Disney’s Disappointing Depiction of Congenital Differences

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise stated, all views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

I have been disappointed to learn that Disney have chosen to use a cleft lip to add to the ‘look’ of the sinister and evil character, Butch Cavendish, played by William Fitchner in the new release film Lone Ranger. It appears that the cleft is present for the sole purpose of making the character appear less favourable in the minds of viewers. At best, this is an example of widespread ignorance within The Walt Disney Company, clearly demonstrating a lack of empathy towards those affected by medical conditions such as cleft around the world.

Mainstream media such as film, has a real opportunity to portray many of the positive stories that have come out of the adversities many people face by having a difference. Unfortunately, Disney’s lack of foresight when depicting the character Butch Cavendish, has directly countered much of the good work undertaken by my organisation and our many sister organisations around the world in recent years to encourage awareness and understanding of cleft. Given this latest Disney film, we clearly have not yet achieved that and still have a significant way to go. I find this deeply disheartening, we strive incredibly hard to make the world a better place for everyone affected by this incredibly common condition affecting on average 1 in 700 live births around the globe, we strive to achieve an environment where those affected by cleft are free from prejudices directed towards them. Just why a company such as Disney would choose to hinder this rather than support this effort is baffling.

I have met with many people over the years who have been the victims of bullying and prejudice, and this has led to many young people having a very low sense of self-worth and low self-esteem, which distresses me very much and improving this is my motivation for doing what I, my team, and all the other support groups around the world do. I urge Disney to consider what message they are sending to movie-goers with regards to cleft through their film Lone Ranger. I also would encourage Disney to ask themselves what message they are sending to individuals born with cleft about how society views their condition. Disney is a company that is in a unique position to be able to portray groups of people in either a positive or negative light at their complete discretion, and I am disappointed that they chose to do the latter, and do a disservice to all those affected by difference or disability through their film The Lone Ranger.

People born with congenital abnormalities deserve better than to be depicted in films as someone to be feared, particularly from a company that is supposedly so family-focussed.

Of course, we all have the option to vote with our feet and wallets by making the decision to boycott The Lone Ranger film and merchandise, as well as by expressing our opinion to Disney directly on the film’s official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheLoneRanger, on Twitter @LoneRanger #LoneRanger or by contacting those profiteering from this by using one or more of the email addresses below:

Disney: support@disney.com.au Hoyts Cinemas: feedback@hoyts.co.nz Reading Cinemas/Event Cinemas: http://readingcinemas.co.nz/contact_us

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Butch Cavendish as played by William Fitchner in Lone Ranger

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