Political Correctness Files: X-Men, People Magazine And The Case Of The 6’4″ Dwarf

"Hey, look! It's Tom Selleck!"

“Hey, look! It’s Tom Selleck!”

Apparently political correctness in the media now requires affirmative misrepresentation.

The People Magazine review of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” contains this sentence:

“You’ll understand her motivation when you meet Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a government type who creates the sentinel project, and is even more sinister than his Magnum P.I.-by-way-of-IBM looks would suggest.”

For anyone who has seen the movie, or even anyone familiar with the (excellent) actor, Peter Dinklage, I have this question: What is odd about that quote?

For it is extremely odd.

I have been trying to devise a benign explanation for it that doesn’t also involve incompetence. I suppose the sentence could be tongue in cheek if its author, Alynda Wheat, sincerely believes that everybody who reads her review a) subscribes to HBO,  b) watches “Game of Thrones,” and c) pays attention to the show’s credits. So what is so strange about the quote above? Give up?

This: Peter Dinklage is a dwarf, or more politely, a “little person.” He resembles “Magnum P.I.,” aka  actor Tom Selleck, currently the star of CBS’s “Blue Bloods<” about as much as I do, and perhaps less. Nobody, and I mean nobody, would look at an actor who is 4’5″, like Dinklage, and say, “Wow! That guy is a dead ringer for Tom Selleck!” Selleck is 6’4″.

So what is this, other than really bad writing and reportage? Sadly, I think it’s another manifestation of the creeping political correctness that is infecting the nation’s honesty, candor, fairness, tolerance and speech.  It is politically incorrect to mention Dinklage’s height, which is a disability or a deformity, so in thrall to the demands of self-censorship, the reviewer not only doesn’t allude to it, but actively misleads readers who don’t know Dinklage by writing as if it doesn’t exist.

Her description, in other words, is a lie in service of political correctness. If her editor at People knew who Dinklage was, then the magazine was complicit in Wheat’s deception.

This is airbrushing reality, the next sinister stage of virulent political correctness. I don’t believe that a journalist is bound to mention Dinklage’s height in everything written about him, just as the fact that Tina Fey has a rather prominent scar on her face–unusual for an actress–is not relevant or necessary information in every article about her. Nevertheless, Dinklage’s height is his most distinctive feature: he is the preeminent little person on TV today, though not nearly the preeminent actor. But to write a description of a character played by Dinklage as if his height deficiency doesn’t exist is unethical and inexcusable.

If we aren’t going to wake up some morning and find ourselves bound and gagged by the political correctness police, all of us are obligated to call out this crap, for crap it is, whenever and wherever we see it.


Source: People

Graphic: Deviant Art


90 thoughts on “Political Correctness Files: X-Men, People Magazine And The Case Of The 6’4″ Dwarf

  1. I hate PC speak but I am not sure on this one, your case is not compelling. You identify that Dinklage’s height is not required to be mentioned every time something is written about him, agreed, but you focus on the differential in height between Dinklage’s and Selleck when it appears to me the reference was in regards to the signature Magnum PI stash. The reference to Magnum PI as it pertains to looks even if talking about a woman is not going to bring to mind height but the magnificent stash.

    • Weird comment, Steve. Of COURSE the reference is to the moustache. But Dinklage looks nothing at all like Magnum, and anyone watching the movie who thinks that is very strange. The moustache is simply NOT the most distinctive or remarkable aspect of the casting: the character in the comic isn’t a dwarf. The moustache was to make the seventies set piece work—we get that. But if someone had the bizarre thought that the actor resembled Selleck—which he does not in any way—he would think first that he looks like a Selleck Minime. The critic is either lying, an idiot, or insane. If Kate Upton, for some reason, was cast in a film with a Selleck-like moustache, I think anyoen who wrote that she looked like Magnum PI would be laughed out of the country. Yet this is just as ridiculous.

      • “Dinklage looks nothing at all like Magnum”
        ARE YOU $&@#ING BLIND!!?? Both Peter Dinklage’s role as Bolivar Trask AND Tom Selleck are White men, have dark brown hair, blue eyes, and of course, a thick mustache, but NOPE! “THEY LOOK NOTHING ALIKE”, because you’re elderly and you know everything, right? And what you say goes. Are you $&@%ing kidding me!?? Just because people have a different opinion than you DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY ARE “LYING, AN IDIOT, OR INSANE”. News flash: The world does not revolve around you. You’re not a perfect snowflake. You are entitled to your opinion (no matter how ridiculous) and so am I, but you seem to think that no matter how offbase your opinions are, you are the only one that is “right”. Narcissist much?

