Saturday 26 September 2015 – No jobs for short actors in Leicester this Christmas

Political correctness has gone crazy in Leicester in the run-up to their Christmas  production of Snow White at the city’s De Montfort Hall. Instead of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs they’re making it a ‘politically corrrect’ Snow White and the Seven Friends, and even worse the Friends will be played by regular size members of the production company and not by short actors!

As the Independent‘s David Lister pointed out in today’s Independent On Saturday: “There is no fairy tale, no Disney film, no much-loved story called Snow White and the Seven Friends.”  The production company argued that they won’t be using short actors to portray dwarfs because the word “dwarf”  makes people uncomfortable. What a load of bollocks.

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One notable short actor, Warwick Davis (pictured), responded by arguing that: “If you talk to any audience member after they’ve seen a show that doesn’t feature short actors as the seven dwarfs, they would tell you they’d rather see short actors playing the roles. It’s a shame that other people being offended on behalf of an actor might take work away from them, when surely it is their choice to do it.”

He is absolutely right. The desire not to offend anyone not only leads to less work for short actors, in this case, who would no doubt love the opportunity to work, but also creates homogenous culture, in general, that lacks edge and risks being bland to the point of nausea. If people are offended by the sight of short actors playing short characters then they really do have a problem and perhaps shouldn’t be going to see a produdction that features short characters. However, for the overwhelming majority, who would expect a dwarf to be played by a short actor, to acquiesce to the tiny minority that might be offended is just pathetic. Such acquiescence only leads to a society where you can’t say or do anything for fear of offending or making someone “uncomfortable.”

It is obviously wrong to use the word “dwarf” in an abusive manner, but to not even use it in the context of the name of the story Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is just plain ridiculous.  Then to take that one step further and ban short actors from playing the Friends is discrimination and goes way beyond just saying the word is unacceptable, but is now saying that short actors may offend people.   It might have been better if the production had simply been called Snow White with short actors playing the seven dwarfs and let the audience define the name for the characters stature themselves without preaching political correctness to them.

Everyone, especially the children who will make up the majority of the Leicester production’s auidence, know that Snow White’s Friends are Dwarfs and no doubt many children going to watch the production in Leicester will be confused as to why the dwarf characters are not actually short!  How can children be expected to lose themselves in the fantasy of a fairy tale – something that can stay with them for life – when you deliberately confuse their expectations and preach at them and try make it politically correct? Is there even such a creature as a politically correct fairy tale? Is that a contradiction in terms?

Oh dear. I’ve just Googled it and there is! Horribly political correct versions of classic bedtime stories and even Snow White. I really shouldn’t have done that. God save us from political correctness and those who think it’s a good idea and those who think their sensibilities should be imposed on the rest of us.  Thankfully there are also parodies online of the political correct stories – just to bring us back from the insanity.

I seem to recall reading sometime ago that because the names of the Seven Dwarfs are the intellectual property of Disney then local productions are not meant to use the names. Google will provide some of the many variations of the names used in different productions over the years, before and after Disney’s definitive version of the story. It will also be interesting to see if the Leicester production this Christmas meets with the approval of the audience – especially the children. But I imagine that not many children watching that production will see it in the same light as they would the Disney film version.

Snow White is a very strange story when you think about it. The seven dwarfs – all men – find her sleeping in their tiny cottage – where all seven of them are living together while working as miners. They’ve been banished from the Queen’s kingdom by the Huntsman. They tell her she can stay – very generous of them … providing she “keep house …, and cook, and make beds, wash, sew, knit, and keep everything clean and orderly…”  In return they will worship her and see to her every desire!  Snow White not only accepts the conditons of the dwarfs but  effectively becomes a prisoner in the cottage as the dwarfs warn her to be careful when alone and not let anyone else in. With out modern pleasures such as TV, internet and … well anything else really, Snow White spends her day keeping house and they all spend their evenings singing, playing music and dancing. Simpler times obviously.

Despite the darwfs’ warnings, Snow White, not the sharpest tool in the box, falls for the deceptions of the  Queen – her wicked stepmother who wants her heart in a jewelled box (as if a platter wouldn’t suffice). And she does so not once but three times: the silky bodice that makes her faint, the poisoned comb and the poisoned apple. You’d thing that seven guys living together in a tiny cottage, who were banished from the Queen’s kingdom by someone called the Huntsman, could have warned their new friend better of the dangers of an evil queen!   Nevertheless, the dwarfs save her the first two times, but the poisoned apple appears to kill her.

The dwarfs – no doubt wondering who’s going skivvy for them now – place her in a glass coffin. They can’t bear to bury her so, along with their woodland animal friends, they keep watch over her in a clearing in the forest. There she lies for some time until the prince (handsome but dumb, in true fairy tale style)  happens upon her in her magnificent – and just a little bit gay – glass coffin. He had met her previously and, of course fell in love with her. He kisses her lifeless body and thus breaks the spell that is keeping her in her deathlike state. He then takes her off to her castle!  She is, after all, the “fairest of them all.”

My cynical interpretation aside, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a classic fairy tale and the film certainly one of Disney’s best features of all time. I think it was his first feature film, in fact. The Disney magic at its best, Snow White has been adored by generations of children past and will be by generations to come – all who have been, or will be, enchanted by the beauty and innocence of Snow White, entertained by the playful antics and songs of the seven dwarfs, and scared by the wickedness of the Queen and the terrors of the dark forest. Although nearly 80 years old, the Walt Disney film interpretation of the story is timeless – as all good fairy tales should be. This alone tells us that we should not tamper with it to try and make it contemporary or politically correct. All the best culture and art is that which is timeless. Leave such works alone and simpy enjoy their timeless appeal, such is the wonder that is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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