With villains so often stereotyped by their visual differences, Label Volunteer, Bhavika Khurana, explores this archetype, its origins, and why it is repeatedly seen in the James Bond franchise.
In her article “How to Make a Villain”, veteran writer, Darcy Pattison postulates the two inherent money-making clichés of villainy in literature and film: the charming and suave fiend vs the grotesque and abhorrent reprobate. Truthfully, history proves her right. The most iconic villains fall into one or the other category and, while both could and have prompted lengthy dissertations on their relevance, in light of the much-awaited James Bond movie currently in theatres, I’m tackling the latter.
The underlying ableist mindset that associates deformity with villainy is an unfortunate by-product of disability being seen as an error to be corrected instead of an outcome of human evolution and diversity. Consequently, defacement or ugliness has often been used by filmmakers to hint at the deeper failings of their characters. The iconic auteur, Stanley Kubrick, famously disabled the character of Dr Strangelove to allude to his fascism. The unfortunate result is a vicious self-fuelling cycle that has viewers hardwired into drawing parallels between the physicalities of characters and the symbolism we have been trained through high school to look for.
This brings us back to my muse, the franchise that launched a bevy of not-so-pretty faces. James Bond films have often fallen prey to the lazy use of facial disfigurements much to the chagrin of disability campaigners everywhere, and the newest movie has doubled this phenomenon. But beyond the infamy of trope-ridden writing, there are negative social impacts to consider. Otherism cultivates a defamatory view of diversions from the perceived norm and perpetuates harmful prejudices. Nobody expects all villains to uphold every classic standard of beauty and good health, however we also don’t need our heroes to. Frida Kahlo, John Nash and Stephen Hawking are all remarkable real life heroes and, as such, deserve to be the inspiration for equally exceptional protagonists in media beyond biopics and in mainstream fiction.
Being a best-selling author, Ms Pattison most certainly knows a thing or two more than me regarding popular media, however, I firmly believe we can do better. Personally, a scarred knight-in-shining-armour seems like a media staple my lizard-brain can get behind.
Link to Darcy Pattison’s article here.
Article written by Bhavika Khurana.
Edited by Rebecca Pearson.