I know movies like Me, Myself and Irene and Powder have ticked a lot of people off. But I look at it another way.
Albinism has always been used in literature and media as metaphor. We haven’t been used as real people, but as a conduit for what the artist was trying to say. For me, this was very apparent in Powder. Not that it was that great of a movie, but I did get the point of the message. In other movies albinism is used for shock value or cheap laughs.
Metaphor is also used with other minorities. A dwarf character may be used by the screenwriter to show someone short sighted or small minded. Shakespeare depicted King Richard III as having a limp and a hunchback to show his twisted mentality. Fairy tail witches are often made old and unattractive as if to say older women who have ost their beauty and youth are evil and jealous of the heroine, and not to be trusted.
There is a parallel between the use of albinism in movies and pan-Africans along with other minority groups. There was a time when people of color were acted by Caucasians with cork on their faces and big white pancake makeup lips. People like Al Jolson performed in all White minstrel shows singing Mammy. This is just like what happens today when Caucasians put on white pancake makeup, white wigs and pretend to have albinism.
When Blacks were finally allowed to act in the movies they were Stepin’ Fetchit types, and fat mammy maids who “didn’t know nothing ‘bout birth’n no babies.” This was, believe it or not, an improvement. At least they were real Black people. These actors paved the way for the better roles of minorities. Now we can at least see, some of the time, ethnic minorities who aren’t in gangs, sweeping floors or raping women.
Next it was the turn of the disability community. People with dwarfism are getting out of the role of munchkins and elves. They still have a way to go, but the rules and roles are changing.
Now it’s our turn: the person with albinism. Our depictions have also come from using pigmented performers in Andy Warhol type fright wigs to casting the real thing. We still have a way to go when it comes to the evil albino or the sight gag, but thanks to the new awareness we are being given in the media and shows like Harry’s Law we are making strides. They may seem to be small ones to you, but they are strides. We have to start somewhere.
The Da Vinci Code. 2006. Columbia Pictures
“ The funniest thing was the monk.” I actually read the book and did not see the movie. So, I will comment on what I know of the Silas character in the novel.
From the movie publicity I am deducing that Silas was cast in the light of a villain. Actually, he was a very sympathetic character. He had a rough childhood and was ostracized by those around him. He finally found acceptance and solace in the church. He was not a violent person but sad, and rather delusional. He took his devoutness a little too far. Or did he? He was not a hit man or an assassin. He thought he was doing a good thing.
The Matrix Revolutions (Matrix 2) 2003. Warner Brothers.
How can we have a discussion about evil albinos in the movies without the famous and infamous albino twins?
Frankly I wonder what the directors were thinking. Why did I say that? I know what they were thinking. “Let’s have some really visually interesting villains. Let’s make them albinos. Hey. Let’s make them twins. That would be really weird. Let’s give them dreadlocks. Not dreadlocks that White people have, having a different hair texture and all. Let’s give them Black people’s dreadlocks. No one will notice. Let’s dress them all in white to emphasize how white and evil and weird they really are. Now, THAT’s weird. What about the eyes? Should we put red contacts on them? Naw. All the villains in this story, wear dark glasses so they have to wear them too”.
The twins are able to make themselves immaterial now and then. This can mean several things. The lack of pigmentation, the whiteness, the ghost-ness of them is an indication that they are very close to invisibility and are unsubstantial anyway. As in the book The Invisible Man, their lack of pigment makes it physically easier for them to vanish. The Invisible Man however, was still very solid, even though light went through him. The twins can vanish meaning that only the consciousness is left. They cannot be seen, heard or felt, but they exist nevertheless.
Wow. Is that a set up for a deep discussion.
10,000 B.C. Warner Brothers. 2008
(I was not able to obtain photos of the blind albinos for this review.)
According to the movie 10,000 BC, Egypt was built by a race of blind albinos. The head albino was supposed to be a God so ugly that his face had to be hidden from the world. It was said that whoever looked upon him would die, or go mad or go blind or something. Of course the heroes killed him in the end.
End of Days Universal Studios, 1999
Victor Varnado plays in this film with Arnold Schwarzenegger about a woman who is per-destined to conceive and give birth to The Antichrist. It’s still not clear to me whether Victor was angel or devil. I don’t have much to say about the movie except that it was, you know, a Schwarzenegger movie: gun fights, explosions, car chases and crashes, flexing muscles, the whole bit.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Fox Studios, 2009
Once again we are faced with an evil albino. He is in the form of a giant suchomimus named Rudy. Yes, Rudy. It was probably a cute name when he was a baby. Rudy is perpetually hunted by a scrappy, diminutive one-eyed weasel named Buck. These two characters remind me of the Moby Dick story where Captain Ahab with the scar running across his face chases after the great white sperm whale.
