Disability campaigners criticize 'harmful' and 'outdated trope' of villains with facial scarring in James Bond

Disability campaigners criticize 'harmful' and 'outdated trope' of villains with facial scarring in James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Blofeld. United Artists Releasing/Universal Pictures
  • Bond movies often feature villains with facial scarring, including Rami Malek in "No Time to Die."
  • Presenter Adam Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis, called the trope "old-fashioned and out-dated."
  • Author Jen Campbell said the trope is wider than Bond movies.

Disability campaigners have called out James Bond movies for their repeated portrayal of villains with facial scarring, calling the theme "lazy" and "outdated."

Facial scars are a common look for many movie villains, particularly in Bond movies.

In the latest Bond movie, "No Time To Die," both Rami Malek's Safin and Christoph Waltz's Blofeld both have facial disfigurements as part of their characters' looks.

Previously, Sean Bean's Alec Trevelyan had scars in "GoldenEye," Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva had a deformed jaw in "Skyfall," and Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre had a disfigured eye in Daniel Craig's first Bond movie "Casino Royale."

Now, campaigners are protesting against what they are calling an "outdated trope."


Author and disability advocate Jen Campbell posted a Twitter thread arguing against the practice, 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."

She also added: "For those just discovering this 'disfigurement and disability = villainy' trope, it is much wider than Bond. Think crime, horror, comics, children's books… it's everywhere. The links higher up in this thread explore the wider picture. Please take a moment to explore."

Meanwhile, presenter Adam Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis, 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with a scar or disfigurement is shown on screen as the villain, it's perpetuating the use of an old-fashioned and outdated trope."

He continued: "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."

Producer Michael G. Wilson has previously defended the use of the trope, calling it "part of the writing tradition" in a 2012 interview with Den of Geek.


"Sometimes it's a motivating factor in their life, and what makes them the way they are," Wilson said. "He had that as part of the characters that he devised. It's just part of the writing tradition, though, really."

Disability campaigners criticize 'harmful' and 'outdated trope' of villains with facial scarring in James Bond
Rami Malek in "No Time to Die." MGM

As Campbell pointed out, however, the use of facial scarring to signify evil characters has been used across some of the most iconic villains in cinema, such as Scar in "The Lion King," Darth Vader and Kylo Ren in "Star Wars," the Joker in "The Dark Knight," Miles Quaritch in "Avatar," and Freddie Krueger in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" to name a few.

However, in 2018, the British Film Institute (BFI) announced that they would stop funding movies featuring the trope after the I Am Not Your Villain campaign by the Changing Faces charity, which called the trope "lazy."

Ben Roberts, the film fund director of BFI said in a statement at the time: "Film has such a powerful influence on society … [and] also 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."