We want to know what you think about the portrayal of disfigurement on TV

What do you think

People who contact Changing Faces tell us that there are very few positive role models for people with disfigurements on television.  Current depictions of disfigurement in the media create a distorted, uninformed and negative view of disfigurement. This can influence how people are perceived and result in prejudice and discrimination.

These views are backed up a major research study from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism on TV Portrayals of Disfigurement and Audience Impact.  It showed that TV rarely featured people with disfigurements in everyday roles and portrayals of disfigurement on TV tended to be based on stereotypes and assumptions.

Some examples of the portrayals of people with disfigurements on television include

  • people with facial scarring, burns, birthmarks and other conditions often being presented as nasty, tragic, reclusive or shadowy characters in drama
  • it being rare to see people with disfigurements on entertainment shows either as guests or hosts
  • the acquisition of a disfigurement being a common device used by writers to write characters out of a series.
  • newsreaders and narrators in documentaries often using negative language and imagery when describing disfigurement: “He was horribly disfigured in a car accident”; “she is hideously scarred”; “his life has been ruined by disfigurement”
  • titling of some documentaries being reminiscent of 19th century freak shows and can actually encourage viewers to view people with disfigurements as abnormal, such as ‘The Undateables’ and ‘Adam Pearson: Freak Show’
  • music and lighting is often sombre and dark to create a sinister or tragic mood whenever a character with a disfigurement appears

What Changing Faces thinks

Changing Faces believes that television and the media can play a big role in changing attitudes and breaking down prejudice around disfigurement.

Changing Faces wants to increase the visibility of people with disfigurements in everyday and public roles on television.

To do this, broadcasters need to commit to

  • including more everyday coverage of people with disfigurements (as extras or characters in soaps, as participants on game-show, commenting on current affairs)
  • examining whether their current representations of disfigurement are based on stereotypes and assumptions about disfigurement
  • examining whether the language/tone/imagery regarding the portrayal and coverage of disfigurement is offensive/derogatory or prejudicial in any way
  • redressing imbalance, stereotyping and offensive coverage.

What can you do

Cardiff’s research confirmed that people with and without disfigurements wanted to see wider, everyday representations of people with disfigurement and felt that TV could play an important educational role.

Would you like to see more people with disfigurements in everyday and public roles on television?

Do you think that current portrayals of people with disfigurements accurately reflect your life (or a friend, family member’s life) or are the storylines often hackneyed and unimaginative showing little understanding of your life?

Do you find the language used by presenters, newsreaders, narrators to describe disfigurement offensive?

Are you tired of the documentaries which encourage people to assume that everyone with a disfigurement is constantly seeking a medical solution to their ‘problem’.

Please share your thoughts by emailing us or call 0345 450 0275.