Surprising Cultural Milestone:
No evil albinos in 2004!

In general, ethnic stereotypes in films are on the wane. Yet one movie caricature has persisted: The Evil Albino. Since the sinister specter-like sniper took shots at Chevy Chase in 1978's "Foul Play," the gun waving, white haired, red-eyed albino seems to have become a silver screen staple.
This trend has actually been on the rise: In the 1980's, 12 flicks had albino characters (most of them derogatory). During the 1990's 20 pale killers were seen. From 2000 to 2003, though only a four year span, 24 avaricious albinos had accumulated. For you graph lovers, double click to get a close look at the numbers. Then 2004 ended with a surprise. We report a cutaneous cinematic cultural breakthrough: No film released in the U.S. in 2004 featured the disparaging stereotype of murderous characters with albinism.
We are aware of a few movies that initially planned to feature albino roles. "Hellboy," "The Punisher," and "Mean Girls" all planned to include people with albinism at various stages during development. None ended up making the final cut. For proof of this, follow the internet trail. While perhaps a coincidence, during the previous year, 2003, the mainstream media were alerted to the commonality of this pernicious stock character. "Matrix Reloaded" and "Cold Mountain" both featured albino thugs that were cold blooded sharpshooters. They died violently, the most common fate of these characters. Much like the prostitute with the heart of gold, or the wisecracking sidekick, these roles, the evil albino has become part of film vernacular. When reviewing "Cold Mountain," Chicago Tribune columnist Mark Caro wrote that the character "looks albino and thus, in movie shorthand, must be vicious." In response to this trend, the albinism group NOAH and skinema's own Dr. Reese spread the word that perhaps it was time to retire the red-eyed, white faced stereotype for good. The resulting media response is featured here.

 Times are a-changing? In "Noi Albinoi"...

 ...The lead has albinism, doesn't kill anyone...

 ...and gets the girl. Now, was that so hard?
Whether due to this campaign or not, in 2004, no evil albino characters appeared on-screen. Instead, a realistic character with albinism starred in a leading role. It took an Icelandic filmmaker to shoot "Noi Albinoi," the story of a bored, bald adolescent who has a girlfriend, has to deal with his alcoholic dad, and try to decide where his life will lead. Unlike many cinematic albinos, rape, murder, and world domination are not on his "to do" list. And different from a previous sympathetic bald alabaster teen nicknamed "Powder," Noi is not the result of his pregnant mother being struck by lightning, does not have magnetic powers, and is not sacrificed during the film's climax.
No other movie roles with albinism were seen in 2004, though on TV's Cartoon Network, another sympathetic albino character emerged. In "Venture Brothers," Mr. White is a reputable scientist who is friends with the toon's heroes. Note his wise use of an umbrella and sunglasses to protect his skin and eyes from ultraviolet radiation. Though occasional cracks are made about his condition, and his name is definitely dorky, at least he is not a mentally ill, backflipping assassin. Leave it to cartoons to begin the social healing.
Is there a downside of a lack of roles with albinism? In 2004, did audiences give up on celluloid? Did Hollywood box office suffer? Did the multiplexes collapse in an apocalyptic orgy of destruction? Not that we've seen. Other than forcing movie makeup artists to scramble, selling their gallons of white face makeup on eBay, the Industry survived. So with this realization, we offer Hollywood a challenge: Can filmmakers in 2005 resist the urge to resurrect the evil albino?
Sounds simple, except for three little words: Da. Vinci. Code.
"The Da Vinci Code" is a run away best seller with all the elements of an action movie hit. Exotic locales. Nonstop intrigue. A visually interesting mystery. Yet page one of the novel's prologue features, you guessed it, the classic evil albino. "Silas" is a hulking, red eyed, albino monk who shoots and kills a series of characters in an attempt to silence a rival cult. He also spends his free time whipping himself raw and tightening a device that digs into his bleeding thighs. Though a literary character, Silas obeys several of Hollywood's rules of albinism, including having a killer occupation, a fearful disposition, and a violent termination. We will never know what inspired author Dan Brown to create this fellow, but he seems to us the sum of two evil film albinos seen in the 1970's. If you perform movie mathematics, adding the giant sharpshooting assassin in "Foul Play" to the robed religious cult leader of "The Omega Man," dividing by the square root of self-flagellation, the Silas.
It's time for Skine-Math!



 = Silas

 Gun toting assassin from "Foul Play..."


 ...malicious monk from "The Omega Man"...

 ...Equals "Da Vinci Code's" sinister Silas.
Does Silas need to remain albino in the movie version of the "Code?" Other than representing an exploitative visual (Ooh, look at that white skin! Whoa, check out the red eyes!), Silas would be just as spooky without the albinism. Give the man a gun, play some dark music--we're scared, already, we're scared! Whether director Ron Howard, leading man Tom Hanks, & screen writer Akiva Goldsman decide to keep Silas' albinism, or heroically drop the character's condition will become clear as 2005 unfolds. Depending on the outcome, there may be a Skinnies award in their future!

Runner up, Surprising Cultural Milestone:

No evil albino dolphins in 2004!

In "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," Bill Murray is led on his voyage by a pair of benevolent white-skinned dolphins. While we are not aware of previous films with albino dolphins, at least these two were not malevolent marine mammals!

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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