The understanding being our minds are too big and ego-inflated to get into the hard to reach places in the back of the mind. ”The presentation of human oddities changed dramatically with P.T. Barnum and his famous attraction, Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton). He created a novelty act featuring Thumb and turned the little man into one of the greatest attractions of the Victorian era. When Barnum arrived in England in 1844 the British showmen were amazed that he was hoping to attract so much money for simply exhibiting a dwarf.”
Societal beliefs and attitudes are much less tolerant than even what could be regarded as an acceptable rather than ideal level. There appears to be a lack of collective intellectual horsepower to get beyond the obvious. Dwarfism is of special interest because it may be the last handicap that is exploited within the law for popular entertainment. Ordinary, decent people, who would discipline their children for mocking a handicapped person, buy tickets and laugh while watching a midget’s performance in the circus, or in the case of the Spike TV show ”Half-Pint Brawlers”
Television is desperate. What appears will be one of the bigger sensations on the boob tube this summer will be scrapping midgets. And if they beat the stuffing out of each other to the cheers and ratings that are expected, one can imagine that dwarf-chick cat fights are next on the menu.The show is called ”Half-Pint Brawlers” , a pot pourri of the compelling, the appalling and the absurd in a saucy mix of the rude and crude. Call it extreme and hard-core midgets, that seems to have a good feeling for the pulse of male interests; namely a form of extravagant vulgarity and machismo geared toward satisfying manly appetites. Dwarfs, or midgets, as people sometimes call them, have fascinated people since ancient times.Midgets have a long history in entertainment. This latest version, replete with loquacious color commentary, is a new variant on an old theme. From www.humanehealthcare.com:
Originally becoming prominent in medieval courts, midget performers were far more then just a novelty act. They were truly the predecessor of the stand up comedian, who would amuse king and queens with their sharp tongued wit at the expense of current politics, public figures and events. However, due to their size, midget jesters could get away with such comments where others could not. As a result, many midget jesters became advisors and confidents to the monarchy, while becoming valued entertainment for the court. This eventually led to their roles as circus performers and sideshow exhibits.
”The early 19th century fair had its roots in the Middle Ages. Sixteenth-century Christians saw the dwarf as a prodigy – a sign (monstrum) of God’s will. During the latter part of the century, nature was conceived to be an autonomous entity. In this respect, dwarfs, along with giants and exceptionally fat men and women, were classified by a contemporary as “mirabilia hominum” rather than “mirabilia monstrum.” Often the dwarf was “exhibited” at the fair ground alongside other anomalies. Thus, the early 18th century fair might announce “a collection of strange and wonderful creatures, from most parts of the world to be seen . . . a little black man, being but three foot high and 32 years of age, straight and proportionable every way. . . his wife, not three foot high.., she gives general satisfaction to all that sees her by her diverting them with dancing.
Anomalies were studied as natural phenomena by the respective sciences, and in response to this scientific attitude, by the end of the 18th century, “the canon of prodigies” had been dissolved. Yet this attitude remained alive in the fairground. In the 19th century, the big fair, by now concentrated on entertainment, included among other components, “freaks” exhibitions, often called “curiosities.” Thus, for the years 1830 to 1834, the list of licences for stalls in the Bartholomew Fair showed 15 (5.6%) for human freaks (dwarfs, giants etc.). The fair was a place and time for the moral licensing of “abuses curses, profanities” and for presenting nature’s wonders or “monsters” as outside the natural and social orders. Also, social and cultural changes of the 19th century were accompanied by the prosecution of various forms of popular entertainment, particularly the traditional fairs.” ( Carmelli, Koren )
Although it seems awful by today’s social standards, two centuries ago midgets were still an abnormity, and seeing them perform in circuses became not only a common sight, but often was the only way that most midgets were able to make a living. In fact, some midget performers, such as General Tom Thumb, became international sensations and proved to be quite wealthy. Within time midgets appeared in every form of entertainment. From the vaudeville stage to wrestling rings and burlesque theatres, midget performers were one of the great novelty acts of a previous, less socially tolerant, generation.
The term ”midget” was originally created by fabled showman PT Barnum at the end of the 19thCentury. Midgets, to Barnum, were little people who had no physical deformities and looked to be just like normal sized people, just small. Meanwhile, Barnum kept what he called “dwarfs” as part of the sideshow and were kept away from the public. As a result there came a time where it was a status symbol to be a midget instead of a dwarf.
