As I sat waiting for my car to be repaired today, a well-known scene played out in front of me. The company's TV was playing The Dark Knight in the waiting room in which I was sitting. Glancing up at the screen I watched the big unveiling of Two-Face's shocking facial features.
If you've never watched this particular movie, Two-Face's name is pretty self explanatory. His face is divided in two halves, one side "normal", the other side being quite the opposite. He looks different than the average person as he stands out with an obvious signature look. If he were to walk into a room full of strangers, he's the one that everyone would stop and stare at...Which I know from personal experience.
Although he is a fictional character, the name Two-Face is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. Like Two-Face, my face is divided in half. In my case, however, I have a birthmark that is purple in tone (a Port Wine Stain) covering my left cheek. As a child, a classmate used this fictional character's name like a weapon against me. To this day, I can recall exactly where I was standing in my elementary cafeteria when he shot me with his hurtful words that he used to describe my 7-year-old appearance.
Watching the scene unfold in front of me, I started to wonder - what movies show people with facial difference as the hero instead of the scary villain? As I sat there thinking about this question I posed to myself, only villains came to mind (keep in mind that this is a small, basic list):
- Scar from The Lion King, a scar being one of his evil definers. In fact, he's known by his facial difference by his name.
- Beast from Beauty and the Beast. He's has a different kind of "difference" as he turns into a human later on, but while he looks different he is shown as angry, bitter, friendless, and controlling.
- Two-Face, as mentioned above.
- The Phantom of the Opera, from The Phantom of the Opera.
- Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm street. (I've not actually watched this movie, I've only heard of it and seen images from it.)
- Penguin from Batman Returns.
- Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series.
- Witches, based from a lot of different movies (warts, long and crooked nose, green face).
Maybe there are movies that portray people with facial differences in a positive way, maybe even as a hero! But dominantly and stereotypcially, we're portrayed as evil, bitter, isolated, and ugly people.
I know that there are villains that look "normal" in the movies. But those who look normal also have a lot of representatives playing heroes. There is a healthier balance.
If you're going to portray people with facial differences as evil, please balance our good and bad guy character representatives. Help show the world that we are heroes too. Show that we, too, have positive value in this world.
We may not look like the stereotypical prince charming or Disney princess, but we're heroes too. Maybe we're not all out saving the world in a dramatic, Hollywood way like Superman or Batman, would, but we are impacting it.
Many people with facial differences can tell you endless amounts of hard stories full of struggle and pain. We've all been bullied. We've all been made fun of and stared at. Unlike many teens who are bullied, when we graduate high school, we don't graduate the way that much of society often treats us - all because of how we look. Having a facial difference equals to a lifetime commitment to harsh treatments.
Yet, these harsh stories, these hard experiences...They don't make us villains. They don't make us evil. These experiences help us learn to be overcomers that are full of strength and compassion. They help us see the world in a different, beautiful way.
We're just ordinary people who just happen to have extraordinary circumstances.
I work at a elementary school. During today's lunch recess, I noticed a distressed child on the blacktop. After spending a few minutes with her, I was able encourage this weeping child. She was sitting on the hot, summer blacktop, and I was trying to help her gain the strength to stand on her own two feet again. As the child cried out her sorrows, she told me that another child rudely yelled at her to "shut up". While we stood their talking, I tried my best to remind her that her words and thoughts matter. I reminded her that not only do her words have value, but she also has an enormous amount of worth...I told her that she matters.
As her tears started to dry on her flushed cheeks, I tried to share a bit of insight that took me many take years to understand: Ultimately, no matter what other people say to us or how they may treat us, we have to decide how we're going to let their words and actions impact us. We're the one in charge of how other people make us feel, because no one else can decide that for us. Maybe someone is trying to hurt us with their words or actions, but we have to choose if we're going to brush it off or embrace their painful words as truth. No matter what others try to say and do to us, we know who we are - and that's what matters most.
Maybe not everyone with a facial difference is changing the world in a noticeable way - but some of us are changing the world of those weeping children sitting on the hot blacktop, and that child's world is the world that matters.
We are educators, writers, speakers, nurses, and doctors. We are business men/women, actors, singers, and college students. We are brothers, sisters, moms, dads, daughters, and sons. We are people with a purpose and a calling. We are people with a story to tell, living in stories that feature us as heroes to those around us.
Maybe we don't look like the average Joe, but we are still beautifully and wonderfully made, full of potential with a lot amazing things to offer the world.
Help us teach the current and future generations that have unique facial features that they can be heroes, that they can do anything they put their mind to. Help us teach them that they don't have to be isolated, bitter, or angry...That they can dream big dreams and achieve those dreams! Show them that they have value.
Hollywood, you have the power to make a change.
We, too, are the heroes. We are the good guys.
Please stop encouraging and embracing the stereotype that we fight against on a daily basis.
The Travelin' Chick and a Beautiful Hero,