You don’t need to know that Lord Voldemort murdered Harry Potter’s parents with a Killing Curse to be able to recognize that the guy's bad news. Even if you’re a firm believer in not judging a book by its cover (you altruist, you), He Who Must Not Be Named just looks like he’s up to something terrible: the extremely pale, translucent skin, like he rose straight outta the crypt; the malevolent glint in his icy blue eyes; the absence of any hair whatsoever; the tiny slits where the nose usually goes.
In movies and on TV, we’re generally able to determine who the villain is onscreen before we’ve been explicitly told, “This character, right here, is the bad one.” It’s not just because our human instinct is so sharp that our intuition tells us who we should be wary of before we know it on a conscious level — it’s because, according to a new study in the April 2017 edition of JAMA Dermatology, the classic villain often comes complete with a skin condition.
The scientific data found that, when comparing the all-time top 10 American film villains to their heroic counterparts, villains displayed a “significantly higher incidence” of conditions considered dermatologic in nature — 60% to the heroes’ 0%. Significant hair loss, otherwise known as alopecia, affected 30% of villains, as did periorbital hyperpigmentation, or dark circles. Facial wrinkles, warts, and scars each affected 20%.
“Dermatologic conditions are used in film to elucidate the dichotomy of good and evil through visual representation,” the authors of the study state, “which may contribute to a tendency toward prejudice in our culture and facilitate misunderstanding of particular disease entities among the general public.”
That’s putting it lightly. Now, can someone get Mr. Lecter to a dermatologist, stat? His complexion is so dull, he needs a chemical peel even more than he needs some fava beans and a nice Chianti.