Little People Are Surreal

"Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who's had a dream with a dwarf in it? No! I don't even have dreams with dwarfs in them. The only place I've seen dwarfs in dreams is in stupid movies like this! 'Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it!' Everyone will go 'Woah, this must be a fuckin' dream, there's a fuckin' dwarf in it!' Well I'm sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and stick it up your ass!"
Tito, the dwarf in Living in Oblivion (1995)

If you see a little person in a film, or TV show or comic book, chances are whatever you're watching resembles a Disney Acid Sequence.

Little people rarely just appear in fiction. They tend to show up to make sure the audience understands that a story is surreal. More often than not, they dress in overly colorful clothes, or talk in a particularly strange way, or just stare at the other characters to symbolize that someone's having a nightmare. Sometimes, they're magical.

Note that this trope applies only when a little person is shown or perceived to be notably different from the "normal" reality. (Big Figure in Watchmen, for example, doesn't count.)

Not to be confused with that other kind of dwarf. Remember: dwarves are fantasy creatures, dwarfs are short humans, and nowadays the polite term for the latter is "little people."

Contrast Depraved Dwarf.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • In Trigun (the original manga version), Grey the Ninelives is revealed to be nine dwarfs in a suit.

  • Invoked in The Killing Joke: the Joker's attempt to drive Gordon mad includes several little people stripping, collaring and dragging Gordon around while speaking in monosyllabic commands. While the main focus of Gordon's Mind Rape was what the Joker did to his daughter, the little people were certainly intended to heighten the feeling of breaking from reality.

  • Tito in Living in Oblivion is brought in to play a character in a dream sequence. He's got an attitude right from the start and seems to be deliberately sabotaging his takes. When the director finally confronts him, he explodes about how much he hates this trope.
  • The King in Forbidden Zone.
  • The Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist.
  • In The Man with the Golden Gun, Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack.
  • Mini-Me in Austin Powers.
  • Subverted in Cabaret: Sally, trying to shock Brian, asks whether he's ever had sex with a dwarf. Brian calmly responds with, "Yes. But it wasn't a lasting relationship."
  • Deconstructed in Tiny Tiptoes, which stars... erm, Gary Oldman as a little person. The female lead spends most of the film trying to come to terms with the fact that her husband's parents and brother have dwarfism.
  • Lampshaded, subverted, and played straight in In Bruges. Dwarf actor Jordan Prentice plays a dwarf actor who is set to appear in a dream sequence that's being filmed in Bruges, which seems to cause Colin Farrel's character no end of delight ("They're filmin' midgets!"). Mostly, the surreal quality comes in from what a non-issue his dwarfism is; his character's defining trait is that he's an obnoxious coke-headed bigot.
  • Played with in Jackass 3D: an all-little-person barroom brawl is broken up by dwarf cops and dwarf EMTs.
  • The title character in The Sinful Dwarf is both surreal and creepy as hell.
  • At the ball scene in The Three Musketeers (1973), the King of France is eating hors d'oeuvres off plates balanced on the heads of dwarf servants. This is mainly to emphasize the decadence of his court, and is Truth In Television.
  • Mere dwarfs are insufficiently surreal for the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky; his movies El Topo and The Holy Mountain feature amputee dwarfs.
  • Percy (played by Verne Troyer) in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Within the film, he seems to play the "miscellaneous" role in Parnassus's productions, with the other three performers filling in the "man," "woman" and "old man" roles. The character's presence in the film, however, is obviously using this trope.
  • In Blade Runner, two of the genetically-engineered 'toy-friends' created by J.F. Sebastian are dwarfs in outlandish outfits, one of which has an extremely long nose. Their presence certainly makes the already-surreal clutter of Sebastian's apartment seem even more bizarre.
  • Michael Dunn in Ship of Fools for which he received an Oscar nomination.
  • The Terror Of Tiny Town, a western with an exclusively midget cast in 1938.
  • Time Bandits includes a band of time-jumping, bandit little people. Gilliam made the bandits little so that audiences would instinctively accept a boy as an equal member in their gang.
  • Under The Rainbow
  • Foul Play
  • Weebo from Flubber.
  • Sykes from Shark Tale.
  • Young Rusty from Disney's The Kid.
  • Baby Alvy from Son of the Mask.
  • Jack Jr. from Meet the Fockers.
  • Very unusual variation in Mulholland Dr. with the character of Mr. Roque, played by Michael J. Anderson of Twin Peaks fame. The 3 foot 7 inch tall actor was given prosthetic limbs to make him look like an average-height person with an Uncanny Valley effect. So basically, the character is made stranger by not looking like a dwarf.
  • Mordecai from High Plains Drifter, who not only enjoys spying on the Stranger having sex, but is eventually given the dual title of sheriff and mayor.
  • In Saboteur, during part of their journey, Barry and Pat travel with a sideshow, and the bearded lady, thin man, little person, and conjoined twins seem to parallel the then-current situation in Europe.
  • In Birdman, it's revealed through dialog that the play Riggan is working on includes a dream sequence with dancing midgets.

