what’s new in movies, TV, and music), our panel of guests talked about the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die.”

But a 1A listener pointed out something missing from the conversation.

— Ric Frazier (@ricfrazier) October 1, 2021

Indeed, the main villain in the new Bond film, Safin, has scars covering his face. Many past Bond villains also have facial differences, including Le Chiffre, Jaws, Emilio Largo, Alec Trevelyan, Zao, and Raoul Silva.

The trope isn’t just limited to the Bond films. In Disney’s “Black Widow,” the main villain is revealed to have facial scarring covering her face. The same is true of the villain in “Wonder Woman,” and even “The Lion King,” in which the villainous Scar is literally named for his facial difference.

People with facial differences are speaking up about the harmful impact of being vilified on screen.

Every time a new James Bond film is made, the producers are asked to reconsider their representation of disfigurement. Every time, they say they don’t care. The new film, out this week, is no exception. This time, two villains with facial disfigurements. Lucky us. pic.twitter.com/94KhvZLdJw

— Jen Campbell (is mostly elsewhere) (@jenvcampbell) September 28, 2021

Changing Faces is an organization in the U.K. pushing the film industry to change the way it represents facial differences on-screen through the campaign “I Am Not Your Villain.”

Why does the trope persist? And what does it mean for people with facial differences?

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5