I am not offended by this character. I chose to see the positive. Not only did Rudy survive to adulthood, he became the biggest baddest bad-ass in the entire dino kingdom. He seemed to be defiantly a loner. He made no apologies about being “the albino.” Then again, maybe he had a complex and a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he had something to prove, maybe he didn’t.
Maybe no one told him he was different. Maybe everyone told him. Who knows? I just liked Rudy and Buck. May the better cartoon character win.
Cyberjack Canada, 1995
“. . . horrible eyes and white hair. He looks like a lab rat on steroids . . .” The character being talked about was of course, a villain. The writers made sure the word “albino” was not used while making it clear that this was what the speaker was referring to.
The Eiger Sanction Universal, 1975
In this movie a man sits in a darkened office. He is wearing dark glasses. He summons Clint Eastwood and gives a tedious lecture that he has given before about being an ALBINO!. He goes on and on about how he has to stay in the dark, can not even be touched by any light at all, bla, bla, bla. Eastwood was rolling his eyes and so was I.
Stick Universal 1995
In this film an angry-at-the-world assassin with albinism is out to get Burt Reynolds. The actor in a white fright wig is a sharpshooter and an expert driver without the aid of glasses or contacts. He has a huge chip on his shoulder and enjoys picking fights. He messes with Burt, though and goes out in a blaze of glory by falling off a building, white hair flying, guns blazing.
The Princess Bride Buttercup Films, 1987
The character in the comedy (Mel Smith) has no other name but “The Albino”. He plays along with Andre The Giant.
Powder: Hollywood Pictures, 1995
This movie was very much misunderstood by those who could not see beyond the surface of the lead character. Powder was the nickname of the lead character in this film. He was born with alopecia universialious, a condition meaning completely without hair, and he had albinism.
The movie tells us why he was hairless. His body, being a natural lightning rod, would not allow hair to grow. Something about all the electricity going through his body making him a natural electrolysis machine. They seemed to forget about his eyelashes. Not only were they present, they were brown. What the movie didn’t say was why he had albinism. Here is my explanation.
Powder was supposed to be as far up on the evolutionary scale from us as we are from the apes. Imagine how humans must look to the apes. To them, we are hairless beings with shockingly pale flesh and faces only a mother could love. To them, we are also geniuses with miraculous powers that they couldn’t begin to understand. This is how the people in the movie saw Powder.
Another reason for his being so very pale was that he represented light, itself. He was supposed to look like the lightening bolts he attracted. It was stated in the movie that Powder was a step below our ultimate destination as a human race. That is, pure consciousness. This is what happened at the end of the movie. Powder evolved into light and pure thought.
Like any Hero’s Journey stories Powder must endure trials and persecutions on his way to glory.
Although Powder is actually a badly made second rate movie, it was a great idea.
Ben, Bing Crosby Productions, 1972
This sequel to Willard, 1971, features an evil white rat. All the “good” rats have pigment.
Japan seems to have a love affair with the albino. I have found many examples. They are usually girls with some mystic power. Nothing new there. The difference in Japan and America is they don’t seem to use the albino’s physical appearance as a horror feature. Albinism seems to be used as a sign of beauty and grace. Take these following examples.
Kimba the White lion was brought to TV in the 60’s. He came from Manga, which is the name for Japanese comics. He was not an albino, but a white lion. There is a difference.
Kimba and his little known copy, Leo are not albinos. They have a type of hypopigmentation. There are such things as white, not albino lions and other animals. Of course the opposite would be hyperpigmentation that can be seen in black leopards and panthers.
I have seen several Manga characters with pale skin and pink eyes. Some of them are angelic oracles. Some are evil, such as Suigintou.
Suigintou, is one of seven dolls who call themselves the Rosen Maidens. Of the seven sometimes cantankerous dolls, two have mismatching eyes so that one has a green eye on the right and a brown eye on the left and her twin sister, Vice Versa. Another doll has a single eye and a rose in place of the other one. Suigintou is the first or eldest doll but she is far from a loving big sister. Apparently these dolls must kill each other to reach the end game and the reward. Reminds me of The Highlander.
Bartok 1997 Fox Studios
In 1997 Fox studios decided to play a little havoc with the facts of a true life Russian princess named Anastasia. Some people complained that the movie was not accurate but with Rasputin coming from the grave accompanied by a white bat, how accurate did they expect it to be?