Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snow White and Huntsman

On Monday, June 5, Little People of America received a media inquiry from TMZ.  I've written about TMZ in earlier posts.  Though they are more similar to the Enquirer than the New York Times, I like TMZ.  They've helped raise awareness around the word midget and on the television show they've even had editorial room discussions around portrayal of people of short stature.  Because of this fondness for TMZ, LPA decided the respond to the inquiry, which asked for our opinion about the casting of average sized actors for the role of the dwarfs in the new movie "Snow White and the Huntsman."  Typically, this is not an issue with which LPA would get involved.  But in order to maintain a good relationship with TMZ, we sent a written statement.  The statement was very general.  Without making an specific reference to the "Snow White" movie, the statement claimed that people with dwarfism deserve equal opportunity in employment.  This includes casting for roles that are written for people with dwarfism. 

I didn't expect much to happen with the story.  I was wrong.  The story was posted on the TMZ website early Tuesday morning.  The story ran with the headline "Snow White screwed us out of dwarf roles."  Though I just stated that I like TMZ, I never expected TMZ to be such a leader of trends in the media industry.  With such a sensationalist headline, and the story that accompanied the headline, the story was picked and built upon by scores and scores, if not hundreds, of other media outlets.  Most of these outlets were tabloid types entertainment websites, but not all of them were.  The story was also picked up by TIME and CNN. 

The day the story ran, LPA was overwhelmed with more media requests from outlets that wanted to spin the story in their own way.  We denied all of the requests except for one.  Instead of participating in interviews that we thought might blow the issue out of proportion, and interviews we thought might be driven by entertainment value rather than political and issue value, we sent our original statement.  These strategy became even more important later in the week when TMZ, once again on the forefront of the news, ran a story about an entertainer with "Beacher's Mad House" was calling for a so-called "100 Midget March."  Involvement in stories that also included such a despicable event would have only brought more bad, exploitative media to LPA.  If any good was going to come from the media around the issue, LPA didn't need to do anything more than continue issuing the original statement.

For the first few days after the original story, it didn't seem like any good would come from this media.  The stories and commentaries weren't looking at the issue.  Rather, they were trying to draw water from the entertainment value of a bunch of little people who were upset with the entertainment industry.  But, as the week moved on, the potential good from this issue did start to rise to the surface.  Once the entertainment value wore off, some media outlets began to look at the issue behind the immediate shock value of headlines like "Dwarfs say 'we got screwed.'"  What interesting is that when the media does begin to look at the issue, by large they are sympathetic to the dwarf community.  They think the casting was wrong. 

The best of these stories in my opinion was an interview with Danny Woodburn on National Public Radio.  Woodburn is a career actor, well known now for many roles, including that of Mickey, Krammer's friend on Seinfeld.  What's fascinating about this interview is that one learns the Woodburn has been political throughout his career, advocating to change language in scripts and advocating for the casting of people with disabilities to play roles intended for people with disabilities.  Here is the interview.


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  2. thanks for the encouragement and support Rio. I appreciate it a lot. gary