        • None of which is accurate regarding Dinkage, or me. This is a forum for disagreement, and I encourage it, especially when it involves rebutting my position. .That’s what its there for. The post, jerk, was not even about whether Dinkage looks like Tom Selleck (he doesn’t, not at all, unless the definition of “looks like” is as absurdly low as you seem to think).

          Your own debating technique is to enter screaming wild accusations and insults. Nice. You’re welcome to be hysterical elsewhere, but not here. And entering by calling me names is an automatic ban. See ya.

  2. I think you missed the point.
    Tom Selleck’s mustache has become iconic. That has been his “look” for 30 years. Off the top of my head, without resorting to Google, I can not think of any other actor for whom facial hair can be the defining characteristic. (I think there was even an episode of friends where he shaved it off and it was some kind of big deal.) Maybe Zack Galifinakis, but he is a more recent star. Had Rob Reiner kept his Meathead look (and not gained a bunch of weight), he might have qualified.

    Then, there was Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin, but they had a few other features that fit in as defining characteristic.

    Bruce Campbell has tried to make his chin his defining characteristic.

    And, I can’t really think of any actor (again, off the top of my head) for whom a mustache (as opposed to a beard) is a normal, regular feature they maintain.

    Maybe Wil Smith? John Leguizamo?

    But, for Tom Selleck, height is not his defining characteristic. You look at the picture you posted and that mustache has Tom Selleck written all over it.

    I knew EXACTLY what they meant (and why they said it).

    I don’t see the problem.


    • Missing the point by a mile. I am as big a student of pop culture as you can find outside of a nut house. I also know the character of Trask, who is NOT a dwarf in the comics. I saw the film. I thought—“Cool…non-traditional casting! Good choice!” Not once did I think of Magnum, and I doubt anyone else did, including the actor. Its a 70s look, that’s all. I DID think of Magalito Loveless and actor Michael Dunn. I thought about how proud Billy Barty would be to see a dwarf cast in a role that didn’t call for it. But Magnum? The reviewer is intentionally avoiding reporting. How often have you seen a little person cast in a role that doesn’t call for one and that makes no reference to height? Here’s the answer: never. And the reviewer ignored that, which is noteworthy, to make a specious comparison to Selleck???

      • I can see your point about the non-traditional casting; still disagree with your overall point. Does your point about non-traditional casting apply to blacks? Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury? Or, was it Lawrence Fishburne (I don’t even know anymore)? Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent (before he was replaced by Tommy Lee Jones)?

        • Yes, and yes. Great examples, especially if, and I think this is true, the scripts didn’t make cheap race references. But black for white NTC is old hat: one of the Felix Leiters in the Bond films was black, for example. Michael Dunn, whom I mentioned, was one of the best US actors of teh Sixties, and never got a part that ignored his height, meaning that he wasn’t on screen as much as his talents deserved.

        • “Or, was it Lawrence Fishburne (I don’t even know anymore)?”

          I can’t tell you how much this made me smile. 🙂

          However, to set the record straight, Nick Fury was re-drawn, in the comics as black man using SLJ as the inspiration years before any movie casting was done.


          P.S. …and I say this as a black woman.

  3. Im gonna side against this one. Im as a serious an anti-PC commentator as any other, but I reckon Peter Dinkledge is so well known from his stint on GoT that mentioning hes a dwarf is redundant (especially considering the cross section of GoT and X-Men fans). As far as looks, Im pretty sure she was commenting on the style of hair more than a literal likeliness. That stache is very very 70s cop.

    Going one step further, if I were writing the review I probably would’ve probably forgot to mention it too. He such a killer actor that his performance inevitably dwarfs his dwarfism (heh). His Tyrion Lannister is so bad ass, he frequently makes the other actors a sideshow.

    • Don’t know if you’ve ever read the books, R.P., but Dinklage is playing the character EXACTLY as Martin wrote him. Very rare for an actor to be able to do that. Apparently they mostly think they know better than the writer who the character should be. However, the stache is NOT Selleck’s mustache, nor is the hair the same. You might be able to make a case for acting stature, but Selleck’s voice never actually fit with his physical stature, so I’m going to have to go with Jack on this one. However, in a world in which Michael Moore can say “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people”, and have NewsMax treat him as a hero,I have to admit that I am not shocked or even surprised.

  4. I have to agree with the prevailing sentiment here. I don’t see it as PC. She is commenting on how the moustache and the hair combined make him look sinister (nowadays we call such a moustache a “child molester stache”). Mentioning that he’s a dwarf is irrelevant, unless you think that makes him look sinister. I would wager most people don’t, if anything the opposite, usually the source of comedy.

