In January’s edition of the British Journal of Dermatology is an interesting article on villainous hair, or the lack of it.
[Kyriakou G, Drivelou V & Glentis A. Villainous hair : ba(l)d to the bone – would they be so evil if they had hair? Br J Dermatol 2021;184:156-157]
Well quite! What the authors did was to look at the top 100 greatest movie villains from the Ranker list. If you didn’t know, Ranker is a US company whose website claims to have one of the world’s largest databases of people’s opinions on all sorts of things from food, culture, sports etc.
What did they do when they found these top 100 villains?
They then evaluated each movie villain and that villain’s respective counterpart movie hero for the presence or absence of alopecia.
They discounted anything or anyone who wasn’t human (quite a fluid term when you think of all the beings in the Marvel, DC and Star Wars movies!) and they also excluded those who wore helmets and hats. They also excluded mild male pattern baldness ie androgenetic alopecia of Norwood-Hamilton stage 1 (mild frontal hairline recession).
Who were the top villains?
The top 10 villains were the Joker, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Voldemort, Jack Torrance (in The Shining), Freddy Krueger, Magneto, Terminator, Emperor Palpatine and Agent Smith (The Matrix).
What did they find?
They found that there was a significantly higher prevalence of hair loss in the top 100 villains compared to the corresponding heroes.
In the top 10 villains, the prevalence rate was even higher at 90% and the androgenetic alopecia was cosmetically significant, being of Norwood-Hamilton stage 3 or greater (moderate frontal recession and some thinning at the vertex or top of scalp).
They also found increased prevalences of rarer types of hair loss such as alopecia areata totalis or universalis, postburn scarring alopecia (was that Darth Vader?) and frontal fibrosing alopecia.
So the relevance being?
They raise the point that depicting hair loss as a marker of evilness not only raises the question of how society perceives hair loss but also reinforces a negative view on it. It also increases the psychological burden of hairloss for patients with alopecia.
They also raise the point that in many films where there is a battle of good versus evil, the gradual loss of hair is a reflection of that character’s transition from a good person to an evil one.
They quote the examples of Smeagol in Lord of the Rings turning evil under the influence of the ‘One Ring’ and losing his hair (and most of his clothes) and Scott Evil in Austin Powers as another example.
They don’t say! But one would guess that we need to change the way that villains are portrayed in mainstream media.
Dr Sandy Flann, Consultant Dermatologist.