It wasn’t until actor Billy Barty formed the Little People of America in 1957 that the term “little people” was coined, but even then it was only as a compromise. Barty’s original intent was to call the group “Midget of America,” but received opposition from members that considered themselves to be dwarfs instead of midgets. Barty then proposed to call the group “Midgets and Dwarfs of America,” but once again faced criticism because there was a higher membership of dwarfs then midgets, and questions arrised why the term “midget” appeared before “dwarf.” Thus, to please everybody, Barty came up with the term “little people.” It encompassed everyone, and made everybody happy. Thus, as time wore on, and people became more sensitive to political correctness, the term “midget” began to be questioned while the term “little people” become the favored expression.
There is no point getting upset that this latest reincarnation of the little people into the mainstream is called ”midget” wrestling. These guys, and they are loudly and emphatically , call themselves just that. As Puppet the Psycho Dwarf, the leader of the group declares, ”I love being a midget. Midget is just a word”.
As a 4-foot-4 hard-core pro wrestler and promoter, Richardson is steadfastly sticking with the politically incorrect use of “midget” to describe his troop of grapplers, who are bringing their form of over-the-top entertainment to Spike TV.
“Nobody is going to come out and see something called ‘Little People Wrestling,’ ” Richardson said in a recent telephone interview. “Nobody knows what that is. We do the same things as any independent promotion out there.
“I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m a midget and I love it. We’re a minority that gets a lot of attention.” Such exposure is getting amplified with this week’s debut of “Half Pint Brawlers” (11 p.m. EDT Wednesdays, Spike TV). The reality-themed show not only features wrestling but also captures the tight-knit bond that Richardson and his peers form while touring North America. ”You’ll see how we travel and the situations that happen behind the scenes on the road,” Richardson said. “This is a combination of ‘Little People, Big World’ with ‘Girls Gone Wild’ meets ‘Jackass’ all in one.”
The product is a far cry from the Shakespearean acting that Richardson once pursued in Hollywood. After doing stunt work and landing roles in movies (“The Babe”) and television shows (“Tales From the Crypt”), Richardson returned to his hometown of Chicago in the mid-1990s and decided to put his thespian skills to use in pro wrestling.
Richardson and fellow dwarf Teo landed spots in TNA Wrestling in 2002 but were phased out after a series of embarrassing comedy sketches. Undaunted, Richardson continued to run his own grappling-flavored entertainment shows and released a popular racy VHS tape (“Midgets Gone Mad”).
Midget performers were a special attraction on U.S. wrestling cards from the 1950s through the 1980s. Lilliputians like Sky Low Low, Little Beaver and Lord Littlebrook — whose two sons, Little Kato and Beautiful Bobby, are in “Half Pint Brawlers” — delighted fans with comedy matches until regional promotions dried up following World Wrestling Entertainment’s national expansion in the mid-’80s.
“We’ve always been big in the underground doing bars and clubs and we have opened for big acts like Kid Rock,” said Richardson, 41. “I would like to get more consistency doing things like that. We’re like any other company. We’re trying to build. Who knows what ‘Half Pint Brawlers’ could lead to?”
”Disability and its exploitation is a sensitive issue. There are those who take the view that disabled “performance” of yesteryear was somehow immoral and even pornographic. Yet it could be argued that disabled performers of any previous era showed extraordinary bravery in making a living from a world openly hostile towards them.” ( Dave Page, Vanessa Toulmin )
”Most of our knowledge of the psychologic consequences of being small derives from studies of hypopituitarism, which examine mainly intellectual function. Although most of these children are of normal intelligence, some, especially those with multiple endocrine deficiencies, may have lower intellectual ability. Even though these children do not have a lower capacity to learn, several studies have shown that children with hypopituitarism have learning difficulties and lower-than-expected academic achievement. These deficiencies have been attributed mainly to difficulties in social adjustment, secondary to impaired self-esteem and emotional immaturity. These children also may have cognitive deficits in the area of verbal performance and visual-motor integration. Poor school achievement is related mainly to poor study habits, impaired interest in school work or complete refusal to participate.”