Cleft Lip and Palate in the Arts: A Critical Reflection

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Background:The aesthetics of facial structure are used by humans to measure one's beauty, character, and overall “goodness.” Individuals born with cleft lip and/or palate are often stigmatized and face much psychosocial adversity. Social attitudes and beliefs have a direct impact upon the psychological development of these individuals. Such social norms are in large part shaped by the physical representations of “good” and “attractive” in various art media including films, advertisements, and paintings.Objective:Individuals born with a cleft have been portrayed in the artworks of different eras. The light in which they are portrayed stems from the prevalent beliefs of each period and sheds light on the social attitudes of each epoch toward clefts. Here we discuss the social and psychological ramifications of these works. We then review several artworks representing cleft lip and/or palate and propose an active role for the artist in shaping social attitudes regarding facial deformities.Methods:Numerous articles and works of arts were examined and inspected for signs of facial deformity, with particular attention to cleft lip and/or palate.Conclusion:Social media have an important role in defining the norms of society. Much of the art of the past has depicted negatively individuals born with cleft lip and/or palate deformity, thus excluding them from the norm. In order to decrease the negative social stigmas of cleft lip and/or palate, it is now the responsibility of society to widen its range of norms to include individuals born with these deformities through “normal” representations in the various media.

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