Last night Lifetime debuted Little Women: LA, another Real Housewives style show that brings together a group of women to fight and occasionally feign compassion. The twist here is that instead of affluence, these women are bound by the fact that they are all little people.
The show is simultaneously humanizing and exploitative—we saw many members of the cast doing everyday things that average sized people do (like shopping for furniture), but of course, we wouldn't be watching them were they not little. When I say "exploitative," I don't necessarily mean that the show is unethical. Exploitation is a two-way street and many of these women already work as entertainers. They know the score. Their self-interest is a big part of why they signed up to be on a reality show in the first place.
This very issue was discussed amongst the six principal cast members as they sat around a hot tub in bikinis. Of course it was. Though the conversation was fraught, good points were made all around regarding the limits of degradation when little people are employed as entertainers.
Though many bristle at the term "midget" and being asked to fly out of an elephant's butt in the name of pleasing a crowd, Elena points out, "When we do a gig, and we do Mini Lady Gaga, Midget Lady Gaga, whatever you guys wanna call it, they make fun of us. We agreed to that. We signed up for that. We get paid for that. What's the problem?" In the name of entertainment (with a small side dish of enlightenment), her castmates fill her in on the several problems with that.