    • I find the degree to which commenters are going out of their way to miss the point fairly remarkable. What’s sinister about Magnum PI???????????? Trask a) doesn’t look like Magnum b) doesn’t look like Selleck and c) doesn’t look sinister. If she thinks he looks sinister, it’s because she’s associating him with “Game of Thrones.” In the 70’s, every other guy on campus looked like that. Dennis Eckersley looked like that!!! Its not a sinister look…and Selleck, who NEVER looked like that even in the Seventies—the hair over the ears bit was a style, but not Magnum’s—was the least sinister character imaginable. You’re essentially say that a comparison that is lousy and that just about nobody familiar with the TV show would make is more valid than a significant description: a little person was cast in a role with no connection to height whatsoever, and that is virtually unprecedented—and the reviewer is too much of a slave to political correctness to mention it.

      Or she’s an idiot.

      • What’s sinister about Magnum PI???????????? Trask a) doesn’t look like Magnum b) doesn’t look like Selleck and c) doesn’t look sinister.

        That type of Magnum PI moustache is now considered creepy, as I indicated in my first post. No, not creepy in the 70s, but from a modern perspective, very creepy. But Tyrion Lannister is not a particularly creepy character in Game of Thrones, so even if she does know him from that show, it wouldn’t make much difference.

        She probably assumed, as did my friends who I saw the movie with, that Trask was a dwarf in the comics as well. The movie certainly made no mention of it. But even still, I don’t really see the relevance. At the end of the day, it’s a short guy playing a role. I don’t think it would be offensive if she mentioned it, but I don’t see why she would *have* to mention it either.

          • Google “pornstache”…or not, depending on your filters. The Magnum PI ‘stache is now considered a pornstache, or child molestor ‘stache. In other words, creepy. combined with the IBM hair, the costumers have created a signature look for Dinklage in this film.

            I don’t understand your reasoning as to why she has to go out of her way to mention that Dinklage is a dwarf in a review about whether or not a typical audience member would enjoy the film. The fact that he is a dwarf is readily observable to pretty much everyone. It has no relevance in the film whatsoever. Wolverine was originally a very short character in the comics, but he is now played by the 6’+ Jackman, which barely anyone has commented on, so changes in height for characters obviously aren’t deemed that important.
            Like I said, it wouldn’t bother me if she talked about it, but I don’t see any particular ethical lapse on her part if she did not.

            • 1. Except that Trask’s moustache isn’t like Magnum’s! The whole comparison is absurd. presumably, if that’s that’s they were going for, they could have done it right. It isn’t a pornstache, either, which IS like Magnum’s except that you can’t say Magnum had a pornstache when it wasn’t regarded that way when he had it, nor was he responsible for the change in rep.

              2 “Wolverine was originally a very short character in the comics”…where are you getting THAT from? You must be thinking of Nightcrawler. He was a stocky character, but not short.

              3. She’s describing the character! Of course the fact that he’s a dwarf is relevant if you are doing a physical description.

              • Except that Trask’s moustache isn’t like Magnum’s!

                1. I think most modern day, post 70s people would say “Close enough.” She is just invoking one of the better known moustaches out there by way of comparison. She also referencing that most present day people would find such moustaches creepy. It isn’t that deep.

                Wolverine was originally a very short character in the comics”…where are you getting THAT from? You must be thinking of Nightcrawler. He was a stocky character, but not short.

                2. Marvel lists Wolverine as 5’3″. http://marvel.com/characters/66/wolverine

                She’s describing the character! Of course the fact that he’s a dwarf is relevant if you are doing a physical description.

                3. She’s just describing why a viewer might find him creepy. The fact that he is a dwarf is irrelevant to the fact that the character is supposed to be sinister. I’m trying to think of another hypothetical. Let’s suppose Rebel Wilson was in a role, styled with long blond cornrows and a flouncy white dress. If the reviewer mentions, in passing, during a review of the whole movie, that Wilson “has been given an interesting look, a sort of Bo Derek meets Marilyn Monroe style”, must the reviewer also mention that Wilson is fat?

