Furor Over the Matrix: Reloaded


 In April 2003, skinema.com and the National Organization for Albinism (NOAH) joined forces in an effort to enlighten the public about the use of characters with albinism in the film "The Matrix: Reloaded." The following are some of the press reports about this issue:

Disclaimer: In general, we at skinema.com avoid the term "albino," preferring "people with albinism." The following sources are quoted as they were posted...


Wireless Flash News

April 23rd, 2003


SAN FRANCISCO (Wireless Flash) -- Hollywood films are rubbing a dermatologist the wrong way when it comes to dealing with albinism. Dr. Vail Reese whose hobby is documenting actors skin in movies claims movie studios are casting albinos in a poor light by continually making them the bad guy. Dr. Reese says it began back in the 1960s and 1970s with films like "Albino," "Foul Play" and "The Time Machine" where albinos were the bad guys. It still goes on today says Dr. Reese in movies like "Die Another Day," " Star Trek: Nemesis" and "The Matrix: Reloaded" where twin albino villains battle Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne's characters. He says he and other Albino activist groups wrote letters to Warner Bros. several months ago but haven't heard a peep from them. Dr. Reese says he'd just like to see an albino portrayed as a "buddy" character or the chief of police for once instead of the person who "gets slaughtered at the end of the movie and everyone cheers."


April 23rd, 2003

Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" made the following crack in his monologue:

"Albino activists are now protesting what they say is prejudice in Hollywood. They claim that movies often portray albinos negatively and as villains. When is the establishment going to give the really white man a break?

Sidekick Kevin Eubanks: "I think that all the time...when is the real white man gonna get a job?"


April 25th, 2003 Wired.com

Pale Riders Who Wear Black Hats  By Randy Dotinga

In the old days, the good guys wore white. Now Hollywood's villains are turning pale, and real-life albinos are crying foul as movies like The Matrix: Reloaded arrive with a fresh supply of pigment-challenged bad guys. The silver-clad, dreadlocked Matrix villains known as The Twins are the latest Hollywood incarnations of pale-skinned people as evil incarnate, said Dr. Vail Reese.

 "Die Another Day"

 "Star Trek Nemesis"

 "Blade 2"

 "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones"

Other recent movies have played upon that motif, including Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, Die Another Day, Blade 2 and Star Trek Nemesis. The movie characters frequently have red eyes -- just like some real-life albinos whose irises lack pigment -- and often dress entirely in white. "Audiences recognize it very quickly," Reese said. "They've learned that if you see a character with albinism in the movie, it's going to be an evil character. It's become part of the film language, for better or worse."

Warner Bros., the studio behind the Matrix movies, isn't convinced that there's a problem. "It's not our intention to single out any group of people as villains," said a spokeswoman who declined to be identified by name. "There are a wide variety of characters of all physical types playing both heroes and villains in these movies." The spokeswoman added that the pale-skinned villains in the new Matrix film, which hits theaters next month, aren't albinos. In fact, they even have black eyebrows, she said. Albinos typically have light-colored hair. "It was never our intention to position these characters as albinos," she said, "and we never refer them to as such because it would be inaccurate."

The Matrix characters do wear sunglasses, however, suggesting that they have at least one thing in common with albinos, who often must avoid sun exposure because of their lack of protective pigmentation. Albinism, a genetic condition that usually doesn't affect a person's life span, may be more common in the movies than in real life. No one knows how many albinos live in the United States, but some estimate only about 17,000.
In the movies, by contrast, Reese has tracked down dozens of evil pale-skinned characters, many of whose lives are decidedly shorter than average. Standouts include characters actually named "the albino" from movies like The Princess Bride and the Schwarzenegger flick End of Days. Other notable movies with albinolike bad guys include The Firm, starring Tom Cruise, and the Chevy Chase comedy Foul Play.

"To be honest, we don't get it," said Dr. Jim Haefemeyer, an albino who works as a family practitioner in Minneapolis. "Why are people with albinism used as villains in movies over and over?" Haefemeyer said his first experience seeing someone like himself on screen came when he caught 1971's The Omega Man on television. In the movie, a character played by Charlton Heston battles a plague that makes people "lose their pigmentation and became completely averse to light, living like zombies in the cities, scurrying around in the dark," Haefemeyer recalled. "Obviously, it's appalling. The people in Hollywood just can't seem to get the concept that there are real people with albinism."

One major exception to the rule of negative portrayals of albinos appears in 1995's Powder, starring Sean Patrick Flanery as a young, bald albino with magical powers. "People with albinism had mixed feelings about that," said Haefemeyer, who serves as chair of advocacy for the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. "He was a sympathetic character but became a Christlike figure, taken off into the sky by a bolt of lightening." Powder made just $31 million at the box office, its success overshadowed by a controversy over its director's child molestation conviction. Reese, the dermatologist, said neither he nor the albinism advocates want to see albinos disappear from film. "But how about a character with albinism who's the buddy in the buddy flick or the detective or the chief of police or the next-door neighbor?" he asked. "Anybody but the vicious, dehumanized murderer who gets killed at the end."


April 28th, 2003

Color him upset over 'Matrix' twins
In the deafening buzz over The Matrix Reloaded, out May 14, a negative voice is heard. Dermatologist Vail Reese says the sequel's pigment-challenged villains, Twin One and Twin Two, reinforce the stereotype of the evil albino. Because the twins are never called albinos, Warner Bros. denies there's a problem. Meanwhile, a fan on the Web site Ain't It Cool News suggests dubbing the dreadlocked duo "Milli" and "Vanilli."

 Red Streak, Chicago Sun Times

May 6th, 2003

Albinos have feelings, too

Albinos of the world revolt! Prominent California dermatologist Vail Reese has denounced the sequel to the movie "The Matrix" because--get this!--it has twin albino baddies, which he claims will reinforce the stereotype of albinos being evil. Huh? I've heard a lot of stereotypes in my day, but that one's new to me.

My usual exhaustive research--15 seconds with Google--found only a song called "Evil Albino," by Neverwinter, which I gather is some kind of gothshriek metal band. But that was it. Any readers who know all the details about the albino conspiracy are invited to ... no, not to contact me. Just to sedate yourselves and seek professional help. Not a word so far from the Twins Liberation Front.


May 14th, 2003

'Matrix Reloaded' villains draw fire    

Fans are eagerly awaiting "The Matrix Reloaded" - but it's made some people very unhappy. The villains in the flick are a pair of white-skinned, white-haired, red-eyed twins, and groups representing albinos say the movie unfairly stereotypes pigment-challenged individuals. "For the last 40 years filmmakers have used albino characters as villains, and they're almost always vicious, inhuman characters, depicted as freaks," says dermatologist Vail Reese.

       Dr. Jim Haefemeyer of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation tells The Scoop that the group has sent letters to movie-maker Warner Bros., but that the studio has not responded.
       "They're not albinos," a Warner Bros. rep snapped to the Scoop. "They have dark eyebrows and black lips." When The Scoop helpfully pointed out that dozens of publications - from Variety to Time magazine - had identified the villainous twins as albinos, the spokeswoman said, "We don't call them albinos. They're dead. That's why they're pale."

It's not over yet: The furor continues...

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