In the real world, the gradual loss of scalp hair, is just a drag. In the reel world, it's a flag, signalling eeeee-vil...


Here is a classic movie moment showing a bald guy gone bad. As Kurtz in the "Heart of Darkness" inspired war epic "Apocalypse Now", Marlon Brando is evil personified. Most men and women with hair loss (alopecia) are not morally corrupt, and can be helped by treatments from topical lotions, prescription pills, to hair transplant surgery.


"Batman and Robin" features Arnold Schwarzenegger in the villainous role he played between being "The Terminator" and "The Governator." In this case he shows that Mr. Freeze loses large amounts of body heat via his bare scalp. Dermatologists use a cold liquid nitrogen spray to freeze and destroy pre-cancerous lesions that can eventually form from repeated sun burns. For men with extensive hair loss, sun protection is recommended to avoid just such treatments to a UV damaged pate.

"The Silence of the Lambs"

-From hairless to hair-some: easily one of the most chilling performances of 20th century film is Anthony Hopkins' turn as serial killer/fine food connoisseur, Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs." Often film baddies are shown totally bald, but in this case Lecter's hair is merely thinning. To Hopkins' credit, we are just as scared of Lecter despite the presence of some hair. Male pattern alopecia (hair loss) is due to genetic factors and the effect of testosterone hormone on central scalp hair follicles over a lifetime. Finasteride (propecia) is a pill that minimizes that effect. To our knowledge, Propecia can be taken with or without fava beans and a nice chianti.

Another example of an evil balding villain is Laurence Olivier as the sinister dentist in the "Marathon Man". In Olivier's case, partial male-pattern hair loss of the frontal scalp is enough for a menacing portrayal. That, the knife, and that creepy goop dentists use to get a mold of your teeth.


-Here a would-be murderer is played by would-be actor Keanu Reeves in "I Love You to Death." The discrete bald spots seen on Keanu's scalp and beard are diagnostic of distinct form of baldness, alopecia areata (AA). AA shows patchy hair loss, usually isolated spots on the scalp and beard, as shown here. The cause is unknown, but it is not inherited or contagious. Lesions tend to come and go, and respond to cortisone creams or injections.



 

 

Joe Pesci as David Ferrie, a toupee-toting thug in "JFK."

The actual Ferrie. Note seedy wig and criminal use of eyebrow pencil.

Usually patchy, alopecia areata results from a low grade inflammation that shuts down hair follicle activity. Rarely it can progress to either loss of all of the scalp hair or even all body hair. In Oliver Stone's "JFK," actor Joe Pesci portrays David Ferrie, who some feel was involved in President John F. Kennedy's assassination. In real life, Ferrie was bald. In the film, Pesci has an obviously fake wig and broadly drawn on eyebrows--alopecia areata masked cosmetically. Most people with extensive alopecia hide it in this fashion.

"Spongebob SquarePants: The Movie"

 

Punky Plankton pilfers the crown of cocky King Neptune.

 His baldness exposed, Neptune promptly goes postal.

Spongebob is called on to find the covering crown.

A paper bag deftly disguises the deficit.

Kids, are ye ready for some questions? Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants, of course. How do you make the transition from a TV 'toon for tots to amped up adult oriented on-screen adventure? Drama, little ones. And few things are more psychically painful than male pattern hair loss. That's right, spunky sea creature Spongebob's cinematic debut centers on the theft of King Neptune's crown by petite pirate Plankton. Why is the loss of the tinseled tiara so traumatic? Not because of the crown's inherent power, beauty, or monetary value. No: Neptune uses it to cover his receding hairline. With the loss of the crown, he substitutes a not-so-royal plain paper bag. In his undersea kingdom, the King is clearly not aware of the treasure trove of treatments for the follicularly famished, including hair restoring salves like rogaine (minoxidil) or powerful pills like propecia (finasteride). Or that, thanks in part to hairless hunks like Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel and NRA spokesman Elmer Fudd, being bald these days is nothing to be embarrassed about. Our final question: What keeps that underwater paper bag from getting soggy?


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© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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