Do you know what Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Scar, Lord Voldemort and the Joker have in common? Aside from being some of Hollywood’s most infamous villains, they all sport visible differences, which is to say that every one of them has some sort of facial aberration, burn or scar. Of course, you may not have given this much thought. These are fictional characters, after all. However, a new campaign — dubbed the “#IAmNotYourVillain” campaign — is calling for people in the film industry “to stop using scars, burns or marks as shorthand for villainy,” as they unintentionally imply physical differences make one strange, creepy or evil.
The campaign is the brainchild of Changing Faces, a U.K. nonprofit that provides support to people living with visible differences, and organizers hope the initiative will eliminate the stigma associated with these differences, especially for 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’ chief executive, told The Telegraph.
Of course, many would argue these differences are key plot points and/or a part of the character’s arc — Darth Vader, for example, only becomes “deformed” after falling into lava and turning to the Dark Side — however, this is the problem, as the unmarred Anakin Skywalker was a strong Jedi, husband and father, while the altered Darth Vader is pure evil. There is nothing but blackness in his heart.
The good news is the campaign is already gaining traction. Earlier this week, the British Film Institute announced they will no longer fund films that include facially scarred villains.
“Film 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,” Ben Roberts, BFI’s deputy CEO, told The Telegraph.
Roberts also called on fellow studios to follow suit. “This campaign speaks directly to the criteria in the BFI diversity standards, which call for meaningful representations on screen. We fully support Changing Faces’s #IAmNotYourVillain campaign, and urge the rest of the film industry to do the same.”
That said, reactions appear to be mixed. While many support the initiative, others believe it is baseless and may actually lead to exclusion for actors with facial differences.
British Film Institute says it will no longer fund films which star villains with facial scarring https://t.co/zicGcX0fNI
— Philippa 🏳️🌈 (@incurablehippie) November 28, 2018
#IAmNotYourVillain Has to be one of the single dumbest things I have ever seen in my entire life. Anyone involved with making this a thing should be ashamed for being so damn stupid.
— Riley's Den (@DenofRiley) November 30, 2018
Damnit @FaceEquality, segregation and disinclusion does not bring about equality! Did you learn nothing from the civil rights movement? The #iamnotyourvillain campaign doesn't fix the problem with typecasting but rather causes disinclusion for many actors.
— Spoiler Alert: Everyone Dies (@GodDoesntMatter) November 30, 2018
That said, we firmly believe the best way to elicit change is to start a conversation. So kudos, Changing Faces, because you have done just that.