Negative Associations With Baldness Start in Childhood

As any film from The Fast and the Furious franchise proves, there are many men for whom baldness is a great look. But, for others, going bald is not something to embrace as wholeheartedly as Vin Diesel, Tyrese or Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.

One reason some men can be uncomfortable about losing their hair is due to some of the perceived negative associations that surround hair loss.

In addition to - incorrectly - being considered a sign of 'old age', according to a report in the British Journal of Dermatology, baldness is also used in children's animated films as a 'visual shorthand for negative traits'. In short, we are taught from a young age that baddies are bald, which is where early negative connotations can start.

On-going reinforcement of negative stereotypes

Child watching TV television film movie cartoon animationPublished in June 2018, the University of Texas study considered the morality and visual dermatological attributes of key human characters from the top 50 highest grossing animated movies up to January 2017. Half of the films reviewed were released after 2010. Films where the characters were animals or robots, or where there was a PG-13 rating, were excluded.

It found that a number of dermatological issues, including baldness, wrinkles, scars, moles and spots, were used to signify how 'bad' a character was in 76.5 per cent of the animations studied. Only 25.9 per cent of 'good' characters shared any of these traits.

This backs previous findings from a 2017 clinical evaluation of movie villains which also found hair loss to be a top trait, showing how this stereotyped view may start in childhood and be subconsciously reinforced throughout people's lives.

Destigmatising baldness

This stigmatisation does not just apply to men with Male Pattern Baldness, of course; it also refers to men, women and children with hairloss from the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata.

This can cause anything from treatable patchy hair loss anywhere on the scalp, to complete baldness of the head - including facial hair, lashes and eyebrows, to the body rejecting all hair from head to toe in the most extreme form. These latter two conditions, Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis, cannot currently be effectively treated though it is hoped that at least one of the many autoimmune hair loss solutions in development will become available for prescription in around the year 2021.

For people affected by any of these hair loss conditions, combating long-held misconceptions can be an upsetting experience, so the American researchers and the British Association of Dermatologists have called for film-makers to do better.

The depiction of skin issues in movies and its association with evil over good could be a factor contributing to the stigma of skin disease," commented Michael Ryan, one of the researchers involved in the study. "Societal perceptions and beliefs regarding beauty and youthfulness are likely underlying the desire [for treatments]. The association between evil and skin findings in film could be one factor that contributes to these beliefs.

British Association of Dermatologists' Communications Officer, Matthew Gass also noted, “The animated films we watch as children tend to stick with us, with many of us being able to fondly recall our favourites with ease. We watch them in formative years when we are learning about good and evil, and whether they mean to or not, it’s likely that they impact our biases and associations. One thing that thing that we know is that the creators of these works are capable of producing emotional, nuanced, and thoughtful works. We hope that this means that they will be open to considering this research when making animated films in future.”

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The Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.

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