Charity for disfigurement calls for warnings about portrayals in horror films | Ents & Arts News


A charity has called on streaming sites such as Netflix, Apple TV and Disney+ to include an on-screen warning before showing negative stereotypes about disfigurement.

Changing Faces, a UK charity representing those with disfigurement or visible difference, has written to broadcasters and streaming services warning about the negative portrayals of people with disfigurement in horror films in the run-up to Halloween.

“Halloween is a particularly stressful time for some people with visible differences, where villainous characters with scars, marks, burns or conditions are often recreated as costumes, just as they become conditions of abuse in everyday life,” the letter states.

Many are eagerly awaiting Rami Malek's appearance as the villain Safin.  Image: Universal
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Rami Malek as the villain Safin in the James Bond film No Time To Die Pic: Universal

The charity said dozens of films, from the 1970s to the present, “portraying evil characters” are planned in the run-up to Halloween. NetflixAmazon Prime, Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, All 4 and ITVX.

“We have contacted the content managers of these streaming platforms with a number of questions,” the letter says.

“Consider updating information on individual film listings to include a description in the copy highlighting that the film contains a negative portrayal of those with visible differences.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, the origin story of the Clown Prince Of Crime
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Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, the origin story of the Clown Prince Of Crime

“Consider embedding an on-screen warning before the film plays highlighting that the film contains harmful tropes that portray negative perceptions of those with visible differences,” it suggested.

“Consider signs in support of those affected or seek more information about the experiences of those with visible differences at the end of the film.”

Evil characters with disfigurements are a common trope in film history.

More villains in James BondThe Joker and killers Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger from the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises all have facial scars or disfigurements.

Michael Myers (aka The Shape) in Halloween Ends directed by David Gordon Green
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Michael Myers (aka The Shape) in Halloween Ends

Heather Blake, Chief Executive of Changing Faces, said: “We know Halloween can be an anxious time for those with visible differences.

“The film industry plays a role in this by reinforcing old-fashioned and harmful stereotypes. These carry over into the everyday lives of those with visible differences in ways that can have a lasting impact.”

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She added: “Streaming platforms can help raise awareness and move the industry forward by acknowledging these film stereotypes, for example by adding a warning to content explaining that these are present and harmful to those with visible differences.”

The letter is part of the charity’s I Am Not Your Villain campaign, which was launched in 2018 with support from the British Film Institute.

The BFI said it would no longer fund films where villains appear with facial scarring.


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