James Bond movies criticised by disability campaigners for continued use of facial scars on villains

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Watch: Charity urges Bond producers to feature positive character with scarring

The James Bond franchise has been criticised by disability campaigners for its continuing "lazy and outdated" use of villains with facial scarring and disfigurements.

The secret agent’s latest outing No Time To Die is released in cinemas this week, with Daniel Craig facing off against Rami Malek and Christoph Waltz in his final film as 007.

Read more: The road to No Time To Die: How Quantum Of Solace sought closure as 007's first direct sequel

Malek and Waltz’s characters Lyutsifer Safin and Ernst Blofeld continue a familiar trope in the Bond universe by having prominent facial disfigurements.

Safin (Rami Malek) in NO TIME TO DIE, a DANJAQ and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. (Credit: Nicola Dove © 2019 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Rami Malek in No Time To Die (Nicola Dove/MGM)

But the continued use of scarring or disability to represent someone the hero should be wary of has worn thin with many viewers, and campaigners are calling for it to stop.

Jen Campbell, an author and specialist in the representation of disfigurement in fairy tales and story-telling, wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Read more: The best James Bond movies according to the experts and its biggest fans

Actor and presenter Adam Pearson, who has neurofibromatosis – a condition that causes tumours to form within nerve tissue – has also spoken out against the trope, calling it "old-fashioned and outdated".

“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with a scar or disfigurement is shown on screen as the villain, it’s perpetuating the use of an old-fashioned and outdated trope,” Pearson said.

“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.”

The trope has become movie shorthand for identifying a villain – with Bond films in particular using it repeatedly throughout their cinematic history.

Christoph Waltz won’t be back for James Bond 25
Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in No Time To Die (MGM)

In Craig’s first outing as Bond in 2006, Casino Royale, Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre has a damaged eye, and in 2012’s Skyfall, Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva has a twisted jaw and missing teeth.

Ernst Blofeld, as played by Donald Pleasance, was seen with a vertical scar going down his face and through his eye in You Only Live Twice. The portrayal inspired the character of Dr Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

And Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan in 1996’s Goldeneye went up against Pierce Brosnan’s version of Bond with facial scarring following an explosion.

Christoph Waltz won’t be back for James Bond 25
Donald Pleasance's portrayal of Blofeld in You Only Live Twice inspired parody Dr Evil in the Austin Powers franchise. (MGM)

Producer Michael G Wilson has previously defended the trope, and told Den Of Geek in 2012: “Sometimes it’s a motivating factor in their life, and what makes them the way they are. He had that as part of the characters that he devised. It’s just part of the writing tradition, though, really.”

Read more: The road to No Time To Die: How Casino Royale gambled on rebooting James Bond

Bond films aren't the only major movies to use this cliche: Star Wars star Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren has a strike across his face, Heath Ledger’s Joker has scars that extend his mouth in The Dark Knight Rises, and The Lion King’s Scar got his name because of a scar on his face.

In fact, the trope is so overused, the British Film Institute stopped funding movies that perpetuated it in 2018.

Read more: Cary Joji Fukunaga: The next James Bond needs to offer something different to Daniel Craig (exclusive)

The decision was spurred on by the "I Am Not Your Villain" campaign by the Changing Faces charity, which branded the trope's use as "lazy".

Changing Faces has since launched a campaign in order to get Bond films to feature more positive characterisations. 

No Time To Die is released in cinemas on September 30

Watch: Can No Time To Die breathe life back into cinemas?

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