Think about what a villain in an animated film usually looks like… that’s what a study out of The University of Texas did when they analyzed characters from 50 of the highest grossing animated films. They found that 75% of the evil or bad characters had skin issues! Only 25% of the good characters had some sort of skin problem.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork points out how this could easily translate to children thinking bad people have bad skin! To discuss the issue more, The Doctors are joined by psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli.
Dr. Sportelli explains that animators are onto, what in psychology is known as, the halo effect. Dr. Sportelli explains the halo effect is when someone is perceived as physically attractive, they are also thought to have personality traits that are better than others (they are seen as nicer, smarter, or more capable). The opposite is true for people who are perceived to be unattractive.
Dr. Sportelli agrees that the portrayal of these movie villains could be saying, “If you look something like that, then you may be a bad person.” This is troubling but Dr. Sportelli shares how parents can try and prevent their children from developing these stereotypes.
He explains that research unequivocally shows that kids develop a sense of the world by interacting with important adults in their lives. So as parents/caretakers, it is important to try and focus on behaviors and character traits instead of physical appearance when describing people. Dr. Sportelli likes to reinforce characteristics like kindness, perseverance, selflessness and sharing, and advises adults to point those qualities out to children.