Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry
Dear film, TV and creative arts industries,
In the wake of the 2023 awards season which was almost entirely devoid of positive, accurate, authentic representation of people with disfigurements and visible differences, we’re calling upon the entertainment industry to prevent further marginalization of the visible and facial difference community.
Despite disability representation taking positive strides towards inclusion with, Champions, other recent Hollywood films like Women Talking, The Batman and Knock at the Cabin feature unnecessary characterisation of facial differences through prosthetics in a way that reinforces historical prejudice towards this neglected community.
It is clear that people with marks, scars and conditions affecting appearance are absent from the conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion both on screen and stage, and throughout the creative process. This is an often-excluded community, made up of talented professionals whose skills and expertise are being overlooked in place of actors without real lived experience of scars and other visible differences. Worse yet, this community’s stories are being told in a tokenistic, stereotypical way that will increase the discrimination and abuse this community so often experiences.
It’s time for this community to be seen and heard on their own terms. It’s time for the entertainment industry to take responsibility for shaping public perception of disfigurement, following on from successful movements to represent and include other minoritized groups. The entertainment industry can have a positive impact on the lives of people with visible differences through inclusive hiring practices, fair representation and by telling empowering stories.
Real, human stories that involve the communities they’re characterizing can prevent unnecessary harm and marginalization. For this reason, together with a global Alliance of 36 international organizations and a network of face equality activists, Face Equality International has put together a Position Paper to proactively inform and co-create with industry professionals in order to better represent and involve the global disfigurement community.
Right now, there are several new productions in the making or awaiting release that we know will rest upon outdated, harmful tropes around disfigurement. From Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If the industry hears our call now, we can prevent future generations of children from being indoctrinated by stories that tell them to fear or look down upon people with visible differences.
We are seeing diversity celebrated more and more across the creative arts. So we want to collaborate with the entertainment industry to ensure that the FD community is included in these efforts. Face equality is a human right, and a social justice movement, that will be rapidly advanced once recognized by Hollywood and beyond.
From the Face Equality Alliance
You can join the movement by signing the face equality pledge here.
Contact FEI on firstname.lastname@example.org
A Position Paper on Visible Difference & Disfigurement in the Arts