Thursday, April 28, 2005

Black & White

One of the more unusual movie sites I came across in my research for my La-La Land web directory was Skinema: An examination of dermatology in film. At first glance, this may seem like a ridiculously narrow area that would yield little content. Yet there's some interesting stuff here, including it's latest focus: The upcoming film version of The Da Vinci Code.

For the half dozen of you out there who haven't read it, one of the main villains is an albino named Silas. There has been concern voiced by NOAH (The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) about yet another albino character cast as evil. The list that Skinema provides is certainly persuasive in its argument that this trend is the norm rather than the exception. Out of 85 characters, excluding Silas, 67 are portrayed as Evil.

NOAH put out a press release describing their efforts to persuade Imagine Entertainment and Ron Howard to make changes to the Silas character. An excerpt:

NOAH is concerned that fictional novels and movies depict people with albinism so inaccurately that the fiction overwhelms reality. "One huge problem with The Da Vinci Code is how Silas is described with red eyes," McGowan said. " That's a myth. Most often in people with albinism the eyes are light blue or even hazel." Though their eyes are a normal color, many with albinism have impaired vision. McGowan points out that it is ironic that movies dating back to The Firm, and Lethal Weapon, have made people with albinism into sharpshooters. NOAH argues that the evil albino is a hackneyed plot device used repeatedly by filmmakers depicting people with albinism as being only wicked. NOAH believes that the absence of positive albino characters in motion pictures contributes to misinformation about the condition and stereotyping and discrimination against people with albinism.
Mrs. Mosley and I discussed this on the way to work this morning (Spoilers Ahead). The fact of the matter is, the albinism is part of the Silas character. His experiences of being mistreated due to his albinism is part of what makes him who he is. By the end of the novel, he has turned into more of a tragic character as the role of main villain is transferred from him to someone else. This semi-redemption is cold comfort for NOAH, I'm sure, as the image of the albino Silas as relentless fiend will stay with readers of the book more than other elements.

When the movie is adapted for the screen, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that his back story, which is given in the book and provides the context for his character, will be one of the first things cut. I'm not saying this is right, but that's generally the way it goes. What will be left is the cinematic shorthand that has developed over the years of the albino as bad guy.

The story is an interesting one and can make a fine film. With all the other historical and religious themes that run through the novel, one would think that they could portray Silas as an interesting character sans the albinism. The latest rumor is that British actor Christopher Eccleston has been cast in the role and that's good to hear. Not only is he a very good actor, but he's also talented enough to play "creepy and menacing" without any help from his pigment, or lack thereof.

(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)

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