It may seem odd that only the third Bald to ever be discussed on our site is a fictional character born in 1940 in tri-color pointilism on newsprint, rather than a living breathing human being. Thus is the awful, lasting significance and influence of Lex Luthor, a man whose legacy has been so destructive, whose shadow has spread so darkly over the second half of the 20th Century and beyond, bringing pain and suffering to Balds everywhere, that he can conceivably be seen as the Bald Hitler.
Lex Luthor addressing the Legion of Doom, 1979
Lex Luthor is a master supervillain, arguably the epitome of the Criminal Mastermind (Bald or otherwise) archetype that has permeated fiction since the days of Iago and Richard II. As the arch-nemesis of DC Comics’ Superman — the uber-handsome idealized American male — Luthor is known the world-over for being two things: the EXACT POLAR OPPOSITE of everything a man wants to be, and Bald.
As if this combination wasn’t unfortunate enough, there is a much deeper and darker level to Luthor’s evil, something exhibiting true hatred for our people, a hatred that, through lifelong cultural osmosis, we have likely taken up against ourselves to degrees we’re unable (or unwilling) to admit.
Luthor is the worst criminal there could ever be, the Baddest Guy amongst Bad Guys, the villain all the other villains elected to lead of the Legion of Doom. And why, you ask? Why would this clearly brilliant man, this unrivaled inventor, dedicate his unparalleled scientific mind and his vast financial fortune towards a lifetime of impractical aggression and periodic incarceration for no personal gain whatsoever save the sociopathic satisfaction of destroying the world, humanity, and everything that is good?
Why, it’s obvious: because he is Bald.
When We Were Haired.
That’s right. Lex Luthor was actually once Superboy’s best pal. They did science projects together, they might have even had a little thing going for a minute here and there, but they were unquestionably bros. Such bros that when curious young Lex’s latest experiment went bad and started a huge fire in his basement laboratory, Superboy flew in to save the day and pummeled the flames right out with the gale-wind force of his mighty super-breath. There was collateral damage, however. In the act of trying to save his friend, Superboy’s super-breath unknowingly blew off all of Luthor’s hair.
Who can blame him.
From this, it was a straight line to supervillainy. No further explanation was needed for friendly Lex’s change in demeanor. If someone made you Bald — even it was your best-est friend and they did it by accident amidst the greater act of saving you from a burning building — you’d want to kill them so bad that you would become Lex Luthor, the most infatigible cretin of 20th Century fiction.
And if this stain on our history wasn’t dark enough, along came Gene Hackman to play Luthor in the 1978 “Superman” movie. Although a respected actor known for his versatility and willingness to adopt unflattering appearances (“The Conversation”, “Scarecrow”) in selfless service of a meaty role, Hackman drew the line at tackling that single most irredeemable thespian sacrifice: being Bald. He compromised and wore a bald cap for just long enough to establish himself as the internationally-recognized character from the comics. But as soon as the celluloid Lex Luthor breaks out of jail, the first thing he does is put on a toupee that will never leave his head for the remaining three movies (save the occasional swim or prison stretch). For what else does a Bald Man dream of, but Hair? Even if imprisoned, his peers’ shared fantasies of freedom are matched in their unquenchable need by his desire for productive hair follicles.
And don’t even mention the forgettable version phoned in by Kevin Spacey in Bryan Singer’s inanimate “Thuperman Returns”, in which we learn that a Bald villain is a villain so unsubstantial to our hero as to not even require defeat.
The ramifications of Lex Luthor’s Baldness have carved a thousand little Lindsay Lohan cuts into the wrists of every Bald man walking the earth today whether he consciously knows it or not. Whereas the thickly raven-Haired Kal-El soars through the skies as the penultimate alpha male aspiration, the Hairless and piggish Lex Luthor is the Bald receptacle of our species’ most loathed self-images, perpetually hunching over his heartless control boards, cursing the world, in need of extravagant armor to counter his frail physical impotence, obsessively collecting every material possession he can in a futile effort to compensate for the one lone thing he truly ever wanted but can never have: his hair back.
Bald Man's Burden.
Could the most influential Bald of the 20th Century be its most despised villain? These are the questions that will keep Bald historians awake for a millenia of nights to come.
NOTE: Lex Luthor is but one of many Bald Criminal Masterminds in popular fiction.