Monday, 16 April 2012

Scarred Baddies Are a Stereotype...

Late last week there was an item in a few of the newspapers about stereotyping in movies of those with facial disfigurement- scars indicate a baddie.

If you are interested in the campaign to change this attitude, then you'll find the BBC News article here and the Changing Faces website here, where you can watch their short film that is being shown in 750 cinemas across the UK.

But it got me thinking about how disfigured people are viewed in romantic fiction.

In the classic, Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester is injured and blinded in a fire. Apart from his intention to commit bigamy by marrying Jane, while his first wife is still alive and locked up for her own safety, he's not seen as a baddy, he's just a man in an impossible situation.

In an historical romance context there are going to be scarred heroes and minor villains...

Before guns, men used swords, and in a fight or a battle if you didn't die from the vicious sword wound you'd probably die from blood poisoning. And if you did survive there would be scars- yes they would fade a little in time, but they would still be visible.
Wounds would be sewn with a needle and thread, and the neatness of the scar would depend on how good the doctor (or whoever was doing the stitching up) was with their stitches...

No doubt there were people in past times who turned away from those who suffered disfigurement, or heavy scarring, just as many still do now days.

Certainly in some of the American historical romances I've read over the years, the heroine drags the scarred and/or disabled hero back into the light, and back into society by the healing power of her love.

The baddies in these stories often lack scars, in fact they look just like anyone else- they can even be women!

So no cinema stereotypes there, quite the opposite in fact...

11 comments:

  1. I love a scarred hero, and would never imagine he was the bad guy because of it!

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  2. Prue Sarn, the central character of Mary Webb's Precious Bane, is a good example of the scarred heroine. Prue has a hare lip and because of that disfigurement, is regarded by all her superstitious neighbours as a witch. Not a baddy at all, but an intriguing outsider.

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  3. Quite right, Rosemary. There's something very appealing about a scarred hero.

    Thank goodness writers have more imagination than Hollywood-past and present.

    Thanks for commenting, Anonymous.

    Precious is a good example of how people in the past only saw what superstition led them to believe.
    While we can see a completely different character without that prejudice...

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  4. Oh yes, I love a scarred hero too.
    I have a big scar on my neck and used to hide it with my hair, but these days I tend to forget it's there x

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  5. Good post Carol. I think scars and the like sparks up questions about why and how.. I like it! :-)

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  6. I generally use some kind of scar or disfigurement (maybe only slight) to help tag my character. It also makes for a good back story to feed into the character's personality and make them who they are?

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  7. I suppose we all like to think we look beneath the skin for true beauty.

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  8. Teresa, I think eventually we realise the scars are just on the surface- it's who and what the person (who has the scars)is inside that's important to many people.


    Yes, you're right, Diane. There is always some story involved- even minor scars have a tale.

    Welcome,Pat. :-)
    I certainly agree with you, they can add another dimension to a character completely.

    I'm sure that's true, Helen.

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  9. I agree, it's a bit obvious when a baddie has a scar. You know he's going to turn out to be dodgy! But with novels, it's almost as though the writer is giving the reader more credit to make a judgement than the average cinema goer is given.

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  10. I agree, it's a bit obvious when a baddie has a scar. You know he's going to turn out to be dodgy! But with novels, it's almost as though the writer is giving the reader more credit to make a judgement than the average cinema goer is given.

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  11. That's a great insight, Maxi, thanks. I'd not considered it that way.

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