Scars have long been a cinematic shorthand for two things: Past trauma and, as is often the case with fearsome villains, one’s ability to withstand and rebound from extreme violence. In the latter instance, the argument can be extended to say that scarring represents a fundamental change of character, a shift from good to evil. While that can be effective or, in the case of The Dark Knight’s Joker, exploited for ambiguity, it also carries with it an outdated stigma, one the British Film Institute is hoping to help eradicate.
The BFI has linked up with the #IAmNotYourVillain campaign launched by Changing Faces, an organization that works to shatter preconceived beliefs around those with disfigurements. As such, the BFI will no longer provide funding to films that slap facial scars on their mustache-twirling baddies, a trend that, if we’re being honest, is tired as hell anyways.
“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,” says Ben Roberts, the BFI’s deputy CEO. “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.”
To demonstrate their commitment to the movement, the BFI has provided financial backing to Dirty God, a new film about a woman reentering society after recovering from an acid attack. It stars Vicky Knight, herself a burn survivor.
Becky Hewitt, Changing Faces’ chief executive, adds, “The film industry has such power to influence the public with its representation of diversity, and yet films use scars and looking different as a shorthand for villainy far too often.”
Well, Disney must be feeling a little awkward right now.