Have Matt and Amy Roloff's recent apparent lax attitude and public remarks frowning on "PC-ness" come back to haunt the LP community?
Matt Roloff's friend and employee on his official website has a statement we have discussed before - stating that society is too sensitive and somebody is always getting offended. She went on to state that words don't hurt unless you let them.
According to a person who attended Amy Roloff's recent speaking engagement and had a positive review, Amy declared that she dislikes 'PC-ness'.
"I was also surprised to hear her say that she didn't like PCness(except, of course, in the case of cruelty towards others).
Personally, I think it's a shame that "PC" has been turned into a bad thing by certain individuals. It is essentially about being sensitive to the feelings of others and opposing ignorance.
It's noticeable to me that the Roloffs have subtly been changing their stance. For years, they did not hesitate to advocate against the use of the word "midget". Matt, as former President of the LPA demanded and received apologies from public figures using the "M-word". Matt, Amy and Jeremy Roloff have all said either in the past during interviews or written material, that the "m-word" should not be used because it is hurtful and derogatory. That is being politically correct and as far as I am concerned, that is a good thing.
However, in the last 8 months, Matt Roloff's official website advocates that society is "too sensitive" and that words don't hurt. Amy Roloff has apparently now said she dislikes 'PC-ness'.
What accounts for their apparent change? I believe it is obviously in response to the 'Jeremy Roloff scandal' when he was found to be using racial and homophobic slurs. Suddenly, it becomes convenient to feel that people get offended too easily. In the past few months, the Roloffs public comments have slid over in that direction.
This brings us to current controversy that was a blow to all the positive strides the LP community has made in recent years.
It involved an episode of the NBC program, "Celebrity Apprentice" with Donald Trump. It is a show where celebrity teams make commercials for real companies and Donald Trump decides who has best or worst mind for the business world. The latest episode featured the teams creating a commercial for the laundry detergent company, "ALL". The commercial was referred to as "Jesse James gets dirty with midgets". It featured a dirty Jesse James speaking slowly, when three "midgets" run around him and wash him. At the end of the 'commercial' they curse and run away, not before screaming at the camera. Earlier in the episode, one of the celebrities expressed uneasiness about the concept and asked one of the actors with dwarfism if he was alright with being called a "midget". He replied if you're paying me, you can call me whatever you want.
There are several You Tube clips of the segment.
The wonderful Jen Montzingo has written a blog that effectively explains her feelings on this program. Jen also has a link to the Apprentice website if you want to watch the whole episode to see what it is about.
As Jen does point out, she is not only bothered by the use of the word 'midget', but the portrayal of little people as objects to be laughed at. Jen is completely correct.
If the 'joke' was 'Jesse James being washed by 'N words' would it have been thought to be funny? If it was 'Jesse James being washed by f**gots' would it have been done?
I strongly encourage you to visit Jen's blog about this issue. As usual, Jen does a wonderful job of explaining why it is hurtful.
Here is part of what Jen writes:
"Jesse James was pretty nice overall, “I treat ‘em like anyone else, they’re exactly the same as us, they’re just ‘that big’”. But what I didn’t get was this statement by James:
“They know that people point and laugh at them and they’re totally comfortable within themselves to laugh back.”
I get it. So I’m just not “comfortable with myself” so I won’t put myself in their position? How about the fact that I am just one generation ahead of the little people whose parents gave them up to institutions and circuses because society told them to be ashamed?
Why would I support taking things back a decade or two, rather than moving things forward. My biological parents gave me up for adoption because they didn’t want me to be institutionalized in Israel. They gave me a chance. It hurts, it makes me really sad, that we’ve come so far and yet still have so far to go.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY people, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. Get into it."
The LPA - Little People of America - for those unaware, Matt Roloff was the former President, the LPA is featured and mentioned in many episodes of Little People, Big World, the Roloff family are still very closely tied with the LPA - were quick to react to the episode of the 'Celebrity Apprentice' with an announcement on their homepage of their website and a letter which can be read here:
They have a compiled a list of companies and addresses for you to contact if you are unhappy with the content featured in the April 5th episode of the Celebrity Apprentice.
On a somewhat side but related note, the New York times recently announced they would no longer be using the word "midget" in their publication.
That was seemingly a response to Gary Arnold, Vice-President of Media Relations for the LPA. This is the portion of his letter to the New York Times:
While the New York Times stays up to date with current events, the paper is years behind in terms of language identifying people of short stature. In a March 12 story (“Financial fraud is focus of attacks” March 12, 2009), David Segal wrote, “The most indelible image of the commission’s hearings was a photo of J.P. Morgan, Jr. with a midget who had been plopped in his lap by an opportunistic publicist.” For decades people of short stature have advocated against the word midget, considered degrading and objectionable, and recognized as such by a growing number of outlets and publications. Unfortunately, the word is still used today, mostly in the context of athletic leagues and automobiles. Benign or not, the word is laced with a history of objectification of people who were used as a visual gag because of a physical difference, and any use of the word is not acceptable."
One of the great things about Little People, Big World is that I believe the majority of the audience does not even think about Matt, Amy and Zach having dwarfism -- of course we know they have dwarfism, but that does not define them. They are viewed as a husband, as a wife, as a father, as a mother, as son, and as a brother - that's how you think of them. Everybody has their own opinion of Zach just as they have their own opinion of Jeremy, Molly and Jacob. To step back into the world of ignorance and see how some still view people with dwarfism as objects to be laughed at is incredibly disappointing.
I wonder how the Roloffs feel about the degrading episode of the Celebrity Apprentice? How do the Roloffs feel about the New York Times and Gary Arnold's response? I honestly do not know anymore.
Amy Roloff is apparently saying she dislikes "PC-ness". Defenders of the Celebrity Apprentice act point out that it was a "joke" and not hateful, and the LP actors themselves were not offended. If Amy dislikes 'PC-ness' except in cases of cruelty towards others, does that mean she would object to Gary Arnold and the LPA's objection to the New York Times article? While completely inappropriate, I don't think the NY Times reference could be described as "cruel". Everybody associated with this site supports Gary Arnold and the LPA. The question is, does Amy Roloff?
Matt Roloff's official website's administrators, people he appoints and has regular contact with have stated "our society has become too sensitive to MANY things. Especially to certain words. Too many people try to make something from nothing. There are much more important things to worry about than name calling. Words can't hurt you unless you let them." Matt Roloff's website administrator also argues that white teenagers should be allowed to use the "N-word" without having people object. That isn't just coming from a random person. It's coming from a person Matt Roloff has chosen to represent his official website and regularly chats with. Obviously Matt Roloff doesn't object to that message his website is sending. If it's wrong to chide a white teenager such as Jeremy Roloff for using the N word and society has become too sensitive to too many things, especially certain words - how does Matt Roloff feel about the New York Times usage of the M-word and the LPA's response?
It is sadly ironic. If you read the comments located on the 'Jesse James' You Tube clip above, unfortunately, most of the ignorant You Tube users are proclaiming that they loved the commercial and thought it was hilarious. And what is their defense? "This is PC crap!" People are too sensitive! People are always getting offended over something! Get a sense of humor!" Some of the very same arguments being used by the Roloff family and their staff in the last 8 months.
It is a slippery slope when you begin to make exceptions for the use of certain words and actions that are just plain wrong. When you make statements such as society has become too sensitive to too many things and you dislike "PC-ness" where does it end? The Apprentice episode went too far, but the NY Times reference was acceptable? They are both acceptable because society needs to lighten up?
This is precisely why personally I have zero tolerance for any words that had a history of being used either in a hateful, hurtful or derogatory manner to certain groups of people. As Gary Arnold stated in his letter, any use of those words are not acceptable.
As Jen Montzingo said "Social responsibility, people. Social responsibility."