Book two of Hollywood's rules of albinism.

Movie characters with albinism...

6. Are exceptionally sensitive to light

 In the first Time Machine, malicious Morlocks live in caves and have glowing eyes.

The tanned hero needs only to light a match...

...And they scurry off, shielding their eyes.

As noted above, this tendency to make characters with albinism the bad guys dates back to at least the early 1960's. The first version of The Time Machine may be at least partially to blame. Though there is no Uber-Morlock character, the subterranean Morlock race lacks skin color and feature glowing red eyes that are sensitive to light. Thus they vaguely resemble some of the hallmarks of albinism. With their ape-like stature and beastly claws, one would not mistake these hulking goons for a regular fella with albinism. Not only do they live underground, but the tiniest glimpse of a match is enough to blind them. Can't say they would be much fun at a birthday party. At least this limits their chance of becoming cigarette addicts. Other light sensitive albino characters hide in the dark corners of The Eiger Sanction, Vamp, Not Another Teen Movie, Dark City, and The Omega Man, below.


7. Are portrayed as a separate species

Above, just a few of the misguided albinos seen in The Omega Man

By the late 1960's, social change was in the air. Charleton Heston rode that zeitgeist with a trio of movies set in apocalyptic futures. Less well known than The Planet of the Apes, and Soylent Green, The Omega Man, nonetheless shared the same basic plot: Heston singlehandedly battles a world gone awry. The premise has particular resonance today: Heston is one of the few remaining "normal" humans after germ warfare turns the rest of mankind into evil albinos. Violent, irrational and unable to tolerate light of any kind, this representation of an entire group reinforces the notion that people with albinism are not human, but represent some separate degenerate species. Other examples of races of aliens with albinism include Hellraiser, Dark City, John Carpenter's Children of the Damned, and Star Wars Attack of the Clones.

8. Meet a grisly end

These evil characters are never carted off in handcuffs. They are usually beaten, burned, or shot. Typical is the extreme end is saved for Bosie from Cold Mountain. In the film's final confrontation, Jude Law faces off with the albino marksman and kills him, only after taking a lethal bullet himself. The implication is that the only good albino is a dead one.

In Powder, the sympathetically portrayed protagonist has more than just albinism and bald pate. He also is a genius, is kind with animals, and can channel all manner of electric current. Ostracized by a small town, he runs Christ-like through the fields of waving wheat, and is struck by lightning from above. Nice guys with albinism don't just finish last. They get zapped by lightning from a veangeful God. Even with all of Powder's good qualities, it is clear from the opening scenes that this movie won't be the start of any franchise.

9. Are nearly never portrayed by actors with albinism


 The "Hippy Albino" folk singer from the chuckle-free "comedy," Not Another Teen Movie (2001).
Only two of the above characters is actually played by an actor with albinism. In fact, most albino roles star actors with normal skin tone. Much like Hispanic and Asian caricatures in the 1930's and 1940's were played by Caucasian actors, white wigs, makeup and occasionally light contact lenses are used to recreate the albinism, usually unrealistically. Movie-goers of the 21st century would not tolerate Caucasian actors playing black roles, so why is there no concern about actors applying white face to simulate albinism?

So The Time Machine and Attack of the Clones are throwbacks in many ways. Given that albinism is relatively rare, barring a widespread protest of these types of roles, Hollywood producers may see little financial incentive to create more realistic images of albinism on-screen. As long as the bleacher seats are filled and the hot dog vendors are busy, the game will continue. Why change the rules?

And finally:

10. Are not just pale, but bald too.

This combination of albinism and hair loss (called by doctors alopecia) has been termed by this site's creators "Albinopecia." Fairly common in movies (see the Cloning around happening above), it warrants its own discussion.

Need more examples here on the site? Check out the complete list.

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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