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Why Darth Vader and other top film villains need a dermatologist

Big-screen baddies have skin conditions more often than heroes do, and that could have negative implications for those who suffer from real-life dermatological ails, a study finds.

Darth Vader's skin needs a consultation.

If you want to tell at a glance who the big-screen movie villain is, the signs are often no more than skin deep, especially if that skin is on a balding head.

A study published Wednesday in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Dermatology looked at the American Film Institute's list of all-time top 10 film heroes and villains and evaluated the 20 characters' dermatological characteristics.

Six of the top 10 villains had identifiable skin conditions, but only 2 of the top 10 film heroes did.

One of the most common dermatological findings was alopecia, or hair loss, a characteristic of bad dudes Darth Vader, Dr. Hannibal Lecter from 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs" and Mr. Potter from the 1941 holiday staple "It's a Wonderful Life." Three antagonists could also be diagnosed with periorbital hyperpigmentation, or dark circles under the eyes: Vader, Regan MacNeil from 1973's "The Exorcist" and the evil queen from Disney's 1937 animated version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Vader also has multiple facial scars and deep wrinkles, or rhytides, while the queen has wrinkles, warts (verruca vulgaris) and a bulbous nose (rhinophyma). That makes them the two characters who could benefit most from a dermatological evaluation.

Meanwhile, the only classic film heroes found to have facial imperfections were Indiana Jones and Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in "Casablanca" (1943). Both had scars, which the study's authors point out are usually shorter and more subtle on heroes than on villain.

"The results of this study demonstrate Hollywood's tendency to depict skin disease in an evil context, the implications of which extend beyond the theater," the study reads.

The authors say the negative association of "dermatologic minorities" with the characters we love to hate might carry over to stigmas in real life.

So next time you presume that bald, wrinkly old guy with the unusual facial coloring is a creep, remember this scene:


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