Friday, July 20, 2007

"I am a ghost." - Silas, in "The Da Vinci Code"

It all started with Walter Geist, in Sheridan Hay's The Secret of Lost Things.
Then Francis Davey, the vicar of Altarnun, in Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn.
And now Bran, the ‘raven boy' in The Grey King.
Albinos seem to keep popping up in my fiction picks lately.
I was interested enough while reading Secret to do a little research.

Albinism is an inherited recessive disorder, resulting in lack of melanin, and therefore pigmentation (of eyes, skin, and/or hair), and, always, vision problems. They can have blue, violet, hazel, or even brown eyes, but albinos always have vision trouble. There are actually a variety of forms of albinism; sometimes you cannot even tell a person has albinism and with other albinos, it is obvious. Albinism is usually diagnosed/confirmed via blood tests and eye exams.

I myself have experienced in real life only one person with albinism. He was a boy who went to my college, and he maximized his striking looks by dressing entirely in black all the time, topped off with, always, summer or winter, a black porkpie hat atop his white hair.

What didn’t pique my curiosity then did so now. The most enlightening and engaging website I found was Bianca Knowlton’s. A self-possessed young woman with albinism, Bianca offers on her website lots of information, insight into what it’s like to be an albino, and details of how she copes with her disorder.

It turns out that albinos populate many works of fiction and movies, and generally are portrayed in a negative light, cast as the villains or at the very least as ‘freaks of nature,' like Bran. The latest negative portrayal is Silas, the self-flagellating villainous monk in "The Da Vinci Code." Lists of these fictional characters abound: here, and here, and here.

I was surprised that in all the lists of fictional characters with albinism, Francis Davey made nary an appearance. But his character is not even listed in the cast of the 1938 film version – although how they did without him, I can’t tell you.

One of the world’s top models has albinism.

As do several (in fact, an almost disproportionate number of) famous musicians.

Roy Orbison is NOT an albino, despite the sunglasses, and rumors to the contrary.

And did you know that it is traditionally believed that Noah was an albino?


MsCellania said...

I come here, I learn something.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and educational.

Kathy said...

If we did not already know you're a librarian, I'd suggest you go to library school. :) I knew Edgar and Johnny Winter are albinos but I didn't know about the rumors about Roy Orbison. In your research did you read if they usually have shorter life spans or do they live about the same time.

David said...

I believe that gentleman is now a CMU employee, as I see him from time to time at work.

Sarah Louise said...

Noah? Really? I love the image you posted. And it's always fun commenting under David because of the see no evil etc. thing he does with his profile pic. If I didn't think it was so fun I'd call him a show-off.

Badger said...

All I know is that Paul Bettany as Silas in the movie version of DaVinci? Ten kinds of hott.

Iamthebookworm said...

Well researched. Now I can say that I learned something today.

Anonymous said...

As someone with albinism, I can honestly say I really like this blog and appreciate finally seeing something said that is not negative about people with albinism.