Saturday, July 7, 2012

Life is still too short

Late last year, I posted a blog entry about the criticism of a show called "Life's Too Short."  The show is a pseudo documentary or pseudo reality show about an actor in England who is a person of short stature.  In the show, the actor Warwick Davis portrays an angrier, meaner, more self indulged version of himself, a down on his luck actor and dwarf talent manager who is trying to revive his career.    When the show ran in England, it generated criticism from the media and from the dwarfism community, many of whom thought it objectified and humiliated the dwarfism community.  Defenders of the show claim the episodes don't make fun of little people, but rather comment upon situations in which little people sometimes find themselves.

Early in 2012, criticism from dwarfs in England mounted.  The show was scheduled to debut in the United States, on HBO, in March.  Some of the English critics were hoping that people in the United States would rally against the show before it premiered on HBO.  Interestingly, there was no response from little people in the United States.  One person told that it might be because HBO is a premium cable channel.  Not as many people have the channel and so not many people would have watched the show.  I don't think that is the case because "Game of Thrones" plays on HBO and plenty of people comment about it.  The reason might have been if people were upset with the show, they wouldn't have reached out to Little People of America because they don't think of it as an advocacy organization. I don't think this is true either.  Though Little People of America's main focus is support and resources, many people do urge the organization to act on advocacy matters, and in March it had just come off of an advocacy campaign around Rosie O'Donnell.  In my opinion, the show just didn't impact people in the United States the way it did people in England.  Earlier this week, I was given some insight about why people may have reacted differently.

The blog post from December 2011 noted that in 2009 I had the chance to participate in a panel with Warwick Davis.  Again at the 2012 Little People of America Conference I had the chance to participate with Davis on a panel, on which we talked about roles of people with dwarfism in entertainment and the casting of people with dwarfism.  As part of the panel, Davis spoke about his experiences with "Life's Too Short."  Talking about the criticism of the show, Davis speculated that people in England were more outspoken because of personal liberties.  In the United States, residents embody the idea of personal freedoms.  External entities, like the government and organizational bodies, are expected to respect the idea of personal freedom, expression and choice.  In England, though individuals obviously have their freedom, there is more of a collective will and collective body that is expected to act for the common good of the group.  In England, the show was viewed as an attack on the group. In this case, the group was dwarfism. As a result, groups looking out for the good of dwarfs, acted against the show.  In the United States, the show wasn't interpreted as an attack on a group.  Rather, it was interpreted as self expression.  Many people may have disagreed with this type of expression.  But people didn't feel it was their place to act against an individual's self expression.  If they had, it would have been an attack on the individual's personal liberties.  (As an aside, it's interesting to apply this theory to government health care in England and the backlash against the Affordable Care Act in the United States)

Again, I am not sure if this interpretation is correct.  But the fact remains that, since March, I've heard no criticism of the show.  And, no one who attended the panel discussion at this year's Little People of America Conference criticized the show.  Just like in December of 2011, when I originally posted,  I still haven't seen the show.  Whether the show is good or bad is for everyone to judge.  My thoughts wouldn't make too much of a difference on what other people believed.  What's most important though is that people express their opinions.  While those opinions may not lead to a show's longevity or drive a show off the air, they will make people think.  And those thoughts will have an impact on future shows that feature people with dwarfism and future roles taken by people with dwarfism. 

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