Cleft palate support groups have hit out at Disney's new summer film The Lone Ranger , amid accusations that the villain was given a birth defect to make him look more evil .
Disney's promotional material for the film said of William Fichtner's character Butch Cavendish: Cavendish is a ruthless outlaw whose terribly scarred face is a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul. Fichtner told
entertainment reporters that his broken nose and cleft lip made it easier to slip into his role, and meant he didn't need to act any more evil because it was obvious from his face.
The Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) issued a statement saying Disney was cashing in on prejudice , and urged its members to lodge complaints with the film's producers.
Even the official set of The Lone Ranger Lego toys features a small Butch Cavendish with a very prominent cleft lip. In an open letter to executives at Lego, a member of the US community website babycenter wrote: You make toys for children and
these toys (often wonderfully) impact how they perceive or create the world.
CLAPA said Disney was sending out:
A deeply harmful message that will impact the 90,000 people that were born with a cleft in the UK as well as others worldwide. What message does this send to movie-goers about people with a cleft or anyone with a visible difference? What message does it
send to those who have a cleft themselves about how they are seen by society?
Across the Atlantic, the Toronto Star reported Rachel Mancuso, who runs the website cleftsmile.org, as saying she had received around 1,000 emails a day from people complaining about the film. She told the Star: As a parent and educator, I'm having a
hard time understanding why they had to create a bad guy and slap on the number one birth defect.