Motion pictures and the skin
The motion picture has been an able vehicle for producing any
number of themes that could involve the skin and dermatologic
conditions. The reader needs only recall the beauty of the silent
movie star Pola Negri (1897–1987) or the ugliness of Dracula in
his namesake movie (1992) and the frightening character of
Frankenstein (1931). There also is the 1980 ﬁlm, entitled ‘The
Elephant Man’, based on the life of John Merrick, (1862–1890),
once shown as having neuroﬁbromatosis but more likely to have
had proteus syndrome.
Elsewhere in this issue, Ishida et al.
discuss cutaneous obser-
vations in movies since 2000. They have observed skin changes
ranging from purpura to scar formation. A review of the derma-
tologic literature on the subject suggests that villains often
appear with facial scars, likely as a result of ﬁghts in a tavern, or
with facial pallor that is frankly unappetizing.
have lovely complexions and well-coiffed hair, and no wonder,
for Hollywood is responsible for the development of many cos-
metics (i.e. pancake make-up) that camouﬂage any number of
cutaneous sins, turning actresses into the envy of the audience.
All of this should not be unexpected. Does the audience really
want to set eyes upon Plain Jane, who can be found in every box
store throughout the United States? The viewer hopes to view a
glamorous actress or the modern version of Cary Grant (1904–
1986). As movies progressed from the nickelodeon to the silent
ﬁlm and from the black and white talkies to the modern version
of the Technicolor
movie with or without Cinerama
much more powerful to have the heroes and heroines as attrac-
tive people and the villains as people with distasteful appear-
ances. Shooting a star with psoriatic plaques or rhinophyma
from rosacea (e.g. W. C. Fields (1880–1946) a noted vaudevil-
lian, had a large red bulbous nose) may be realistic and even
engender sympathy, but there is the risk that the audience may
be repelled by such realism.
In recent years, there have been two signiﬁcant presentations
relating to dermatology and the movies.
These papers high-
light the 87 ﬁlms depicting albinism as an unfavourable condi-
tion or other ﬁlms with unﬂattering portrayals of patients with
syphilis, leprosy and even Kaposi’s sarcoma. While none of these
dermatologic maladies is pleasant for audience viewing, patients
so afﬂicted should engender sympathy rather than distaste,
let alone repulsion.
L.C. Parish,* S.G. Parish
Clinical Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology and Director of
the Jefferson Center for International Dermatology, Sidney Kimmel
Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
*Correspondence: L.C. Parish. E-mail: Larryderm@yahoo.com
1 Ishida Y, Lin E, Otsuka A, Kabashima K. Skin ﬁndings of 21st century
movie characters. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2018; 32: e98–e100.
2 Johanssen JG, D. Media and the skin. SKINmed. 2018; 16:11–12.
3 Croley JA, Reese V, Wagner RF Jr. Dermatologic features of classic movie
villains: the face of evil. JAMA Dermatol 2017; 153: 559–564.
4 Reese V. Dermatology in the cinema. J Am Acad Dermatol 1995; 33: 1030–
5 Chan C, Wagner RF Jr. Dermatology at the movies. Clin Dermatol 2009;
© 2018 European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
2018, 32, 338