The Face of Evil

(Written By: Neha Gupta)

Actors from a horror movie set? Youtube stars showing off their looks for Halloween this year? Nope, the people in these images are just ordinary individuals, who also happen to have scarred faces.

What’s in a name?

From the Joker to Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter to Dr. Poison, even the beloved Lion King’s antagonist, who didn’t just stop at having a scar, but was quite literally identified by it, villains throughout cinematic history have been depicted with facial disfigurements. Compelling motives and intricate manipulation may be foregone, but the scarred face is a trope that never fails to instantly prompt an audience to look out, because here’s the bad guy.

But, why? If I dressed up as a cancer patient this Halloween, I’d likely provoke outrage. I’d be called insensitive, thoughtless, perhaps even cruel for suggesting that there is something immoral to be associated with this medical condition. And yet, we so casually continue to pencil in scars across our faces when we want to appear sinister. 

Tulsi Vagjiani, plane crash survivor

The boy pictured at the bottom of this article never much cared for Halloween because he’d see children trying to dress up as their scariest, and ending up looking just like him.

As a child, the woman pictured on the right got called Freddy Krueger, the serial killer from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The prevalence of facial disfigurements in villains in pop-culture have birthed a stigma surrounding these features: individuals with scars are perceived as twisted, frightening, even evil. Subconsciously perhaps, but we nevertheless distance ourselves from them, instinctively assuming the worst. Not only does this constant labelling of scarred individuals take a toll on them, but the rest of us too become increasingly close-minded, judgmental and callous.

The funny thing is that it’s almost surprising that that we view scars in such a manner, because if we think about it, they’re really quite beautiful. They’re signs of having faced struggle, and having come out stronger for it. They’re an indication of the body’s ability to rebuild itself, to recover and to grow. They’re bold, suggesting confidence in one’s unique appearance, and an unabashed, unapologetic pride in one’s eccentricity. And, frankly, there’s something pretty darn hot about a mysterious backstory.

Daily Morning Routines

Wonderful as they are for literary musings though, scars are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prejudice based on appearances. All too often, we walk past individuals with particularly conspicuous moles or birthmarks, and end up averting our eyes, or perhaps staring too hard. I’ve been privy to more than one conversation about the best way to cover up such blemishes with make-up, or the pros and cons of getting them removed surgically. Although negative perceptions of such features, and the insecurities stemming from them, might be created by the media and pop-culture, they are nonetheless propelled by each one of us in our everyday actions.

So, what does evil look like?

Well, it could look like me, or you. It could be tall or short or squint-eyed, or anything really, because the simple truth which we all know yet surprisingly often fail to remember is that there’s just no connection between appearance and morality. So this Halloween, why not we dress up as a dastardly wicked yet perfectly innocent-looking villain, and proudly display all our imperfections while we’re at it?

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