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  • Writer's pictureIvan Bristow

For your eyes only, James Bond!



James Bond and dermatology. Not to subjects that go together very often but I came across an article from 2022 in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology on just that topic. The article was entitled “The spectre of visible difference: semiotics of disfigurement and moral character in James Bond films” (1). In their paper, the authors make the point with James Bond movies (like "No time to die" [2021]) that negative stereotypes against physical differences prevail with the main villains, Safin & Blofeld.



An image of Daniel Craig as James Bond
A movie poster from the film "No time to Die



Researching visual difference in James Bond films

Following this, they watched all 25 of the official Bond movies, and undertook an analysis of characters with a speaking role to identify their character name, age, sex, character role, presence and type of visual difference, film in which the character appeared, and year in which the film was launched. The visual differences were compared between villains and allies.


In the 25 movies they identified 326 characters. The headline finding was that of those with an identified visual difference (35 in all), 28 characters (80%) were villains, 6 (17%) were allies of James Bond and 1 (3%) was a double agent. Needles to say none of the “Bond girls” were identified as having any visible difference. Differences ranged from facial – particularly ocular deformities, to missing an ear lobe, tattoos, syndactyly, facial protheses and a super numerary nipple. The villains’ differences were generally more visible and of a greater severity than the allies.



Previous research on skin problems in films

This phenomenon is not unique to this particular movie series. A previous study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology from 2017 showed that 60% of the all-time American film villains had visible dermatological conditions versus 0% of the top ten heroes (2). Many of these are featured on Skinema.com – a website which highlights dermatological disease in the movie industry in films and amongst celebrities.



Should it change?

Watching all 25 Bond movies in the name of research doesn’t sound like a bad job, but there is an important aspect to this research. As the authors point out, in the era where diversity is sought, depiction of visual difference to establish one’s morality is counterproductive. To many people with visual differences and skin disease, the perpetuation by the media in this way is not helpful. Perhaps a more balanced inclusion of non-villainous characters, perhaps with dermatological conditions would normalise the visual differences for the audience. Over the years we have seen Mr Bond give up smoking and drink less so perhaps a change is needed on this issue too in future movies? After all, we’ve been expecting it, Mr Bond…..


References


1. Chen MKY, Shen KT, Arulthasan SP, Sebaratnam DF. The spectre of visible difference; semiotics of disfigurement and moral character in James Bond films. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2022: 47(4) 649-650

2. Croley JA, Reese V, Wagner RF, Jr. Dermatologic Features of Classic Movie Villains: The Face of Evil. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(6):559-64.

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