    • That was never in doubt, WP. Except that 1) he looks nothing like Selleck, even from the neck up—Selleck’s hair was nothing like that, but more impotantly 2) the non-traditional casting, which is unusual, involves casting a dwarf in a role that doesn’t suggest or require one, not putting a moustache on a character who wasn’t drawn that way. Now that I think of it, the review, by being so, so careful not to mention the elephant on the screen, avoid giving either that actor or the director and producer the credit due them. A little person actor was just cast in a major role in a major film, and the role isn’t written for a dwarf. There isn’t a single mention of his height; not one joke or self-reference. It isn’t done for shock value, or for snickers, like in “Elf.” And Dinklage does a fine job. It’s a landmark in casting for actors who used to only be cast for laughs, and the reviewer, who had to notice it, avoided the subject to be sensitive. Or she’s an idiot. But “it’s about the ‘stache” is non-responsive.

      • Jack: “That was never in doubt, WP.”

        I think everyone is bringing it up, though, because you make no mention of it in your article. You simply say that he looks nothing like Selleck. And, everyone else is pointing out what you failed to acknowledge, which was the basis for her comparison. Your point would have been made better if you HAD removed that from doubt, before making your point.


        • I’ll cop to that. My familiarity with TV shows often leads me to assume the same in others. I find it hard to believe anyone actually familiar with Magnum would make the comparison she did, but I’m an old fart, and she probably has seen about three episodes of the show in her life, if that.

          • I’ve seen a large number of the Magnum episodes, and I’m inclined to agree with her – On glancing at the image of Dinklage and even then at a pic of Selleck, I am forced to admit that Trask does look like what you’d get is you ran Thomas Magnum through a couple of degrees-worth of engineering classes and then put him in a cubicle at IBM for a few years.

            Sorry, but you’re wrong on this one, Jack.

              • He has been MIA in movies and TV for a while. I really liked him, especially the episode in which he played his own hard-scrabble brother. And of course, he was one of the primary Johnsons, Howard, in “Blazing Saddles.”

                • Um. Mr Sellick has been starring as the patriarch in the TV show Blue Bloods, which was renewed by CBS for a fifth season in March. I don’t care for it because of silly stuff in the premiere that broke believeability for me, but he’s NOT MIA.

                  • I sympathize with you getting confused in the banter between Beth and me, but if you check, you will see that we were discussing, not Tom, whose show is one that often visits ethical dilemmas for his character and family, but rather the actor who played Higgins, the mysterious caretaker of the Hawaiian mansion where T. Magnum lived, rent free. The actor we were discussing is John Hillerman, who has in fact been retired since 1996.


                    • Oops, it was the mustashio’d unity of the characters that confused me. Not that Higgens’ mustache matches either. There are a lot of different mustaches out there. Seeing a beard without one still seem a little strange to me. Set our follicles free!

    • Wow! Hey, you’re right! And this one must remind you of Magnum too!

      I mean, look at Magnum! They are IDENTICAL!


      Oh, sure, if you want to quibble: the hair style is completely different, Trask wears glasses and Magnum never did, except sunglasses; their moustaches are not the same (Magnum’s did not turn down past his mouth), Dinklage’s face looks nothing like Selleck, and hmmm, what else? Oh, right—Magnum is TWO FRICKIN’FEET TALLER, but other than that, man, you nailed it. They’re practically twins!

  5. I only saw the resemblance when it was mentioned, but the whole issue with arguing about a resemblance to another actor is disrespectful to both actors and their work.
    This WAS a fully wasted opportunity to laud any growing inclusion in casting, to replace less diverse cast in a story with a good actor who isn’t interchangeable. Inclusion isn’t just about ONE minority, but should include diverse characters in a story, just like diverse people of all types should be included in life. These kerfuffles and train wrecks seem to hang up on a single axis and ignore competing issues in other dimensions. It’s not just gender or race or orientation at any one time, but also handicap,education, age, and even height. The he got the part is great, that it should have had significance that promises better opportunities in the future.

    Instead of celebrating this change, people are babbling about a costuming choice.

  6. Jack,

    I don’t think she said he looks like Magnum PI…

    I think she said he looks like Magnum-PI-by-way-of-IBM…

    Doesn’t Dinklage look like a business-man-ified version of Magnum?

  7. I am sincerely worried that you may pull something and hurt yourself, bending over backwards to distort the original author’s intent (or “lack of intent,” as you endeavor to paint it).

    Let’s all be generous and call this one a “draw,” and move on to meaningful discussion on an actual subject for debate.

    • Some of the most meaningful ethical insights are gleaned from arguing over what could be considered minutiae.

      The relatively trivial topic of child leashes has spawned 2 follow-on posts and at least 250 comments of discussion…

  8. Oh, give us a break. She is obviously referring to his haircut and mustache which DOES give him a Thomas Magnum look. Sounds like you’re trawling for some free publicity by hoping readers of People will react and up your page views. Glad your spending time on serious ethical issues that effect human existence, like movie reviews.

