Transforming Faces provides free, local, and ongoing multi-disciplinary cleft care for children and adults in developing countries.

TF Disheartened by Villain’s Portrayal in The Lone Ranger


Bookmark and Share

Transforming Faces was disheartened to see that Disney’s recent release, The Lone Ranger, features Butch Cavendish, a villain who was given an artificial cleft lip to appear more sinister.

“I’ve met many children over the past 10 years who have been affected by cleft lip and palate – they are resilient, strong and beautiful. But, I have also seen the physical as well as emotional scars that these individuals often carry.  They are often bullied and taunted at school or depicted as villains,” said Esteban Lasso, Executive Director of TF.

In 2012, Changing Faces, the UK’s leading disfigurement charity, commissioned a YouGov survey which found that bad teeth, scars, burns and other conditions affecting the face are viewed as the most common indicators of an evil or villainous character in a film. Changing Faces then launched Face Equality on Film, which encouraged a balanced portrayal of people with disfigurements in films.

“It’s disheartening that a major motion picture would perpetuate this negative perception and we hope that in future, birth defects and facial differences will not be used to portray ‘evil’ characters,” said Lasso.


  1. hannah, July 19, 2013:

    While i am not concerned by the villian being portrayed with a cleft lip (I will discuss with my children that the character is evil because of what he does not what he lookslike) it seems to be an unnecessary obstacle for all those parents struggling with such conversations with their children, and more specifially their schoolmates whowillalso see the film and not have thier parents, or personal experience, to differentiate between a cleft palate being evil and a cleft palate being present on a evil person. Having a cleftdoes notdefine any person as good or bad but in this instancethe film company activelydecided that having acleft would make this character appear more villianous, and it is to this which i object. Scars, burns battle wounds could be explained by the character leading a violent lifestyle, but a cleft is something you are born with, somethingyou cannot escape and something which in my opinion should not be recreated with negative intentions.

  2. Debbie, July 19, 2013:

    Hi Hannah,
    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment on our post. We too believe that having a cleft does not define a person as good or bad and we are disheartened that the villain was portrayed in this manner.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,
    Debbie at TF

  3. Jennifer Nichols, July 19, 2013:

    Having a child born with a cleft lip and palate I am disappointed that Disney would choose to use a physical birth defect to enhance the evil in this character. Many children face multiple surgeries, therapies and bullying due to a facial defect and if anything Disney should portray actors with facial defects as over comers and heroes.

  4. Cory, July 21, 2013:

    Having been born with two facial clefts, I am personally offended that Disney would choose to add a fake cleft to their villain character in the Lone Ranger which was filmed in my state (New Mexico) no less. But then again I am still disappointed in Disney continuing to sexualize its female characters in every production they finance.

  5. Lisa, July 22, 2013:

    Its not a bad thing using the cleft lip its just a shame its the villain that has it and not the good guys….my daughter was born cleft lip and pallet and has quite a noticable scare and tight lip, just wish it was on one of the good guys so could be looked at in a more possitive way, thanks

  6. Debbie, July 22, 2013:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment everyone! We hoped that this would spur discussion about how people with facial differences are portrayed on film in future. We love the mix of opinions. Thanks!

Leave a comment