Disney’s Lone Ranger sparks anger as birth defect is used to make villain Butch Cavendish ‘look more evil’
Charities and community groups call for boycott as promotional material compares facial scars to not having a soul
Cleft palate support charities have hit out at Disney’s new summer blockbuster The Lone Ranger, amid accusations that the villain was given a birth defect to make him look more ‘evil’.
Disney’s promotional material for the film said of William Fichtner’s character Butch Cavendish: “Cavendish is a ruthless outlaw whose terribly scarred face is a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul.”
Fichtner told entertainment reporters that his “broken nose and cleft lip” made it easier to slip into his role, and meant he didn’t need to act any more evil because it was obvious from his face. The Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) issued a statement saying Disney was “cashing in on prejudice”, and urged its members to lodge complaints with the film’s producers.
The character’s scarred upper lip was added during hours of make-up, and the focus on Butch Cavendish’s appearance has not escaped the notice of film reviewers. The American movie website Lost in Reviews featured a post which said: “William Fichtner oozes creeptastic vibes from his villainous character, with his long greasy hair and extreme cleft lip.”
Even the official set of The Lone Ranger Lego toys features a small Butch Cavendish with a very prominent cleft lip. In an open letter to executives at Lego, a member of the US community website “babycenter” wrote: “You make toys for children and these toys (often wonderfully) impact how they perceive or create the world.
“Holding this responsibility, how can you have created and market a toy with an obvious cleft lip - aware of the damage and hurt you are causing to children that may already be struggling to overcome this specific challenge?”
CLAPA said Disney was sending out “a deeply harmful message that will impact the 90,000 people that were born with a cleft in the UK as well as others worldwide”.
Their statement read: “What message does this send to movie-goers about people with a cleft or anyone with a visible difference? What message does it send to those who have a cleft themselves about how they are seen by society?
A congenital abnormality is not something to be made fun of, a cleft lip does not add to the ‘look’ of a villain, a character like this will not help the public’s perception or understanding of cleft, and Disney, we will NOT be going to see your movie.”
Across the Atlantic, the Toronto Star reported Rachel Mancuso, who runs the website cleftsmile.org, as saying she had received around 1,000 emails a day from people complaining about the film.
She told the Star: “As a parent and educator, I’m having a hard time understanding why they had to create a bad guy and slap on the number one birth defect.”
The executive director of another charity, Transforming Faces, said: “It’s disheartening that a major motion picture would perpetuate this negative perception and we hope that in future, birth defects and facial differences will not be used to portray ‘evil’ characters.”
And the matter has been particularly contentious in the US; in the same week that The Lone Ranger was released over there, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced that July was “National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month”.
As CLAPA said: “Disney have clearly proven that awareness is still a serious problem.”
Disney's was unavailable for comment.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove