The 100 midget march is just about publicity
Normally I read entertainment news for a bit of light relief, very rarely is any of it particularly challenging. However I was presented with some conflicting emotions when I read the news that a “dwarf theatre group” were planning a ‘100 midget march’ in protest of Hollywood’s latest reimagining Snow White and the Huntsman – specifically concerning the decision not to use dwarf actors for the key roles of the dwarves.
On the one hand I’m all for any story that promotes the plight of short statured adults. Anything that aims to increase the respect people have for this often ignored minority is a good thing in my mind. However I’m not entirely sure that branding an event as a ‘100-midget march’ is a good way to achieve this.
Like the majority of short adults, I’m not a fan of the word midget; it’s widely used in the most derogatory and offensive sense possible. Groups like the Restricted Grown Association and the Little People of America agree that the use of this word should be discouraged, so it seems odd that a group has branded its action using this word. If they wanted a catchy title with alliteration, they could’ve easily gone for the ‘100-dwarf demo’ instead.
But what is this so-called “dwarf theatre group” that’s behind the march? The group is actually from a cabaret club night called Beacher’s Madhouse, a quick glance at their online presence shows they frequently make use of the word midget to drum interest in what could generously be described as an ‘artistic endeavour’. Online reviews mostly give 1 or 5 stars to the club, with people either outraged at how trashy and extortionate the place is, or over the moon by the sight of “flying midgets!”
The founder of this night is shameless self-publicist Jeff Beacher, a man who is definitely not of below average size (he can be seen here dressed as Britney Spears while being wheeled into an ambulance, as part of what I can only assume was some kind of meaningful activity). I’m starting to think that the main aim behind this ‘100-midget march’ was not to stamp out injustice, but rather to provide some cheap publicity for a tacky night in LA. After all if you wanted to make a point about how dwarves should be treated better then maybe the smarter thing would have been to make no reference to their stature and brand it as the ‘100-person parade’.
The general public is still incredibly closed-minded and disrespectful towards short people, just read the comments below a tabloid’s coverage of this story. Whilst I am happy to give Beacher’s Madhouse the benefit of the doubt that there was some shred of good intention behind this demonstration, I do think that giving every news outlet in the world a guilt-free opportunity to run a story with ‘midget’ in the headline has actually done more harm than good.
We really don’t need to give the world any more excuses to laugh at short people, and this story does that in more than one way. It encourages the use of the word midget, but more importantly this is a case of false outrage. No-one I’ve spoken to actually thinks it is right to demand that filmmakers can’t use certain actors for certain roles, it is entirely down to artistic discretion. The world of acting is often brutally superficial, it’s madness to try and force equality rules upon an industry in which job advertisements often specify age, size and skin colour.
Also it is wrong to compare this story with the use of black face, as Danny Woodburn, an actor with dwarfism best known for his role on Seinfeld, said in an interview with The New York Post. Firstly, filmmakers don’t need to ask a white actor to black-up for a role, because there are plenty of black A-list Hollywood stars to choose from. But in the rare occasion someone does cast a white man as a black man (e.g. Tropic Thunder) then I don’t think anyone would mind so long as it was done for a valid reason (even the Guardian wasn’t able to fully condemn this use of blackface).
The makers of this film wanted big name actors cast as the dwarves. The real problem was not that dwarves weren’t being cast in these roles, it’s that they couldn’t cast dwarves in these roles because there are so few well-known dwarf actors.
This is in partly due to a lack of serious acting roles available. If you are a dwarf and you are trying to get work as an actor you have two options: be willing to make a fool of yourself, or wait… for a very long time. Rachel Denning is trying to establish herself as an actor, but at 4’ 1” many doors are closed. She reckons only about once a year does she have an audition for a serious role. And those will all be parts written for a short person in mind, it is unheard of to audition a dwarf for any kind of generic role.
It seems TV makers worry that if a bystander with one-line of dialogue is a dwarf, the audience will pay undue focus to the dwarf and completely miss the line of dialogue being delivered by the handsome protagonist of average size. Rachel thinks, “The industry spends too much time fretting over how the audience will interpret things. If there were more dwarves on TV doing regular things, the public would just accept it”.
Snow White and the Huntsman seems to signal that with increasing technology it is ever less important what an actor actually looks like. This could mean even less roles available to dwarf actors, but on the other hand it could mean the potential for many more. Now this technology is available there is now no good reason not to cast Peter Dinklage as the next James Bond. Whatever happens, I am certain about one thing; whatever the problem is, the solution is definitely not for a tacky club to organise a ‘100-midget march’.
Gareth Morinan is a comedian who will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year.
Tagged in: dwarf, dwarf theatre group, height, Little People of America, midget, Restricted Grown Association, Snow White and the Huntsman
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