Friday, 25 November 2011

Not a Good Friday (part 2)

Ricky Gervais, abusing a Dwarf.

I am not a "campaigner". I was employed my Student's Union at University and the language and sycophancy surrounding some "causes" drove me insane. The pet "cause" of the Bangor student campaigners at the time was the Newbury Bypass, and not once did they ask the opinion of someone in the same office who lived in Berkshire, and that had driven through Newbury.

So being new to the world of Restricted Growth we recently joined some support groups. I was expecting useful, practical guidance on dealing with the extra challenges we and Ollie would face. Where we could get help. Where we could buy specialist equipment and toys (trikes, chairs etc). We got some very useful information, but I was not expecting the Newbury Bypass.

My wife joined one particular group on the internet before me. A few weeks ago she saw a post from somebody who had started a campaign complaining about the new Ricky Gervais and Warwick Davis comedy "Lifes Too Short". Letters had been written to her MP, the DG of the BBC, Points of View, and National Newspapers. Weeks before the show aired. The irony of pre-judging the show in this way seemed sadly lost on many people, whose ever-so-sincere encouragement had me rolling my eyes.

We are film geeks. Warwick Davis is one of our favourite actors, and we had read his autobiography long before we had any medical reason to do so! When he started talking last year about his new project, and how excited he was about it, we were very pleased for him. He is a man who lives with dwarfism and all of its implications, good and bad. It has affected his life and his family in the happiest and most tragic of ways. I would say it is required reading for anyone in our position, and gives an idea of his motivation for the "Life's Too Short" project (and yes, although the humour has hallmarks of Gervais and Merchant, this is very much a Warwick Davis project). So to see a full blown campaign setting out to trash the project before anyone had even seen it irked my wife greatly, and she said so. It started very civilly, but when it became clear that there were other people who felt the same way, the abuse started.

Because the thing about some campaigners is that they steadfastly refuse to see any other point of view. And when you put a huge amount of time and energy into being officially outraged, you put yourself in a position where you can't possibly back down, and there is always a refusal to accept that support is not universal. When a group of people decide that they are moral arbiters, they utterly refuse to accept that there is another point of view. Worse is that by claiming that they have the moral high ground, they assume open season on people who disagree.

We have been branded a bad parents for daring to disagree with a campaign that we (still) think is misguided.

We have been branded cowards for doing so.

I was been branded an internet bully for standing up for myself and my family.

We were (bizarrely and incorrectly) accused of being paid by Warwick Davis.

We have been told that our views are irrelevant because we are not of short stature ourselves.
Some bad parents

In the week that Stephen Lawrence was in the news again, there was one person who tried to brand the show a "Hate Crime" and that the makers should be charged under the appropriate legislation. I found that utterly distasteful - incidentally that person has also fallen foul of Godwin's Law.

One of the problems faced by little people is that of novelty- people will stare because they haven't seen a dwarf before. It's not a surprise, because dwarfism affects only one person in every 25000. This year's TV has done great things to change that.
Boardwalk Empire
Boston Legal
Game of Thrones
Seven Dwarves
and now Life's Too Short

(although whether the last one is positive seems to be dependant on whether you like Ricky Gervais or not)
NOTE!!! these links are largely NSFW or kids. Click with care, but do watch them. The second link isn't just Boston Legal, but a montage of Meredith Eaton, and she is AMAZING!

Please, please, please use the comments section here for any questions. I will try to answer them as quickly and fully as I can. Don't worry about “saying the wrong thing”, we have come to the conclusion that the words used are much less important than the intention behind them, which will always be obvious. For those who wish to be PC the word "midget" is not used anymore among the short-stature community; it is seen as a derogatory, slang word associated with circuses and the like.

And for the record, if anyone does try and put my daughter in a toilet or a rubbish bin I will physically hurt them.


  1. It seems to me that everyone offended by Ricky's comments are not themselves dwarfs, strange!

    Brilliant article, and a solid point of view

  2. Fantastic. If you need a hand hurting them, I'm your fella.

  3. I'm definitely in the crowd that loves the Work of Gervais and have found that Warwick has been excellent in whatever he has done with them, whether it is Extras, LTS or the skits he does with Gervais/Merchant/Karl.

    I have always wondered something about the dealing of taboos in comedy. Do you think it's (we'll use dwarfism as the example as it's what your blog is talking about) right to have audience members who don't understand the layered nature of these comedies and merely see the humour that they think is inherent in a disability.

