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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dear Hollywood...

Do you ever get caught up in the world and you just go along on what seems like a merry-go-round... and every now and again, you see or hear about something that doesn't sit well with your soul... but the ride keeps spinning and you are nervous to jump off?

Yes, it is easier to go along with everyone on the ride and do what they are doing... it takes so much courage to jump.  Which is why I think more often than not, we stay on that ride.

That ride is Hollywood.  It is the movies we watch, the shows that are in our living rooms every night, the stars we know everything about, the magazines telling us who to look like and what to wear, the musicians filling our heads with words.  It is everywhere.

I am stepping off that ride and I have an open letter to read... ahem...

Dear Hollywood,

I want to tell you something... something is not sitting well with my soul.  I would like for you, Hollywood, to take one moment and step outside of your bubble and step into mine.  Sometimes, it is just easier to understand if you look at someone else's perspective.  And that is what I am kindly asking you to do.

I am not here to be rude or put up a fight.  I just want to share something that make my heart hurt... and when the world is agreeing with you by supporting your movies, your stars, your magazines, your musicians... I am saying, "Stop for just a moment... I have something that needs to be heard."

I know you are so busy with the Oscars this weekend... but let's talk about that.  The movie, Wolf on Wall Street, that you have nominated for Best Picture... there is a scene in this movie where "dwarf tossing" occurs.  Little people are used as darts and thrown onto a dartboard for the amusement of others.

Let's let that last sentence sink in.  Little people are used as darts and thrown onto a dartboard for the amusement of others.

Even the writer of the film admitted to how awful this scene is and how it reinforces the preexisting societal stereotypes of little people... but yet he still went forward with this unnecessary scene.  (See his interview here.)  The Little People of America pleaded with the director to take out this scene, but they ignored them. You ignored them Hollywood.

So, Hollywood... I know what you are thinking... so what?  It's a movie.  Just because it happens in a movie doesn't mean anything.  And, I can do whatever I want.

I understand where you are coming from, and before I had my daughter, born with dwarfism, I would have perhaps thought the same way.  And while you are entitled to do what you want... you are sending messages to millions.

Here's the thing.  A scene in a movie with little people is very influential for our society and the treatment and views towards little people.  Why?  Because, dwarfism is rare.  (1-25,000 to 40,000 people are born with this genetic condition.  80% to parents that are average height.)  It is unlikely that the average person will have many experiences with a little person in their lifetime.  And so, what is portrayed on TV may be their only exposure to people with dwarfism. And aside from the two reality TV shows featuring little people and Peter Dinklage... Wizard of Oz, seven dwarves and a Miley Cyrus performance may be it.  Oh yeah, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

As a mama, I want my daughter to have equal opportunities in her life.  Of course... don't we all want our children to be treated equally?  What if, someday, the person interviewing her for a job has only seen a little person in a dwarf tossing scene?  Will she be taken seriously?  Or worse, what if someday she is mistreated because of her genetic condition?  What if she is ridiculed, singled out or patronized?

I understand that I cannot prevent these things from happening and I know in my heart that they will happen. I also know I need to raise her so she has confidence in herself and knows how much she is loved.  And that-- we will do.  But I also believe that you have to stand up for what is right and wrong and it is in those moments of the craziness of that merry-go-round we call life when something hits a nerve and you realize... it just isn't right. And as her mama, I will stand up for her because that's what we all do as mamas.  We love and we love and we love... and we also try to make the world a better place for all of our children when we see an opportunity to do so.

Hollywood, we really do have a long way to go before those with dwarfism are treated equally in our society.  It makes me sad when you produce something that so many people will see and perhaps laugh at.  Or not think twice. I wish for every negative exposure you would provide at least ten positive exposures.  Little people need to be seen as they are... as doctors and lawyers and teachers and mamas and friends. Not as silly characters.  Or play things or anything less than human beings. And yes, it also takes little people to stop taking condescending roles... absolutely.

And your Oscars night will go on with the glitz and the glam and the celebrities patting themselves on the back for another "great" year in movies... But... if this letter doesn't make it to you Hollywood or if it gets ignored again... I hope someone somewhere between me and you reads this and thinks twice about supporting your film.  Wolf on Wallstreet is not the Best Picture.  It is a shame.  And it is ok to say, "No, thank you."  Not anymore.

Sincerely,
Leslie
Just an average mama 2,000 miles away from Hollywood

Here's my family...










