--by Trevor Pacelli
I remember loving The Wizard of Oz as a kid. The munchkins scared me back when I was four because at the time I didn’t understand that some people have a condition that makes them smaller than usual. While it wasn’t enough to scare me out of watching the movie, the small people with disproportionate body parts and plastic hair singing like they were on helium left an unpleasant impression on my toddler self. I was always happy whenever it got to the part when Dorothy left Munchkinland because it meant the scary part was over.
Throughout the rest of my childhood, television and film were the sole influences that exposed me to anyone shorter than five feet. I saw so many little people playing roles where their height demanded it that I became numb to it. Such roles from movies I used to love included the goblins from the Harry Potter movies, some of the whos from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many funny TV commercials where a little person played an elf, troll, or any other little fantasy creature. Then of course there was the famous, “He’s an angry elf” scene from Elf that still has me on the floor laughing even after the hundredth viewing.
The few times I did meet someone in person with dwarfism, my treatment of them fell much more on the dark side. I remember in my sophomore year of high school when I constantly made fun of a cheerleader who (I guess) had dwarfism, with a shoe size of only two. I wasn’t the only one: one student asked her, “Do you need a ladder to pick up a penny?” She also was teased for being able to fit inside a locker. Looking back, I’m so sorry I stooped low enough to join in on the bullying of her and other peers who were shorter than average. My exposure to various media was a massive influence on my belief that little people should be the butt of every joke, and are only half-human (no pun intended) compared to a person of average height.
My book, What Movies Can Teach Us About Disabilities, sheds light on negative and positive stereotypes and representations of little people in the movies. Check out my book to learn more about how to better understand 10 different disabilities.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.