Welcome back. I’m doubly grateful to Nalini Haynes for this essay, both for writing it, and because it’s a facet of discrimination and stereotyping that I haven’t thought as much about. Thank you, Nalini, for helping to remedy that.
Come back tomorrow for a post by Joie Young.
When I was in primary school, my classmates explained that I was evil because ‘all albinos are evil, look at albinos on TV and in the movies.’ I’ve been looking ever since.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine featured an albino Klingon who murdered defenceless wives and children.
The Da Vinci Code’s villain was an evil, masochistic albino. Every time he self-mutilated, I cringed and died a bit inside.
The pilot of Defiance had two albino-type alien villains, significantly paler than everyone else. Their son was Romeo to another character’s Juliet; ‘Romeo’ had a large tuft of blue hair to differentiate him from his evil albino-type parents.
The Heat’s albino was painted as the villain but [spoiler alert] he was ‘only’ a misogynistic bastard whose unprofessional conduct should have resulted in inter-departmental complaints.
The Hobbit: the Desecration Desolation of Hollywood Smaug features an albino orc. Orcs are so evil that, to make one orc stand out as being super-evil, Peter Jackson made him an albino. I loved the original book; IF ONLY PJ STUCK TO THE STORY.
The Silence of Medair received an honourable mention from the Aurealis Awards judges for its ‘playful’ dealing with racial tropes. I suffered its atrocious prose to discover the judges’ idea of playful dealing with racial tropes was making the villains a race of albino-types.
The evil albino trope is so prevalent that authors trying to be clever create evil (generically bad and/or inappropriately-behaving) albinos who are not the ultimate villain to mislead the audience as in The Heat (movie) and Wolves by Simon Ings. The evil albino trope affects popular perception of and treatment of real-life albinos.
Erin Carpenter said, “A minister’s son told our daughter she was the devil because she had red eyes and that she was going to go to hell.” Because evil albino is the devil.
In 2001 I overheard a conversation between the parents of an albino in grade three and the teacher. The teacher said the albino spent her class breaks in tears hiding in the bushes because her classmates were bullying her. The teacher said the albino had to take responsibility for being bullied, had to stop crying and hiding from the bullies. Because evil albino is always at fault.
In 2005 I landed a job at CNAHS, part of the Department of Health in South Australia. I was refused disability access repeatedly, including in email and in a staff meeting where I was publicly humiliated before walking out in tears. Because evil albino should be refused disability access.
A CNAHS colleague commented she couldn’t read the smallest print on a notice without her glasses. I replied that I couldn’t read anything beyond the largest print on that notice with my glasses. The senior social worker said, “That’s because you’re too vain to wear coke bottle glasses.” The senior social worker repeatedly asked me not to apply for work elsewhere because she needed me, requiring me to work the longest hours and take on the most difficult clients (clients she should have accepted). Then she participated in a selection committee that gave my job to a student she hadn’t allowed to counsel clients only three months earlier. After I lodged a complaint about managers refusing disability access and then replacing me, the senior social worker refused to be a referee, thus ensuring I could never work as a counsellor again. Because evil albino is vain.
CNAHS’s investigator initially committed to natural justice but later refused to include my evidence. After redacting others’ interviews, the investigator falsely claimed I did not have a disability, I had not asked for disability access and I did not need disability access. Because evil albino deserves neither justice nor a job.
The Equal Opportunities Commission investigated. The EOC found that CNAHS refused disability access repeatedly but that this was my fault because I hadn’t asked “enough times.” Because evil albino is always at fault.
I took the matter to court, representing myself (unemployed, remember?). The judge ruled crucial evidence inadmissible; this ‘inadmissible’ evidence included manager’s notes, employment forms and emails proving declaration of disability and refusals of access. When I asked why he was ruling my evidence inadmissible he laughed and said, “Because I can.” Because evil albino should not have evidence.
After losing my career I turned to further study. In 2007 the Human Rights Commission found the University of South Australia discriminated against me. The Human Rights representative presented an offer on behalf of UniSA: $4000 compensation, a gagging order and a permanent ban from further education. Because evil albino is not entitled to an education nor a job.
Once I was allowed to return to study (after threatening to expose UniSA on radio), they harassed and victimised me, forcing me to withdraw. In 2008 UniSA’s lawyer offered me over $3000 compensation with a gagging order and a permanent ban on further education. In the next few years I repeatedly applied to universities to retrain but was continually knocked back until 2012 when RMIT wanted to make me an offer but could not do so because UniSA refused to confirm my previous education. Because evil albino should not be allowed an education.
(I wrote to UniSA threatening legal action then the difficulty was magically resolved although they denied responsibility. I’m now enrolled at RMIT, earning distinctions and high distinctions.)
The evil albino trope is lazy writing, creating a sense of ‘other’ by victimising a small minority group. The evil albino trope alienates albinos, punishing us for looking different and suffering bad eyesight. Reinforcing perceptions of incompetence and evil-ness in this people group is discrimination and victimisation.
Last year I spoke up against the evil albino trope in a cultural misappropriation panel at a convention. Afterwards several people told me that they weren’t misappropriating albinism, they were justified in writing their evil albino.
If you wouldn’t write an ‘evil [insert racial group, sexual orientation or disability group here]’ then do not write an evil albino.
- Where it’s dangerous to live with Albinism
- The biennial conference of the Albinism Fellowship of Australia
- TV tropes: the Evil Albino trope
- Wikipedia: albinism in popular culture
Photo by Kevin Mark.