Visible Difference & Disfigurement in the Arts
In the wake of the 2023 awards season which was almost entirely devoid of positive, accurate, authentic representation of people with disfigurements and visible differences, we’re calling upon the entertainment industry to prevent further marginalization of the visible and facial difference community.
An open letter
Face Equality International, together with a team of experts, has put together a Position Paper and Open Letter to challenge the absence or misrepresentation of the visible and facial difference community in film, TV and the arts.
- Disfigurement has historically been used as a character device, often through use of prosthetics to indicate immorality or vulnerability.
- There are four damaging tropes that dominate the entertainment industry. People who look different are largely portrayed as victims, villains, vigilantes or outcasts, causing real-life harm to this neglected community. From discrimination in the workplace to bullying in schools, these stereotypes lead to real-life abuse of people with disfigurements.
- Using the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains, researchers at the University of Texas found that 60% of the all-time top 10 American film villains have skin conditions including alopecia, facial scars, verruca vulgaris, and bulbous noses. In contrast, 0% of the top 10 heroes have similar conditions.
- In 2021, Changing Faces research conducted by Savanta ComRes found that three quarters of respondents (74%) thought popular culture was changing to be more inclusive, but that people with visible differences were being left behind. The same survey also reported the long-term impact of the lack of representation on people with visible differences, with a third having low levels of confidence and 2 in 10 having low self-esteem.
View the Open Letter & Download the Position Paper
“Media representation can truly shape societal attitudes for the better; when harnessed correctly. The facial difference community deserve to have their true, multi-faceted, real-life stories told. This is a critical issue for Face Equality International, and so we will do all we can to turn the tide on the disproportionately negative representation of facial difference; something we currently see all too often.”
Phyllida Swift, CEO of Face Equality International
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International Media Standard on disfigurement
Developed by: Face Equality International
The International Media Standard supports responsible media organizations and professionals to show respect and care for individuals who live with a facial difference or disfigurement.
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