What do Jafar, Frollo, Dr. Facilier and Captain Hook all have in common that Gaston, Clayton and Syndrome don’t? They were all created using the Ugly + Thin formula.
In the world of animated, human (or humanoid) Disney villains, there seems to be a pattern in the way the characters were designed. The villainous men of Disney fall into five categories: Handsome, Ugly + Buff, Ugly + Fat, Ugly + Thin, and Short. The women fall into three: Beautiful, Ugly + Fat, and Ugly + Thin.
Out of a selection of Disney villains, here are the categories each belong to:
Handsome Men: Gaston (jerk and attempted murderer) and Prince Hans (jerk and attempted murderer).
Ugly + Buff Men: Shan Yu (murderer), Hades (conman and attempted murderer), Clayton (animal abuser), the Stabbington Brothers (thieves and attempted murderers) and Commander Rourke (thief and murderer).
Ugly + Thin Men: Captain Hook (attempted murderer), Jafar
(traitor and attempted murderer), Frollo (child abuser, racist, and attempted
murderer), and Dr. Facilier (conman and attempted murderer).
Ugly + Fat Men: Governor Ratcliffe (racist and attempted
murderer), Sykes (loan shark and kidnapper) and Syndrome (murderer).
Short Men: Chef Skinner (traitor) and Turbo/King Candy (attempted murderer).
Beautiful Women: Evil Queen (attempted murderer), Evil Stepmother/Lady Tremaine (child abuser), Mother Gothel (child abuser), Maleficent (attempted murderer) and Queen Narissa (attempted murderer).
Ugly + Fat Women: Ursula (conman and attempted murderer), Queen of Hearts (murderer) and Madam Mim (attempted murderer).
Ugly + Thin: Cruella De Vil (animal abuser), Madame Medusa
(child abuser) and Yzma (traitor and attempted murderer).
But what are these design themes saying?
Well, for one thing, Disney using certain formulas to denote villainy – especially for certain types of criminal activity – is a little too similar to Cesare Lombroso’s concept of criminal atavism, the modern birth of criminal profiling. This 19th century Italian criminologist believed that if one was a criminal, they were born that way because it was in their biology and physical attributes. Some of the attributes include a protruding chin, a receding forehead, a beaky nose, high cheekbones, a thin neck, excessive or diminished height, bushy eyebrows, tattoos and masculine-looking women. Any of these look familiar?
Disney showing kids that bad people can come in all shapes and sizes is a good thing. Abuse and danger can come from the people who are supposed to protect you, say they love you, or say they’re trying to help you. However, using the same formulas for almost all of their villains could be conditioning children to profile people with these types of looks. Not every tall, thin man with a protruding chin is trying to deceive people. Not every heavy, masculine woman is trying to murder people. Not every stepmother is evil.