Networks and streamers asked to add disclaimers to horror films featuring villains with visible differences

Networks and streamers asked to add a disclaimer to films that reinforce negative stereotypes with villains who have visible differences

Horror films have featured a whole lot of villains with unique appearances, from popular icons like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Leatherface to characters the average movie-goer wouldn’t remember by name. This Halloween season, the charity Changing Faces has reached out to networks and streamers to ask them to add disclaimers to horror films that feature villains with visible differences, letting viewers know the films reinforce negative stereotypes.

Here (with thanks to Variety) is the full letter Changing Faces CEO Heather Blake has sent out to request the disclaimer:

Dear Chief Content Officer,

Every year, Halloween becomes a particularly stressful time for some of those with visible differences, where villainous film characters with scars, marks, burns or conditions are often recreated as costumes, as well as becoming terms of abuse in everyday life. Harmful beliefs that scars and marks equate to evil can be reinforced through instant access to decades of archived content without explanation of the impact and undoubtedly contribute to othering and abuse of those with visible differences.

The charity Changing Faces has been raising awareness of this issue with the ‘I Am Not Your Villain’ campaign, most recently following the release of the latest James Bond film in 2021. In an age of content overload, it has never been easier to access these old-fashioned stereotypes that run the risk of influencing younger generations and continue to affect how those with visible differences are perceived. We are not asking for these films to be removed from your platform. However, we are keen to share advice on how more information and context could be added to your platform to help raise awareness of the issue among your subscribers.

Please consider helping us raise awareness of the ‘I Am Not Your Villain’ campaign by reviewing our asks that are being shared in good faith to support the industry in moving forward. We ask that you:

Consider updating individual film listings information within streaming platforms to include a description in the copy that highlights that the film reinforces negative stereotypes of those with visible differences, with a link to the “I Am Not Your Villain” campaign.

Consider integrating an on-screen caveat before the film plays that highlights the film contains harmful stereotypes that reinforce negative perceptions of those with visible differences.

Consider signposting to support for those affected or seeking more information about the experiences of those with visible differences at the end of the film, highlighting the charity’s website

Changing Faces campaigner Chris, who has a large birthmark on his face, pointed to The Omen as one of the films that reinforce negative stereotypes, due to the fact that the little Antichrist Damien has a 666 birthmark on his scalp. Chris said, “Horror films such as The Omen undoubtedly reinforce associations between visible differences and wrongdoing or tragic unfulfillment. Similarly, other Changing Faces campaigners and ambassadors have reported being mockingly compared to characters such as Joker or Freddy Krueger.

Sex Education cast member Beth Bradfield, who has facial scarring from the removal of a hemangioma when she was a baby, supports Changing Faces’ request for disclaimers. Bradfield said, “While I’ve been involved in best-practice and inclusive shows within the TV and film industry, I am an advocate for positive representation of those with visible differences. The industry is progressing, but there is still a long way to go. It’s so important that the film industry talks about the impact of harmful tropes of films of the past while making way for new and exciting stories that normalize those with visible differences on screen as real people with real stories to tell.

What do you think of the request for disclaimers on films that feature villains with visible differences? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

The Burning

Source: Variety

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.