41 comments:

  1. Very nice. Thank you. I also have a daughter with dwarfism. This is an intelligently written paper. I will share it.

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  2. I agree with you 100%...as a mother of a little person, it makes my heart ache. Unfortunately, as long as little people place themselves in the spotlight and agree to do such roles as in this movie, wee man from jackass, etc, most people will fail to realize why this is wrong on a whole. Your letter was wonderful and I hope that one day, everyone will realize and stand together against this.

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    1. As a Little Person I fully agree with what you said. If little people refused to take on these roles then their would not be a market for them. They need to think past the monetary value and start seeing the damage these roles they play are doing to the public's perception of little people.

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    2. I definitely agree! I really wish that could happen... I just worry that there will always be someone who will take that role. I am hoping as a society, there will, someday, no longer be humor in that and it will seem inappropriate which will make Hollywood no longer need little people to add shock value to their films. The more comfortable people are with seeing little people, the more likely that differences will just be irrelevant. Thank you BOTH for your comments!

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  3. Thanks for your heartfelt comments Leslie! You have a beautiful family that is a wonderful example to us all.

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  4. Beautifully written letter from your heart. This is my first time reading your blog. I follow you on Instagram and think your family is beautiful! I am the Mother of 4 and while none of my children are little people, they each have different issues or illnesses or something that we struggle with daily. I've always thought and said out loud that if we don't become advocates for our children, no one else will. Bravo for you sweet Mama for letting your voice be heard and standing up for your child. She is a beauty and I know that with you backing her up, she will have a wonderful life! Shame on Hollywood for all the crap they put out there for people to see and for not making more good movies to make the world a better place.

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    1. Thanks Nancy! Thanks for reading the blog and for following on IG. I really appreciate it! I can tell you are a strong mama bear too and your four littles are lucky to have you as their mama. Keep on rocking it out!!!!!!

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  5. I didnt know about the scene until I watched it. As a mother of a lp I was disgusted....Esp with the comment about people complaining and it upsetting them. After researching I found out that LPA had indeed campaigned against it and I felt that was a direct dig. Very well written. I think its high time we had a look at what we "glorify" through film. The whole thing is disgusting!

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It was difficult to write about something I didn't want to watch... so I have never seen it. I am sure if I saw it I would be able to have better formulated opinions, but I just couldn't support it. Thank you for reading the blog!

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  6. A well written post, my friend.

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  7. A very well written letter that comes from the heart. Thank you

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  8. Awesome friend....Hope it gets to Hollywood- What a message...

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    1. Thanks Tara! Always means so much coming from you ma'am! XOXO And if I ever go to Hollywood, you and Pip are coming too!

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  9. You are simply amazing and took the words right out of my mouth. I have wanted to post about this for a while and now you have done so eloquently Leslie. You are such an amazing mama and inspiration and we are lucky to have you.. All our love jade, Ross and Floyd-Henry... Xxxx

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    1. Thanks Jade! I value your friendship so much and feel like we have known each other for ages! Can't wait to meet FH someday! XOXO

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  10. Leslie I have not seen this movie but I wanted to. Because of your post, I won't see it. Thank you for this awareness. I do not have any children with dwarfism but it broke my mommy heart to read this post. I can tell you though that my children adore seeing pictures of Lilah. Honestly, we all wish we lived closer we could meet your precious family.

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  11. Good for you, for writing this. I completely understand your feelings. I hated watching that scene- although I thought the movie was a brilliant attack on the culture of excess and greed. I mean, in the context of the film, these guys were morally bankrupt, and they treated everyone badly- humiliating women, etc. But each person who was degraded was there voluntarily, so that says something, too. I agree that for many, many people, their only exposure to Little People is through media, and unfortunately, there is a lot of insensitivity. I cringe when comedians use "midget jokes"- to me, it's in such poor taste, like making fun of "cripples". But the reality is, there are some LP's who will hire themselves out for entertainment. And I think most people watching that film did NOT come away thinking that dwarf-tossing is acceptable or fun. And the ones who did, were the types who already thought so. They probably thought Leonardo DiCaprio's character was a hero, too.
    My 2-year-old has achondroplasia. I struggle with my own reaction to how people respond to my daughter's appearance. I worry about people being mean or insensitive to her as she grows up. As parents, we are incredibly protective of our children, perhaps more so when our kids have challenges. I imagine parents of children who are prostitutes also take issue with the way they are portrayed in movies- as somehow less human. The point is, not everyone is treated with respect or dignity in the world, and films sometimes show us that and it makes us uncomfortable. And with serious films, like Martin Scorsese makes, that is his intention. To make us think, examine our values, and hopefully change.
    So, while I hear you, and I respect your speaking out in such a thoughtful and intelligent way, I don't think censorship is the answer. If anything, we need discussion and reflection, and that's what great films provoke in the public. Thank you for contributing to this important discussion!

