Secrets: Richard III

The Smithsonian’s documentary Richard III Revealed probes the excavation and identification of the bones of Richard III, king of England. Largely driven by Philippa Langley and the Richard III Society, the group hoped to prove historical descriptions of Richard Plantagenet as a ruthless “hunchback” were vicious slanders propagated by the Tudors in their own quest for power. Forensic analysis of the skeleton (confirmed by matrilineal DNA) revealed that he did indeed have scoliosis, causing one shoulder to be higher than the other and a reduction in height, though his orthopedic disability was not so severe as to preclude an active lifestyle. (No evidence of a withered arm was found.)

Philippa took the news hard, weeping at the shattered image of her hero and using the pejorative term “hunchback” freely. In her mind, the fact that Richard had scoliosis was enough to turn him into the Shakespearean villain of old. It may very well be that Richard had to be ruthless to seize power in a hostile political climate, but it is surprising that a supposedly modern and enlightened person like Philippa should fall prey to the stereotype that physical disfigurement indicates an evil nature.


The movie Igor opens upon a cartoon dystopia, the Kingdom of Malaria, which had formerly been a peaceable farming nation until storm clouds darkened the sky above and stayed for years, making it impossible to grow crops. King Malbert, a sovereign reminiscent of Kim Jong Il, made it his country’s mission to develop evil inventions and blackmail the other countries of the world with the threat of their release (again, much like North Korea).

In order to produce the aforementioned evil inventions, the ruler cultivates a cadre of “mad scientists” who compete yearly to present new evil inventions at the “Evil Science Fair”.

Naturally, these mad scientists must each have a subservient assistant. That is where the “Igors” come in. In this fictional world, instead of being the name of a single individual with a lisp, a hunchback, and a toadying manner, factotum to Dr, Frankenstein or Count Dracula, “Igor” is the name of an entire caste of people bearing the same distinctive hunchback physical characteristics, and restricted to the same sort of career. While the “Mad Scientist” may produce new inventions and claim society’s glory for doing so, the “Igor” is limited to flipping the switch on the inventions, running errands, and keeping the lab in order.

This particular Igor upon whom this story centers makes technical suggestions to his scientist boss that aren’t heeded, and forbidden from inventing openly, works on his own inventions in secret. He creates Scamper, the re-animated rabbit who is immortal but suicidal, and Brain, a brain in a tank with a mechanical arm who isn’t the brightest of bulbs. Igor is clearly frustrated with his role in the scheme of things, but has no opportunity for socio-economic mobility. “I tried to be someone different, but the world wouldn’t let me”, he says.

This movie contains gratuitous physical abuse of the physically different: Igor gets slapped around during the course of an argument between Dr. Schadenfraude (a rival to Igor’s mad scientist boss) and his girlfriend Jacquelyn. Having walked between the disputing parties, Igor unwillingly ends up serving as a surrogate for an episode of physical abuse between them.
In a later scene, Igor is literally walked upon.

In fulfillment of the stereotype about people with physical disabilities being rejected by members of the opposite sex, Igor must artificially create the woman who is to become his significant other/love interest in the movie. Igor is also insulted and tricked by a seemingly non-disabled woman who uses her physical attractiveness to manipulate others, including Igor. She also tries to hurt Igor’s manufactured woman by inspiring insecurity about her looks. Later in the movie, she turns out to be both a villainess and a hunchback, the latter being revealed when she runs out of pills which change her appearance.

In fulfillment of the stereotype concerning artificially-created life, Eva, Igor’s stitched-together female Frankenstein-esque creation, is loyal to a fault, and lovingly attached to her creator. However, Eva’s inherent gentleness inhibits her from committing acts of deliberate aggression and overt evil, which qualifies her as a failure in Igor’s world. (She does, however, get tricked into battling other evil robots and inventions by being told it’s part of her role in a play.)

It is interesting to note, however, that despite the professed preference for evil in the kingdom of Malaria, when the characters accidentally venture into the vicinity of an orphanage for blind children, they consider it beyond the pale to meddle with them. There must be some sort of social safety net, as the children appear clothed, fed, and educated. A truly evil society would have relegated them to panhandling and homelessness. The film ends with all the blind children on stage, holding flowers while dancing to “I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Is Gone)” and bumping into each other. Clearly Malaria’s no longer evil… just a little smarmy.

(Warning: this movie is rife with “chick” stereotypes including but not limited to the idea that the female has less capacity for evil/violence than the male, as well as fat stereotypes, and Eva is the embodiment of most of them.)