Albinism in Popular Culture - History of The "evil Albino" Stereotype

History of The "evil Albino" Stereotype

The "evil albino" stereotype may also have its roots in Neolithic Eastern Europe, where some cultures depicted Death as a pallid woman with light hair. Fear of vampires and other legendary undead with a deathly pallor, especially in European folklore, could also have contributed to albino bias. The phenomenon may also have been influenced by attitudes towards people with albinism in Africa or Jamaica, where those with that condition are sometimes regarded as cursed or magical (see folklore section, below). Dermatologist Dr. Vail Reese theorizes that albino bias may be part of a broader Hollywood pattern of equating or at least linking skin disorders and appearance problems with villainy.

Another explanation may be sought in respective ideals of ugliness — most "evil albinos" appear in works of fiction from the West. In fiction from Japan, where ideals call for as pale skin as possible, characters with albinism or associated traits are more frequently sympathetic than in American and British fiction. This is not to say that Japanese popular culture has not depicted "evil albinos". However, such characters in Japanese fiction are often bishōnen or bishōjo whose beautiful appearance gives contrast to their evil character. Use of albinistic features to indicate villains in Hollywood's film appears to have begun in the 1960s, and may be related to the popularity of tanning (and thus a decrease in pale skin being seen as attractive) in this period.

One of the oldest perceived literary examples of albino bias was H.G. Wells's depiction of the main character in his 1897 science-fiction novel The Invisible Man, who was able to become invisible using his scientific discoveries only because he already lacked natural pigmentation; aberrant even before his experimentation, he subsequently became completely deranged, an "albino villain".

Albino bias is also alleged in modern times. For example, the 2003 Warner Bros movie The Matrix Reloaded featured two sociopathic characters with pale skin and white hair frequently interpreted to be albinos despite studio declarations that they are not. Positive depictions of albinos in mass culture are rarer, though one example is the 1995 film Powder which depicts an exceptionally gifted albinistic youth and the cruelty he endures because of his differences from "normal" people. In recent years, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) has spoken out against albino bias in the United States. Albinistic actor Michael C. Bowman, of Me, Myself and Irene, has said, "Kids all over this country are being affected in a very negative and harmful way because of the sloppiness and laziness of a writer in Hollywood."

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