Monday, July 21, 2008

NPR's Weekend America

In June, John Moe of National Public Radio's "Weekend America" ran a story that included a report on actors with dwarfism and the images they portray. Moe has a five-year-old daughter with dwarfism, and in the piece, Moe comments that, as the parent of a child with dwarfism, he can't tolerate movies such as Michael Myers' The Love Guru, because of how Verne Troyer's character is objectified as a little person. Moe's story also includes an insightful interview with Mark Povenelli, an actor who is a little person and has probably experienced the full gamut of roles available to people of short stature in Hollywood. The Weekend America Broadcast is available online at:

I think the piece is especially interesting in the context of the entire Weekend America program that particular day. Earlier in the program, a different reporter interviewed two contractors currently living and working in Afghanistan. The reporter asked the contractors what they do for fun. The contractors told a story about throwing this party, for which they wanted to hire two Afghani midgets (word used by the contractor) for entertainment. The reporter responded in a joking, amused tone, "You wanted to hire two midgets?" Then something like, "were you able to find the midgets?"

After listening to the entire program, I emailed Mark, saying something like, "Wow, this is interesting. You have John Moe, an NPR reporter completely troubled by objectification of little people in popular culture. But earlier in the program, you have a different NPR reporter talking about hiring little people and casually using the word midget as if both are completely acceptable and common." Mark wrote back, telling me that a disclaimer at the beginning of the program warned listeners of offensive language, i.e. -- midget. He quickly added though, that just a few years ago, the very same National Public Radio ran a review of The Dollhouse, a stage production starring Povenelli and two other little people as the three male leads, which threw around the word midget as casually as Jimmy Kimmell would.

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