One in every 111 people in the UK has a significant disfigurement to their face. A public attitude survey found 90% of the general public find it difficult to attach positive qualities to people with disfigurements.
It showed that whilst not believing they do this, they implicitly judge people with disfigurements as being less attractive, less likely to succeed, less socially skilled and less likely to lead happy contented lives.
TV, film and advertising help to frame how society thinks about disfigurement.
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.
This anecdotal evidence was backed up by a major research study in 2009 from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and funded by The Healing Foundation and the Wales Office of Research & Development. It examined 8,650 hours of television footage for its final report: Media coverage and audience reception of disfigurement on television.
The report found that disfigurement is rarely shown on British television with only 293 individual representations. 85% of representations appeared in factual genres such as documentaries and the news. Only 15% of representations were in fictional programmes such as dramas, comedy and soaps.
Seventeen focus groups, including people with and without disfigurements, were interviewed about their views and a number of recurrent themes emerged.
Sixteen media producers were interviewed:
A sample of views from television producers included:
Since 1992, Changing Faces has worked with the media, including broadcasters, to raise awareness of these issues. We believe that the current media landscape could have a detrimental effect on public attitudes and behaviour towards people with disfigurements – particularly those whose main source of information is gleaned from what they see on television. People with disfigurements could also be negatively impacted by what they see on television believing their lives to be hopeless, tragic and abnormal. We believe that it is essential that broadcasters get in touch with us to find a way of changing this. We would like them to commit to: