Here's looking at you

A new poll looks at how different groups are portrayed in film.

by Jennie Kermode

When you encounter a new character in a film, do you get an instinctive feeling about how they're likely to behave? Are they likely to be a good person or a bad one? A new YouGov poll for facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces reveals how we look at different groups.

"In film, disfigurement is often used as a device to portray evil characteristics," say the charity on their website, pointing to Freddy Krueger and Bond villains as examples. A supporter quoted on their site asks "Why do people in horror films always have some form of disfigurement? Don't they realise the impact this an have on how people see me?"

YouGov asked a sample of 1,741 people if they thought members of different groups were mostly portrayed as good or bad. Many felt that most groups were portrayed both ways equally, but there were some striking differences, with 48% thinking disfigured people mostly play bad characters and only 5% thinking they mostly play good characters. By contrast, people with physical disabilities werr seen as mostly playing good characters.

What else indicates that a character is likely to be good? According to the poll, being elderly, being gay or having blonde hair are all positive indicators in films, and women are more likely to be good than men. Having bad teeth is the surest sign of villainy, but you should also be suspicious of characters with moustaches.

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