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> > > Channel 4's 'Seven Dwarves'

10 October 2011

Deborah Caulfield hates reality TV and really hates pantomime. She watched Seven Dwarves, a seven-part documentary, recently screened on Channel 4.

photo of seven people of restricted growth, dressed as dwarves

Channel 4's Seven Dwarves is available for viewing on 4oD

The series was billed as "The real tales of the seven dwarves". Think The Truman Show meets Teletubbies.

While appearing in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Craig, Karen, Jamie, Josh, Laura, Max and Ryan were billeted Big Brother style in a house in Woking, for the purpose of being watched by the nation as they "face the challenges of ordinary life head-on."

In the panto the seven dwarves are stupidly named creatures that dote on ebony-eyed Snow White, keeping her pure till the handsome prince arrives. According to Max (self-defined shortest giant in the world) they utter a couple of lines, “do the old Hi Ho shit, and get off." Here, the ostensible aim was to "break through the panto stereotypes". We saw little of Dopey, Sneezy and co, but we were introduced to a few new ones, including Boozy and Bawdy.

There was much larking on Planet Small, likewise smoking, swearing, cooking and eating, all extremely ordinary antics, interesting only to those pathologically fascinated by "little people", of which there are many, apparently. Well done Channel4 for giving them their own programme to indulge their sick habit: staring (and the rest) at disabled people.

Hold on! Who said anything about disabled people? In the programme they were little. And short. Or dwarf. They were never, ever referred to as disabled people. Why not? Perhaps because it’s OK to ogle and laugh at (no, Max, not laugh with) dwarves in a panto or pretend TV household. It isn’t OK to make fun of real-life disabled people; that’s discrimination.

We saw snippets of discussions between the actors, about dealing with unwanted attention off stage and in the street. This was interesting - and real - as was the advice and support they gave to each other. But these moments were rare, pointing to the programme’s weakness and ultimate failure.

Every week came the ubiquitous love/sex interest. Throughout, the spotlight was on Max and Karen whose relationship blossomed beneath the lights and in front of the cameras. Ryan’s girlfriend was bussed-in specially and it was jolly nice to see the two love-birds cuddling on the sofa, under a duvet. With Josh.

Josh, 20, was still single. But then, as if by magic, a panto dancer appeared. Zoe was average height, but Josh didn’t mind. They went for a curry (not a date, maybe next time, said Josh), returning to the house afterwards for an extraordinarily embarrassing de-brief. Zoe overheard Karen joshing with Josh in the kitchen, talking about her “quite loudly”. Embarrassed and clearly fed up, Zoe called a cab and left. Nice one. Or was it?

In the last episode the cast declared the whole exercise an overwhelmingly positive and life-affirming experience. The same can’t be said for this viewer.

Catch up or watch again (for a limited time) on: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/seven-dwarves

Comments

Deborah Caulfield

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2 March 2012

Hey Rich

In the early 1970s I worked in a west-end department store, printing display tickets.

One day, a trio of window dressers suddenly expressed a wish to take a photo of me and my colleague who was was seven feet three inches tall(I am four feet eight and a half inches).

Such was their wonderment and fascination with our appearance.

They giggled as one of them got out her camera.

Without discussing it with each other (we had no time) my tall chum and I simultaneously and very politely (for we were rather shit scared I think) said no.

No, no, no!

Deborah Caulfield

/
1 March 2012

Sarah, thank you for your comments.

It is not unusual for two (or three) people to watch the same program and have totally different reactions to it. I am comfortable with mine, and the way that I described it in my review. It spoke to the truth of my own experience as a disabled person, and to my perspective as a campaigner for disability rights and inclusion.

Sarah

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27 February 2012

I am wondering if we watched the same series here?? I am a mother of a teenage daughter who is a dwarf (yes, I really did just use that word) myself and my daughter found this series absolutely fantastic. Not once did we feel that it was mocking or laughing at the people on it, far from it in fact. Add to that many of my daughters friends watched it and not one negative comment came from it, quite the opposite in fact and her school life has improved since her peers watched it and suddenly became not only aware but interested in her day to day life. I do wonder who passes out the chips on some peoples shoulders *shakes head*

richard downes

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26 February 2012

irresistable and fascinating are hardly words this tall person would use Deborah. Though the extremity of our sizes can be a course for frisson. there is also an idea that we are all getting bigger as a generational thing which increases the frisson between the extremes. there must be some wondering going on between us. One wonder might be the difficulties that may relate to commnuication. Another might be the image that rsults froma meeting of sizes. sex might get a look in as another wonderment. i'm not sure what is goingon but i know this... i'm into the ideaof building a better world for all. That might mean a meeting of the sizes. But i do know what you mean. As a tall person i do find that smaller people find me irresistable, fascinating and a boon when it comes to reaching the top shelves in a supermarket.

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25 February 2012

Hi Allan

There was a spate of dwarf progs on the telly, including the Gervais series a month or so back. Though lately things have quietened down. Let's hope this is a good sign ...

Large people do seem to find little people infinitely irresistable and fascinating, and in a not altogether healthy way I'd say.

The series reviewed here was a bit of an endurance test on my part. Even so, it wasn't in the same league as the aforementioned Gervais offering which I found too offensive to write about.

Allan Sutherland

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23 February 2012

Damn, Deborah, you watched the whole lot? We DAO readers are indebted to you for service above and beyond the call of duty.

is it my imagination, or has all this 'dwarf' stuff been on the increase lately? Certainly on television there's been both this and that recent series of Ricky Gervais's. Is that symptomatic of something wider in the culture, or just of freak show television becoming ever more established?

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