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Disfigurement Charity’s Urgent Plea: Horror Films Need Warning Labels to Protect Vulnerable Audiences

Disfigurement Charity’s Urgent Plea: Horror Films Need Warning Labels to Protect Vulnerable Audiences

Changing Faces, a UK charity that represents individuals with disfigurements or visible differences, has called on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV, and Disney+ to include on-screen warnings before showing negative portrayals of disfigurements in horror films. The charity highlights that Halloween can be a particularly stressful time for people with visible differences, as villainous characters with scars, marks, burns, or conditions are often recreated as costumes or used as terms of abuse in everyday life.

Changing Faces has written to broadcasters and streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, All4, and ITVX, urging them to take action. The charity suggests updating individual film listings to include a description that highlights the negative portrayal of those with visible differences. They also recommend integrating an on-screen caveat before the film plays, acknowledging the harmful tropes that perpetuate negative perceptions of individuals with visible differences. Additionally, they suggest signposting to support resources for those affected or seeking more information about the experiences of individuals with visible differences at the end of the film.

Evil characters with disfigurements have been a common trope in film history, with examples including villains in James Bond, the Joker, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger. Heather Blake, the chief executive of Changing Faces, emphasizes that the film industry plays a role in reinforcing harmful stereotypes, which can have a lasting impact on individuals with visible differences. She believes streaming platforms can help raise awareness and move the industry forward by acknowledging these stereotypes and adding warnings to content that explains their presence and potential harm to individuals with visible differences.

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