James Bond: Disability campaigners call for end to ‘outdated trope’ of villains with facial disfigurements

Both Rami Malek and Christoph Waltz’s villains in ‘No Time To Die’ have facial scarring

Isobel Lewis
Tuesday 28 September 2021 13:03
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No Time To Die - Trailer

Disability campaigners are calling for a change to the “lazy” and “outdated” use of facial scarring in James Bond films.

In No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final film as the secret agent, Bond appears opposite villains Safin (Rami Malek) and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), both of whom have facial disfigurements.

Scarring and facial disabilities have often been used to signify evil in the film franchise, including Javier Bardem’s misshapen jaw and teeth in Skyfall, as well as Mads Mikkelsen’s damaged eye in Casino Royale.

Author Jen Campbell called out the practice in a Twitter thread, writing: “Every time a new James Bond film is made, the producers are asked to reconsider their representation of disfigurement. Every time, they say they don’t care. The new film, out this week, is no exception. This time, two villains with facial disfigurements. Lucky us.”

Presenter Adam Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis, a disorder in which tumours form within nerve tissue, told ITV News: “When the only character with a scar or disfigurement is shown on screen as the villain, it’s perpetuating the use of an old-fashioned and outdated trope.

“This isn’t about banning baddies from having scars or telling people not to enjoy a trip to the cinema, it’s about putting a line in the sand and saying now is the time to ensure other characters can be seen on screen with a visible difference too.”

In a 2012 interview with Den of Geek, producer Michael G Wilson said of the connection: “Sometimes it’s a motivating factor in their life, and what makes them the way they are. He had that as part of the characters that he devised. It’s just part of the writing tradition, though, really.”

In 2018, the British Film Institute stopped funding movies in which villains appear with facial disfigurements following a campaign by Changing Faces called I Am Not Your Villain. The charity called the practice a “lazy stereotype” and said it needs to end.

The Independent has contacted representatives for No Time To Die for comment.

No Time To Die is released on Thursday, 30 September.

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