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    1. Thank you Carol for your thoughtful comment... what you say makes perfect sense and I myself don't know that censorship is the answer either... I think what I struggle with is that because dwarfism is so rare, people are not used to seeing little people. I know in my life I can only recall seeing a little person once before meeting my daughter and I did a double take. And I wasn't rude, but I was just curious. I think my hope is for more positive exposure for little people so they may live out their lives in a "normal" fashion without people surprised by their appearance/short stature. If society is used to seeing little people and can attach good experiences or thoughts... than I really think we have succeeded in helping this world become a better place. It certainly would require little people to stop taking demeaning roles, but there will always be somebody willing to take that role. I hope society stops seeing humor in that so films/comedians/people will no longer include these ridiculous scenes, m-word jokes or an indecency in general. Perhaps, one day at a time we can, together, educate, teach and lead by example and others will follow suit. Thank you again so much for your comment and I really appreciate you taking time to read the blog. It means so much. XOXO

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  12. As tbe sister and friend of many "little people" I find this activity to be akin to BULLYING. I am a teacher and ALWAYS educate my students about dwarfism and am the ANTI-BULLYING teacher at my school and educate the kids about the importance of treating ALL PEOPLE with dignity no matter what size, age, race, sex, ability, disability, special need, etc.... Movie scenes like the one mentioned persist to encourage activities that continue to encourage and dehumanize groups of people who are different than the majority....I always was raised as a child of the 70s and 80s to treat all others as people no matter how different they were. I never thought of anyone as being a size, shape, race, etc. I just thought of them as who they were ....their name. If everyone would learn to treat others with respect and to be compassionate, the world AND HOLLYWOOD would be a much nicer place!

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    1. Word sister! It would be a better place! :)

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  13. Stand strong. You have a beautiful family, a strong spirit and have expressed our feelings very well.

    A fellow parent of a little person.

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  14. Great job! I agree with you totally, Hollywood is ignorant & does not understand.

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  15. Very well said! Ugliness like this continues to exist, because we tolerate it. Your little girl is absolutely beautiful, and your son is a handsome little guy!

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  16. I must share this. Hollywood and movie makers need to take responsibility for what they display in the name of entertainment. I have not seen this movie and don't plan to. My guess is that this scene was not needed to tell the story. Shame on the actors that participated. P.S. I always enjoy the pictures of your beautiful family.

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    1. Thank you Dana! I really appreciate it! XOXO

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  17. Mama bears are the most powerful thing there is :)

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  18. Thank you so much for writing this. Truly beautiful; as are you and your family. As an achondroplast, it is truly difficult to convince society that we have feelings just like everyone else and deserve to be treated with respect and something I struggled to understand for years. In the end, the ignorance ends up being a reflection of individuals or society as a whole and not of us. Sending love. With Gratitude, Kristen

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    1. Hi Kristen! I have never heard the word achondroplast before! Cool. Your words speak truth and I love your attitude. You will go far my dear! XOXO

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  19. I just found your blog, so this is a late comment! But I loved this. I don't actually have any direct connections to dwarfism, but I have CP and the disability community is a big and beautiful thing :) There is also a scene in that movie where the main character gets quite intoxicated and refers to it as his "cerebral palsy phase." I was SO furious when I heard that and have refused to watch it, but I did research to ensure that was accurate. It just hurts. I don't know what else to say- it just hurts. Because spastic muscles, bad balance and parts of brain that absolutely don't connect is my reality, and to be mocked in such a way is hard, even though I am now 22 and well away from schoolyard bullies. Yes, my friends and I often joke among ourselves, but we live with it. I was completely disgusted! am so saddened to hear that they did the same and worse with Dwarfism. Your family is beautiful, and it is an amazing thing that you are advocating, educating, and calling for change. I've loved reading so far :) Thank you!!

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