    For example, Warwick falls out of his 6 tonne 12 foot high Range Rover and the joke for the majority of the audience is that he's obviously gone out and bought a car that's not suitable for him (in the way a man with a wife and two kids shouldn't have a 2 seater convertible) and is trying to impress people. It's not 'really' a joke about dwarfism, Warwick being a dwarf is more context and a backdrop.

    Would you be resentful however if someone is laughing purely because it's a dwarf falling over? And would you give any blame to the directors for allowing that comedy to potentially be an audience reaction.

    As I said, I love LTS, but I don't really know if there is a certain justification in being a bit worried that a work might be misinterpreted. That's not to say censorship should prevail, merely as a director they have to choose more subtle devices until the taboo doesn't really exist (and I'm assuming disability is still a taboo given there has been outcry from some people).

  4. Dear good father. If you've never seen the episode of South Park where Phil Collins tries to destroy Timmy's stage career, because he's paraplegic so if he does something popular IT MUST BE EXPLOITATION, please make an effort to do so. It will have you shaking your head in common bitter experience.

    Love, Anonymous

    (Clarification: The ones in Guy Fawkes masks, not Anonymous in an arty farty Virginia Woolf way)

  5. Its very simple. Showing dwarfs as being human, serves peoples ignorance of seeing them as something different from our selves.

    It is to say seeing Warwick doing his daily things (not playing himself) trying to survive, being fearful, arrogant, and bit stupid actually makes him human. Just like the "norm" of the populace.

    Regarding having some fun because of who he might be, is just a great opportunity for comedy. Comedy is a bitch. There is no way around it, because we laugh at what is embarassing for oursleves and others. I can for example make fun of the Brits because of how anal they can be and it wold be rather approriate in this case.

    Comedy is putting something in the light that we are afraid of talking about.

    Basically, because of this show, then many peoples prejudice might get weaker as the result. Its actually rather positive.

  6. GMCruise

    Actually, that's not the case. There are plenty of Short stature people who are very angry with Ricky Gervais. The person leading the campaign is just like me- a parent of a child with Achondroplasia.

    I just think they have got entirely the wrong end of the stick regarding the show, and some of the people I have encountered are defening their position in the worst way possible.

  7. I don't really have any questions. I just wanted to say 'bravo' to you for being level-headed and trying to talk sense into those who have been pre-judgemental about Warwick and Ricky's show.

    It's disgusting the way you were treated, although this is clearly not news to you, but I wanted to offer some support and reassurance should you feel in need of either.

  8. Could I also get everyone to look at Part 1 of this blog post? It's a bit long, but it's just as important to me!


  9. Great blog post! And what a gorgeous family! You two make beautiful children :-)

  10. Im very impressed with your point of view. Im not short myself but i always asumed 'lifes to short' was by its very nature not offensive. Surely Warwick would address these concerns himself? Or do these people consider him offensive also? If people judge something before they see it surely thats offensive to the people involved?

  11. Thank you whitk227 you're very kind. And your comments on the other post are very welcome. She sounds properly inspiring.

  12. Part 1 is worth the lookup! I found it totally sweet. Don't let the pricks who call you bad parents get you down!

  13. Spot on, some exceptionally stupid people just need something to be outraged at. I wouldn't worry about idiots criticizing you for your opinions, it simply shows off their ignorance. Best wishes to you and your lovely family :-)

  14. It really annoys me how patronizing everyone is towards Warick Davis, the very people who claim to be standing up for dwarves are the ones who are taking his opinion and point of view out of the matter altogether. He is an adult and is fully capable of forming an opinion over what he considers offensive or demeaning. Does anyone really think he would take part in a show that would totally go against everything the stands for?!
    Incidentally, in the episode with Helena Bonham-Carter I found myself laughing at the ridiculous attitudes of the crew rather than Warick being in a bin!!
    You're definitely not a bad parent for speaking out about this - its so refreshing! Not that you need mine or anyone else's say so to realise that :)

  15. To Be Honest, I find "Two and a Half Men" to be far more insulting to humanity than "Life's Too Short". Warwick playing a narcissistic, opportunist is an excellent way of displaying the human condition. He's doing it really well and I hope he gets to expand on the role. Cheers.

  16. You are definitely a good parent and (probably, I can only guess from your viewpoint on the matter) a good father. I agree with you wholeheartedly on this and I don't even know anyone who is a dwarf. Keep up the good work!

  17. Very interesting. Our third son was diagnosed at birth in October with Achondroplasia. I wrote about how I felt about that, and about Ricky Gervais, on my blog (if anyone tells me size matters). I feel differently now (though not about Gervais), so it's interesting for me to read an alternative view from someone being in the same, rare position as me.
    Thank you very much.