Bald Villains: Does Hair Loss Equate with a Lack of Moral Fortitude in Fiction?

Why does baldness often equate with a lack of moral fortitude in fictional storiesHair loss is as old as humanity, so it should be considered as routine as any other appearance variance. Unfortunately, the tendency to depict people of low moral character as looking different, strange, or “other” has stigmatized traits associated with a less than perfect appearance.

That has real-world consequences for people with those traits. Worse, for those suffering from hair loss, this stigmatization contributes to poor self-esteem and being self-conscious about their hair loss.

Why Are Many Villains Bald?

Obviously, there is no actual correlation between hair volume and morality. In the real world, a tendency toward criminal behavior is based on a variety of factors, but hair status is not one of them.

Yet fiction – whether it’s movies, TV, books, video games, or comic books – disproportionately depicts villains as having some noticeable degree of hair loss. A study on the Representation of Baldness in Movie Villains examined the top 100 movie villains and their corresponding heroes. It found that there was a greater likelihood of hair loss among villains – 64.4%. By comparison, it was only found in 22.22% of heroes. Villains were found to be shown with cosmetically significant hair loss (even when not complete) and that nine out of the top ten villains had hair loss.

So why are villains so disproportionately shown or described as entirely bald or suffering from hair loss? Heroes, whether it was in ancient Greek plays all the up to modern movies and comic books, tend to be portrayed with an idealized appearance. In contrast, their nemesis tends to be the opposite.

That means a hero with immense strength – like Superman or Shazam – tends to have villains who are cerebral like Lex Luthor or Dr. Sivana. The latter is an example of the bald evil scientist trope… which is a whole subcategory of bald TV tropes. Both heroes appear young, muscular, and with thick heads of hair, while their counterparts tend to be thin, often older, and bald.

Hair loss isn’t the only appearance trait commonly applied to villains, but it’s the one that has persisted the longest. In older stories, a villain might also have a skin condition, disability, or other traits that made them “ugly” to match their “evil character” – but today that’s considered insensitive and has mostly fallen away.

By contrast, creators tend to think hair loss is a “harmless” bias, if they think about it at all. The loss of hair can even be part of one’s transformation to evil. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, the transformation from Smeagol to Gollum involves substantial hair loss along with becoming animalistic, losing teeth, and becoming unnaturally thin. The back stories for Lex Luthor and Dr. Sivana commonly show them with full heads of hair, which disappears as they become evil.

As a result, pop culture has a long list of bald supervillains and disreputable characters suffering from hair loss, including:

  • Lex Luthor
  • Ernst Stavro Blofeld
  • Voldemort
  • Gollum
  • Darth Vader (though his helmet conceals his burned scalp)
  • Walter White from Breaking Bad
  • Bane from Batman
  • Kingpin and Bullseye in Daredevil
  • Darth Maul in Star Wars
  • Cypher in The Matrix
  • John Doe in Seven

And, of course, there is the bald evil scientist group… which includes Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, Dr. Sivana, Gru in the Despicable Me series, and Dr. Finkelstein in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Lex Luthor sometimes fits in this category, depending upon whether he’s depicted as an evil scientist, an evil businessman, or a mix of both. On the positive side is Doc Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy.

It’s so common that one man went on a YouTube rant denouncing the trope, complaining that the pop culture tendency creates a bias against those with hair loss.

Are There Any Bald Superheroes?

While bald supervillains and bald evil scientists outnumber heroes with a smooth scalp, bald superheroes do exist! These are just a few who are well-known due to their appearances in movies and TV shows in addition to their original comic book versions:

  • Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X
  • Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man
  • Deadpool
  • Vision
  • Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy
  • John Henry Irons, a.k.a. Steel
  • Nick Fury (Ultimate & MCU)
  • Martian Manhunter
  • The Silver Surfer
  • The Dora Milaje
  • Nebula (though sometimes a villain)
  • The Ancient One from Doctor Strange
  • The Watcher

And outside of the superhero arena, other heroic characters with hair loss are also positive role models. Those include Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Captain Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek, Morpheus in The Matrix (both the version played by Lawrence Fishbourne in the original movie trilogy and Yahya Abdul Mateen II in The Matrix Resurrections), Detective Theo Kojak, and Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road… to name a few.

Don’t Suffer with Hair Loss. Call RHRLI.

RHRLI is the top provider of hair restoration procedures on Long Island and in New York City, having performed more than one million hair follicle transplants using state-of-the-art hair restoration techniques. For a free consultation to evaluate your hair loss and the best treatment options, contact RHRLI today.

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