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Dublin: 20 °C Monday 22 July, 2019

Parents angry over cleft lip character in Disney movie 'The Lone Ranger'

Parents of children with cleft lip and palate say that the film features a character which portrays a “deliberate negative association of a cleft”.

'Butch Cavendish'
'Butch Cavendish'
Image: The Lone Ranger Movie via Tumblr

PARENTS OF CHILDREN affected by cleft lip and cleft palate have hit out at a forthcoming Disney film ‘The Lone Ranger’ which features a character who has a cleft lip.

The film, due out in Ireland next week, features a character called Butch Cavendish (played by William Fichtner) who is described by Disney in its promotional material as being a “ruthless outlaw whose terribly scarred face is a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul”.

Parents from the Cleft Lip and Palate Association of Ireland (CLAPAI) say they have no issue with the character having a cleft lip that is duplicated on the Lego character accompanying the movie, but said there is a “deliberate negative association of a cleft”.

“The ideology and wording are extremely offensive to people living with cleft and their family and friends,” Georgina Wade, chair of the CLAPAI, said.

Cleft lip and/or palate is one of the most common birth defects, affecting around one in 700 people. A cleft lip is a gap caused when a baby’s lip fails to fuse while cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth caused by failure to fuse.

Wade continued: “There is no doubt that this is what the movie sets out to do. William Fichner the actor who plays the villain says when asked about acting under the make up: ‘You know, I have the prosthetic broken nose, the whole cleft lip …’”

Parents claim that the association of the cleft lip with evil could lead to bullying, mocking and the expectation that children with a cleft condition must be the bad guys in playground games.

In a statement CLAPAI said: “It is particularly difficult because Disney and Lego are in the heart of children’s childhoods and are trusted ‘friends’ to families. We do not live in Disney’s fantasy world. This is causing real hurt to real people.”

Disney has not commented on the matter. The film is due for release in Ireland on 9 August and has a rating of 12a. The Hollywood Reporter recently said that the film, which also stars Johnny Depp, could lose $150 million.

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Hugh O'Connell

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