Why do villains have dark circles or sunken eyes?

If you are a fan of movies and comic books, you no doubt are familiar with the common facial features synonymous with villains and monsters.  Pale skin, warts, scars, sunken eyes, and dark circles are just a few of the characteristics that often make up the scary masks of the tormentors.

But just how did these everyday skin conditions become synonymous with evil in movies and comic books? Although this way of identifying devilish fiends was shown in print media early on, it really came into play during the silent movie era.

Villains in Hollywood

With movies forced to rely on visual cues to communicate film plot without the use of spoken words, it became super important to exaggerate the actor’s facial expressions and to accentuate the prominent negative attributes.

Doing this ensured that the audience would know for sure the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Rosy cheeks, a robust head of hair and straight white teeth are characteristics reserved for heroes and leading ladies.

Dark circles and sunken eyes, made even more pronounced by theatre make up, immediately identify villains and monsters because those things are associated with poor health and lack of sleep. Villains don’t get much sleep because they are usually up all night, well, “villaining.”

What does Science say about why humans react to dark circles?

In a recent study analyzing how appearing tired or sleepy affects our social interactions, participants were given the opportunity to choose between socializing with individuals who had not slept in two days or individuals that were well rested. The participants showed preference to socialize with the rested individuals.

Behavioral scientists were able to conclude that natural subconscious human behavior pushes us to stay away from potentially health risks and qualities such as clear skin and bright eyes, convey good health and good genes. Thereby the association being perceived as beneficial rather than a hindrance or a health threat.

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