News & Events

Disney’s The Lone Ranger and the Portrayal of Cleft Lip

[16 Jul 2013]

We’re extremely disappointed to see that Disney are once again cashing in on prejudice by giving their villain in the upcoming Lone Ranger film a very visible prosthetic cleft lip as part of his ‘look’ as an evil, sinister character. Not only is this incredibly lazy storytelling, it’s also sending a deeply harmful message that will impact the 90,000 people that were born with a cleft in the UK as well as others worldwide.

The theme of our 2013 Awareness Week was ‘bullying and self-image’, as unfortunately many people with a cleft experience prejudice growing up, largely due to ignorance and misinformation, and Disney have clearly proven that awareness is still a serious problem. At least, we hope this decision was made in ignorance, as otherwise we can only conclude that they simply do not care about the ramifications of representing people with a visible difference - including babies and young children - as sinister villains.

To be clear, we do not object to someone with a cleft playing a villain - in fact we would very much like to see more people with a cleft represented on the silver screen - but actor William Fichtner does not have a cleft himself, and admits that it was added with makeup to complete the 'look' of a villain, even saying that thanks to his broken nose and 'cleft lip' the role of a sinister villain was easier to slip into. The character's profile from the film studio itself describes him as having a “terribly scarred face,” which is “a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul.” The idea that facial scars are a shortcut to an evil character is hardely original, but it is outdated and extremely offensive, and in this day and age it is shocking to find that this sort of statement can be made publically without anyone questioning it beforehand. Regardless of the intention behind his facial scar, the fact remains that it is being discussed as a 'cleft lip', and instead of using this visibility to raise awareness and fight the stigma, we are being dragged back into the dark ages with many commenting on how 'creepy' and 'evil' it made him look.

What message does this send to movie-goers about people with a cleft or anyone with a visible difference? What message does it send to those who have a cleft themselves about how they are seen by society?

A congenital abnormality is not something to be made fun of, a cleft lip does not add to the ‘look’ of a villain, a character like this will not help the public’s perception or understanding of cleft, and Disney, we will NOT be going to see your movie.

Tell Disney and the Lone Ranger team what you think!

  •  Tweet them at @Disney or @LoneRanger, and use the hashtag #loneranger to make sure your complaints are visible by anyone searching for the movie.
  • Tweet us a photo @clapacommunity of you or your child with a cleft so we can spread #CleftFactsNotFiction
  •  Visit their Facebook pages to tell them why you will be boycotting the film
  • Post comments on review sites to tell others why they should not support Disney and the Lone Ranger
  • Tell your friends!

People born with a cleft deserve better than to be seen as villains – make sure they get the message loud and clear!