I don’t know much, perhaps anything, about how Little People feel about their representation in the media.  However, when AJ S. sent in the commercial below, I couldn’t help thinking about the early inclusion of blacks in U.S. television and movies.

When black actors were given their first roles in American entertainment, they usually played characters that were highly offensive and stereotypical.  However, while the representation was problematic, the fact that black actors were hired at all was a major step forward at the time and the fact that individual black actors were getting paid was no small thing.

I wonder, then, how to think about the commercial above.  It counts on an audience thinking that Little People are, at best, adorable and, at worst, laughable.  Then again, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness and for actors to get jobs.

Is this presence better than no presence?  Does it matter that nothing seems to have changed since The Wizard of Oz?  That is, is it unfair to characterize this as “early” representation? Then again, have representations of blacks undergone a qualitative change? One could argue “no.” Is the comparison with representations of blacks even fair?  Useful?  Obfuscatory?  What do ya’ll think?

P.S. – I put the “disability” tag on this post with some consternation.  Being small can be framed as disabling, but I imagine this is a political issue.  I also know that some conditions that cause short stature are disabling in other ways.  I don’t know… just doin’ my best here.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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