    • 1. As I have made clear, I know what she was referring to. The point is that it is a stupid thing to characterize the character with, when he was non-traditionally cast despite his height.
      2. He looks as much like Magnum as he looks like Robert Goulet, Thomas Dewey or Groucho, which is to say, not at all. He looks quite a bit more like Bashful, an Oompah Loompah, the Mayor of Munchkin Land, Megalito Loveless, or Mickey, Kramer’s dwarf friend on “Seinfeld.” She didn’t feel she could mention any of those, so she compares him to a 6’4 stud. Good reporting.
      3. I don’t need to trawl, jerk. And the serious readers here get the principle that relatively trivial incidents carry important ethical principles.
      4. There are over 4600 posts here on thousands of topics. Picking one relatively insignificant one and claiming that I neglect the more cosmic ethics issues is lazy and itself unethical.

      • Gosh Jack! Why don’t you spend valuable time discussing important things that affect people!

        Please give us a long article on murder… we don’t know how it falls in ethics. Or whether or not Obama ordering the raid on Osama Bin Laden was right. We don’t know, so quit wasting time on trivia…

      • And another thought: I’ve considered banning jackasses who do either of these two things, both of which are unfair and obnoxious:

        1) accusing me of link-baiting. I have never chosen a topic or taken a position based on attracting views, and never have. That’s not the mission of the site. I don’t get ad revenue, and I don’t get ego gratification. The purpose here is to stimulate thought about ethics, and its many and varied applications. I am gratified that readership had gown every year, and that this is one a unique site with a lot of distinguished and diverse readership, but if 10 smart people were the only ones who came here, that would be fine with me.
        2) The stupid, stupid, “why don’t you write about important stuff?” complaint. I do. Most of the time. Hell, ALL the time, because doing the right thing is always important. The accusation is lazy, shows a lack of comprehension about ethics, and is completely unjustified.

  9. Now, not in the 70s, that kind of mustache is associated with Magnum P.I. (not Tom Selleck, who has occasionally been seen clean shaven) and vintage porn. I think it was a good call that she went with the G rated cultural reference. Peter Dinklage appearing short in a movie is kind of given. I don’t think we need to avoid saying it (I’m pretty sure he knows already). I just don’t see anything particularly interesting about pointing it out either (’cause we all know already). Failing to point out the obvious is not the same as avoiding the truth. o_0

  10. You know what I think? I may be way off base here, but it could be that she was making a comparison between Selleck – a vocal supporter of the NRA – and Trask, the extreme reactionist antagonist of the film. They both like weapons! Both of their weapons kill people!


    I don’t get the Magnum reference either. However, while I don’t have HBO or watch “Game of Thrones” I know who Peter Dinklage is (thank you, “Elf”) and how tall (or, rather, not tall) he is. I assume that most of Wheat’s target audience already knows the status of his stature, too.

    • If so, I think you and she both wildly over-estimate 1) the subscription level of HBO, and 2) the universal popularity of Game of Thrones.

      But I really like your political theory, although Rosie O’Donnell to the contrary, Tom is about as a benign a face for conservatism as I can imagine.

  11. For quite some time now, whenever I hear a reference to political correctness or diversity, I have the overwhelming urge to sucker-punch a dwarf. It’s spooky to be reading this, like Jack’s been reading my thoughts and is messing with me.

  12. I dk. Maybe this actor is supposed to portray the Napoleon Complex. Actually, Napoleon I was 5’6″ which was average height for the time when generals were supposed to be really tall. The actor reminds me more of William H. Macy than Tom Selleck.

  13. The wife and I just left the movie. I’ll have you know they really have me suspending an unreasonable amount of disbelief. Absolutely borders on complete fiction. They really stretched the limits of imagination on this one.

    Incredible… does anyone believe movies like that anymore?

    I mean really… the notion they advanced… that lee Harvey oswald wasn’t the man who shot JFK and that a single bullet didn’t hit Kennedy and Connolly.

    What fiction.

      • Huh?

        I’m flustered that they said lee Harvey Oswald didn’t do it. I think that is probably polar opposite of BBA’s stance.

        But JFK may have been a mutant. Considering his efforts after his PT boat was rammed.

        The amusing bit of Magneto’s explanation for why he had to curve the bullet (which supposedly curved going from JFK to Connolly) was that “how else could he get it to hit the president” makes no sense since the president would have been hit first… With a straight line projectile.

        Fortunately the director changed topics with a quickness so most people wouldn’t catch on. But I was quicker.

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