Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Inevitable "what I should have said" post.

Welcome to the internet. A happy place.

Thank you all for the unbelievable support for my last post, and thanks to Ricky Gervais for posting the link on twitter. I was amazed that over a weekend of nearly 14,000 hits and several comments, I didn't encounter a single troll. All comments have been posted unedited.

But I reread the post and realised something was clearly missing. The campaign to get Life's Too Short pulled from the air is well organised. Many letters are being sent to MPs the BBC, Ofcom and national newspapers and I suspect that it has built up such a head of steam now that there will more publicity over the coming weeks. Even well respected members of the restricted growth acting community have suggested that this show has the potential to set attitudes back 150 years and depict all short people as circus freaks. It is therefore not appropriate to simply dismiss this campaign because a few people got nasty on a message board; what I really ought to do is explain why they are wrong.

The campaign organisers want short statured people to be able to walk down the road without being stared at, without being shouted at and abused, without being lifted up by a drunk chav on a night out. I want that for my daughter too. But what they seem to have missed is that so does Warwick Davis. And so does Ricky Gervais. The thrust of the campaign is that in portraying short people in uncomfortable and unpleasant situations it somehow validates the appalling attitudes and behaviour seen in the show. I believe they have fundamentally misinterpreted the nature and intention of the show.

Last Thursday's episode caused particular outrage. The first scene has come in for particular criticism for showing Dwarf Bowling. We are all aware that Dwarf Bowling happens, and is pretty distasteful: that's the whole point of the scene. You are not supposed to like Warwick's character. He's the sort of person who organises a Dwarf Bowling contest, and after taking a 10% agency fee says "What's the problem, he's getting paid!"
It's a common argument that was voiced often after the Rugby World Cup débâcle this year, the scene seeks to invalidate the argument by putting it in the mouth of someone you already dislike.

Every scene that has caused people to be upset has a similar underlying message, and it's loud and clear. It has been since Warwick Davis first tweeted about the show, a year ago. It has been in the pre show publicity and interviews. It was clear when Ricky Gervais tweeted a link to a letter from one of the campaigners in The Guardian.

If you are not convinced of the show's intentions, let me briefly address objections to some of the other major scenes:

"Johnny Depp put him in the toilet! People look up to Johnny Depp!" - Johnny Depp was playing a character. An unpleasant, spoiled character who you are not at any time meant to identify with. He is a dick. If you think it's funny to make someone stand in a toilet then guess what? You're a dick too.

"Helena Bonham-Carter called Warwick "it" and had him put in a bin!" - yes because HBC was portraying a spoilt prima-donna with a sycophantic entourage. It was outrageous that she called Warwick "it". You were meant to be outraged.

Warwick was disappointed to find that Tim Burton wasn't directing.

A third of last week's episode was dedicated to the message that short stature actors should be considered for roles on their acting ability alone. Why shouldn't a dwarf play Othello or Hamlet at the RSC? This is something that Warwick has been pushing for years, and yet has been conveniently ignored by the campaign.
I wrote in my last post that the words used are not nearly as important as the intention behind them. It staggers me that the intentions here are so clear and yet the campaign still seems to be gaining ground. It is important to me that people understand that although the campaign is vociferous and passionate, it is based on a serious misconception, and does not have universal support within the RG community.


  1. Written beautifully and makes me better understand why I am so uncomfortable when watching it. I have huge respect for Gervais and Merchant as they will always tackle difficult topics and I believe handle them poignantly. Great read, thank you. Charlotte.

  2. A great show in my opinion. It does cover a serious topic and draws attention to what goes on, far more attention than campaigns ha e probably got in the past. It's a comedy, all forms of comedy poke fun at groups of people. It's time people took it for what it is and lighten up a little. Life's too short to take everything so seriously! @underthethumb82

  3. Couldn't put it better myself. Warwick is an amazing actor and Life's Too Short is a testament to that, many critics are calling out for the show to be taken off the air because of the remarks being made to dwarves, excuse me if I'm mistaken but I'm positive that these critics would rather see these actors as Ompaa-Loompa's and leprechaun's.

    Every show that Gervais/Merchant have brought out was poorly received by critics at first, it happened with the Office (you know, the greatest British sitcom of all time) and Extras.
    I give it 2 more episodes before these critics fall on their sword

  4. Well said all. The show is very bold and makes us at the same time confront our prejudices and admire Warwick (the man not the character) Comics often use their physiological deficits for material. Dave Allen's finger etc..Gervais,Merchant and Davies have pushed the envelope to include dwarfism. It's now a hot topic and all sane people must challenge themselves and embrace pisstaking wherever it tickles the funnybone. It's a fuck lot more relevant than Michael Macintyre!

  5. Apart from the odd scene the situations that are depicted in the show could be acted by anyone trying to portray a self centred character. if the main character was played by gervais would we have the same issues. A lot of the 'cringe' scenes are reminiscent of the office and extras yet I don't remember anyone saying that attitudes to slightly strange looking tubby 40 something white males had been put back 150 years! I believe the problem is the people who can't see beyond Warwick's size and see what the show is about. Great work, livid.g the show.

  6. We are a couple who have RG.
    We could not have put this more eloquently.
    Well Done

  7. I doubt the majority of those protesting about the show have any interest in the intentions behind it. They are concerned with outcomes, consequences and the recklessness of it being aired.

    If the outcome of this show, regardless of its intentions, is to improve the quality of life of disabled people subject to daily abuse and harassment then great. The sad reality is that it is already having the opposite effect.

    You must surely accept that there is at least a significant risk of more harm than good being done here? Why take any risk for the sake of a few laughs. There are plenty of other amusements in life that come at less cost.

    As for the campaign gathering ground, it could just be that it resonates with the genuine concerns of a great many people.

    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions..."

  8. THANKYOU for this - so beautifully put - someone has to put these idiot campaigners right!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Oops, didn't mean to remove that. Think it saids omething like:
    I know we won't ever see eye to eye on this, but thanks for taking the time to comment.
    Everyone else
    I'm sure I don't need to say this, but play nice!