Changing Lives: Albinism in the Media, Part II

By: Rachel

Changing Lives: Albinism in the Media, Part II

Albinism in Movies

If music educates people about what albinism is like in the lives of certain people, movies perhaps have even more influence—although this influence is often used to promote stereotypes and stigmas about albinism. In a study comparing media heroes and villains, Croley, Reese, and Wagner (2017) find more “dermatologic conditions found in disproportionate frequencies” for the villains. Not only is this a recent phenomenon, but the researchers point out, “Classic dermatologic features of villainous characters include facial scars . . . periorbital hyperpigmentation . . . and albinism or gray-hued complexions. These visual cues evoke in the audience apprehension or fear of the unfamiliar and provide a perceptible parallel to the villainous character’s inward corruption.”

Truly, albinism is rarely, if ever, seen in fictitious media as positive. Stereotypes may bring humor and laughs, but they irreparably damage those being laughed at. Portraying overweight people as silly, people with schizophrenia as crazy and harmful, and people with albinism as evil will not assist the dismantling of stereotypes that culture needs in order to focus on helping and integrating people with disabilities rather than shunning them.

Specifically, “Typical depictions include characters with albinism that act as assassins, are scary, have silly nicknames, dress entirely in white, and/or have health problems beyond their albinism” (Croley, Reese, and Wagner, 2017). Negative albinistic representations have been in media 68 times from 1960-2006 (Figure 2). These stereotypes have been contested by the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH).

“The Albino” in Princess Bride

Silas in The Da Vinci Code

Figure 2. Evil depictions of people with albinism and/or hypopigmentation in movies (Croley, Reese, and Wagner, 2017)

The characters in Figure 2 represent evil characters that influence what people think when they hear the words “albinism” or “albino person.” Unfortunately, these ideas replace the facts about albinism. To combat these heart-breaking depictions, I hope to see people who have friends with albinism purposely engage in conversations about what albinism actually is. Even though I am offended by Princess Bride, that does not mean that others should stop watching it and laughing at the humor in it. Perhaps it does mean that after the movie, someone could bring up a conversation about albinism not being “weird” and that it actually causes visual impairments rather than evil personalities. Overall, movies have an extreme amount of power to influence people’s perceptions, and conversations about the portrayals can start alleviating misinformation.


One Comment

  1. Kiersten Zhang February 18, 2018 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I am not familiar with albinism, so the information you have is very helpful!

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