Thanks to a successful campaign by a charity for people with facial scars, burns, and disfigurements, the British Film Institute has announced that it will no longer fund through the National Lottery any films that feature villains with facial scars or disfigurements, seeing as how it promotes an untrue and weirdly pervasive stereotype.
Did Disney start all this with their warty, disfigured witches? In The Lion King they even had a villain named “Scar.” Anyway, The charity is called Changing Faces and their new campaign is called #IAmNotYourVillain:
“It’s astonishing to think that films have used visible difference as a shorthand for villainy so often and for so long,” BFI’s deputy CEO Ben Roberts said in a statement. “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.” [TheWrap]
This move feels like a win-win all around: the charity advocates for the end of an unfair stereotype, and moviegoers hopefully don’t have to see any more movies with such a lazy, shitty trope. That’s the thing about harmful stereotypes, they’re usually both offensive and bad writing. Imagine a version of Red Tails where we never see a sneering, scar-faced Nazi yell “Die, you foolish African!”
In honor of this wonderful first step, here are some other crappy movie tropes we could consider defunding.
The Clumsy But Relatable Heroine
Can women truly “have it all?” That debate rages on, but in movies, we know that a beautiful career women/high-powered business exec who will eventually find love generally has to fall down or spill coffee on herself or get her Blackberry stolen by an eagle in the first act so that audiences know she’s “relatable.” Sure, she somehow lives in what would be a $12 million apartment thanks to her job vaguely related to “magazines,” but because she slipped on black ice I know she’s just like me!
The Characters Literally Playing A Game Of Chess
I don’t know who this one is actually offensive to but it’s pretty much always a harbinger of a terrible movie. If you see the characters playing “a game of chess” in the opening scene of a movie that’s not about chess, go get your refund while you can, because that movie is bad.
Someone Having A Heartfelt Conversation With A Tombstone
I guess this is what people used to do in olden times? Go to a gravestone and tell the dead person all about your hopes and dreams and all the boring stuff you did that day? Nowadays you can just write on the dead person’s Facebook wall (dark, but you know it’s true). Again, this one is almost always a sign of a bad movie (Furious 7 brilliantly flipped it on its head when Letty smashed her own gravestone with a sledgehammer to show that she was actually alive. That ruled). Also, it’s offensive to the dead.
The Magical Negro
One of the granddaddies of crappy movie tropes is the one where white Hollywood stopped using its black characters as pure clowns or villains, Birth of a Nation-style, but instead turned them into old-timey, salt and peppered, wish-granting sorcerers of yesteryear. They may not know nothin’ bout no book learnin’, but boy can they deliver raspy wisdom in ungrammatical English. Which is maybe (?) less offensive, but twice as pedantic. If you want to see a masterpiece of the genre, check out Same Kind Of Different As Me on Netflix.