Radio doc on albinism: the Invisible Albino

Garth sez, "There's only 1 in 20 000 of us, so most people have never met an 'albino' in real life. And yet, we are everywhere: The idea of 'the albino' has seized the popular imagination from the circus sideshow to the negative stereotypes of modern cinema to a gruesome East African black market in albino body parts. Popular culture attributes many qualities to "the albino;" an outsider; a magical being; a human embodiment of evil. In some cultures, albinism is associated with mystical or prophetic power or even ghosts. The albino body has long been an object of ridicule and fascination; of fear and fetishism. I'm a person with albinism who just made a radio documentary on ideas about albinism in pop culture and around the world, airing tonight on CBC Radio in Canada. It can be listened to at any time, and from anywhere, at the link. I thought the topic would be especially interesting to Boing Boing readers."


  1. Used to see an albino guy at the YMCA all the time, very athletic guy.  Saw an albino Chinese girl in canada with her hair dyed red, looked good on her. 

  2. My wife went to high school with Michael Bowman, who played “Whitey” in the Jim Carrey film Me Myself and Irene.  Apparently some of these issues were a problem for him in the making of the movie, to the point that it’s his only screen credit.

  3. As an albino, I must say, it could be a lot worse.

    I remember going to NOAH conferences and hearing about the latest movie that used albinism to make an antagonist creepy.  But I was in my 30s before I discovered Beowulf Shaeffer, the character from Larry Niven’s Known Space stories.  

    1. Do you perceive “The Twins” in Matrix: Reloaded as examples of such creepification, or do you just think it was a horrible movie by talentless hacks?

      Notwithstanding the smart-assery of that question, I’m genuinely interested in your opinion.  The “those guys have black eyebrows, therefore they are not albino, therefore the albino community shouldn’t be upset” reasoning sounds like a defense of minstrel shows because the guy with the red lips and black face is actually a white person.

      1. the Matrix sequels were awful, but the only two examples that really affected my life were Contact, which prompted me to cut my hair, and Powder, which gave douchebags something to yell out of car windows during my senior year of high school.  Both movies failed to find their audience in the long term.

  4. Only albino I’ve met was born into an african american family.. made it into his teenage years before he committed suicide by cop.

    Can’t really say I knew him, was a friend of a friend of a friend type of thing so I don’t know much what he was like but he had a reputation for trouble. But his color (both the visible and the color of his family) is certainly what the local media made a big deal about, which always annoyed me. It’s not that a troubled kid got himself shot, it’s an albino African American that got shot. Lots of hand wringing and psychologist quotes trying to figure out the “why” when it seemed pretty obvious to me.. people treat anyone who’s different like shit and not all of us come with the ability to cope with it.

  5. A childhood friend had two older brothers who were both albino, and they WERE creepy.

    But the creepiness was attributable to the 8 – 10 yr age difference between a 9 year old girl and a pair of horny, pimply, porno-mag-reading, aggressive adolescents into hard rock and shitty first cars with mag wheels.

  6. Johnny and Edgar Winter were both sent to special ed classes in the Texas high school, and quickly became famous musicians after graduation. 

  7. There was an albino girl in my high school.  I don’t recall anyone every mentioning it.  Like the rest of us, she was just there.

  8. Not to make light of a serious subject, but was no-one else struck by the grim irony of a black market in albino body parts?
    More appropriate to the subject, my uncle’s best friend is an albino, and, despite growing up in a small, Northern Ontario town, has been quite successful as things go. Certainly not to say that he hasn’t experienced difficulties beyond the norm in his life, but he seems to be doing alright.

  9. Whelp, this seals the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon; my wife was reading about albinism, & was talking about how she knew some albino kids growing up but doesn’t know anyone with albinism as an adult.  No one else in the conversation has had a real relationship with an albino person besides her, though.

    I find the fact that the Hopi indians have such high rates of albinism to be really interesting, as an only somewhat related side note.

  10. I’m amazed that people put so much value in appearances – in the great shuffleboard of growing up, I seemed to inhabit pockets of the world where people didn’t make any real bones about inherent appearances.  Not ironed, sure, messy.  But albinism merited a brief mental tickover and that was it – I’ve known a few, none right now, and never much noticed any strange activity around them.  My own preoccupation with being an inch or two shorter than the tall kids kept my vanity busy.

    1. Paying attention to physical differences is in our DNA.  You can’t demand it go away you can only try to control it but it doesn’t always work.

  11. I had a couple friends in fourth grade who were African American albino twins, and I had a friend just a couple years ago who is also African American & albino, although she’s not a twin.

    At odds 1:20,000 of albinism, odds of 3:100 of twins in the general population, and 25 years in time between the friendships, I’ll say the numbers don’t matter.

  12. I met a man with albinism who was in movies–I don’t know that you could call him an actor, as (as far as I have seen, or at least, when I met him) he really only ever appeared as non-speaking extra roles.  As far as I could tell, the roles didn’t seem to be negative stereotypes of albinism, but rather “weirdly pale guy in crowd scene #2”.  His appearances that I recall: American History X, Monkeybone.

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