Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”
Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.
Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.
"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.
"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"
"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.
"It makes no sense to me, because you're progressive in one way and then you're still making that fucking backward story of seven dwarfs living in a cave. What the fuck are you doing, man?" Dinklage added. However, he could get on board if Disney made some drastic changes to the fairy tale.
"If you tell the story of 'Snow White' with the most fucked-up, cool, progressive spin on it—let's do it!" he said.
As the most prominent living actor with dwarfism, Dinklage’s opinion carries a lot of weight. In a business where people with dwarfism are hired to play fantasy characters, elves and villains, Dinklage has found success in roles that are about much more than a character's height. He’s had sex appeal in “Cyrano” and been a leading man with his breakout role in “The Station Agent.”
Disney also needs to consider the fact that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” casts a big shadow over the dwarfism community because it’s often weaponized to mock them.
In “Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling affects on dwarfs in society,” Erin Pritchard notes that people often sing “Hi-Ho'' to dwarfs when they’re out in public or ask them “Where’s Snow White?” as a cruel joke.
Pritchard also says that dwarfs are often dehumanized when portrayed in films such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” “A dwarf is rarely an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being, happy to be ridiculed and always to be laughed at rather than with,” Pritchard writes.
Dinklage believes that dwarfs have to endure being treated as less than equal by Hollywood because there aren't enough of them to cause a big enough fuss. "It's such a minority. And I'm not affiliated with any groups or anything, but it's such a minority that it causes a real, like, 'Well, who the fuck cares?'" he told Maron.
Disney hasn’t publicly stated how it will handle the dwarf characters in the upcoming "Snow White" remake, but Showbiz 411 reported in 2019 that they will be CGI characters. It has also been reported that the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” will not appear in the film. The song has been criticized in the past for promoting the sexist Prince Charming trope.
Being in the public eye, Dinklage is in a prime position to call attention to the importance of how dwarfs are represented in a big-budget Hollywood film. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is how many children are introduced to the medical condition of dwarfism so it’s important that the upcoming film portrays them as more than the butt of a tired, old, unfunny joke.
If Disney has any questions on how they should be portrayed, they should look no further than the film career of Dinklage who has shown that people are a lot more than their height.
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