The Kingdom of Dwarves
Last year, China opened a theme park called The Kingdom of Dwarves. Unlike an ordinary amusement park, The Kingdom of Dwarves features singing, dancing, and costumed little people. In fact, they are the only entertainers in the park — all performers must be no taller than 4’3″.
My immediate reaction was repulsion — that this “amusement” park unfairly exploited desperate people that were easy to take advantage of. But reading a few of the articles about the park gave me some perspective. They report that many of the employees have found a sense of camaraderie and respect that is typically lacking in most places. In a society where everyone is short, only tall people are judged for their height. The little people are no longer the “freaks” — instead, the tall employees assume that role.
Is this ‘haven’ a reason for celebration? I don’t think so.
It seems the obsession with “freaks” transcends not only race and borders, but also “freakishness” itself. It is intuitive to assume that, since little people are so often discriminated against based on height, they would not engage in height discrimination. That is, they would recognize the pains of discrimination and seek to resist them. This, however, rarely seems to be the case. Though perhaps for different reasons than most, “freaks” seem equally likely to discriminate based on abnormalities. As James Waller wrote about in his book Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, placing different people into different categories is as natural as breathing; it is the only way our brains can deal with a world that is otherwise too complex.
This discouraged me. Are we doomed to a world of Dwarven Kingdoms? Will society ever stop discriminating against little people? Unfortunately I don’t think so. Unlike previous forms of discrimination based on race or gender, little people are not a large chunk of the population. Prejudice against them is largely invisible, overshadowed by discrimination against other groups or pushed underground by cosmetic solutions. For thousands of years people have fought against the oppression of women (50% of the population), and still there is much work to be done. The prospects for ending discrimination against little people seem incredibly bleak. If not even the “freaks” can escape discrimination based on “freakishness,” what hope is there for the rest of society?
– Nick B.