  • Jostein Gaarder's The Secret of the Cards
  • Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire includes an Inner Monologue by the main villain about how dwarfs tend to have an air of self-possession about them, even in the role of court jester mid-joke. Interestingly, this is used to increase the surreality of the dwarfs who don't. It's so common for dwarfs to act abnormal, that the relative normalcy is what tips her off that these aren't normal dwarfs. She's just that kind of character.
  • The Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its many adaptations; therefore, they can usually be found in Charlie and the Chocolate Parodies.
  • Tyrion of A Song of Ice and Fire, the most notable dwarf character, is never played for surreal effect. In-universe, however, dwarfs often find work as "mummers" (actors and entertainers), usually in farce. Penny and her brother, for example, perfect a routine in which they "joust" while riding a dog and a pig, playing up the absurdity and painting their shields with the sigils of their audience' political opponents.

     Live Action TV  
  • The butler in The Prisoner.
  • Tattoo in Fantasy Island.
  • Patty Maloney in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Thaw".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Encounter At Farpoint" has a whole gang of little people as part of the audience in Q's post-apocalyptic Kangaroo Court, plus a more snazzily dressed one who punctuates the prosecutor's reading of the charges with a cowbell for no good reason. In All Good Things, the first sign something's wrong is when they show up again to jeer at Future Picard.
  • The staff of the canteen in Teachers.
  • The Man From Another Place in the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks.
  • On SCTV, Whispers of the Wolf, a (parody of a) surreal Ingmar Bergman film run by mistake on Monster Chiller Horror Theater, features a dwarf — about whom the "Swedish"-speaking heroine remarks, "Hmmm...shrimpkin."
  • Lexx did Shakespeare on drugs for the fourth-season episode "A Midsummer's Nightmare". To go along with Oberon and Puck's Camp Gay, Titania was a male dwarf crossdresser with a 5 o'clock shadow.
  • Samson from Carnivāle, played by Michael J. Anderson, is the manager of the carnival and also narrates at the beginning of each season premiere. This is actually something of an inversion, as Samson is one of the most normal, mundane, and grounded characters in the entire show. He doesn't have psychic powers or religious visions; he's just a man of the world with lots of experience and common sense.
    Samson: Do I look simple to you, Hawkins?
    Ben: No.
    Samson: Well, that's good, because I'm not. I been to New York City. I been to Chi-town and the Big Easy. I met Caruso and Dempsey. I made eyes with Theda Bara. On a bad day, I've cracked tougher nuts than you.
  • The janitor in Scrubs who's a little person seems to appear more often in J.D.'s Imagine Spots than outside of them.
  • Played With on Pit Boss. Several of the jobs that come through Shortywood invoke this, which frustrates its members to different degrees. In particular, this is a big Berserk Button for Ronald, who finds it insulting and degrading to put on costumes like lobsters and Oompa Loompas.
  • Subverted in a few episodes of NCIS: Abby dates a dwarf who looks and acts positively button-down compared to Abby.
  • Boardwalk Empire also plays with it, as the little people who box on the Boardwalk aren't too keen to play leprechauns at the St. Patrick's Day dinner. But as it's the Twenties and Nucky's offering them good money, they swallow their pride.
  • Ginny Weedon from Picket Fences who, despite playing the same kind of character that she did in Poltergeist, kept complaining about "little people" stereotypes.
    • There was also the titular Peter Dreeb in "Mr Dreeb Comes to Town," who was a fairly normal guy but was introduced coming down the highway riding on an elephant which he had stolen from the circus he worked at out of concern for the abuse it was receiving.
  • Michael Dunn in:
  • In Night Court, Dan's boss, Vincent Daniels (Daniel Frishman) at least for a few episodes:
    But most of all I'm taking you back because it will give me the opportunity to make your life a LIVING HELL! You think you're a tough customer? Well, move over, Buster! Because I'm the toughest, I'm the meanest, I'm the nastiest little man God ever put on this earth! I'm going to make you run, I'm going to make you jump, I am going to make you slither on the ground like a snake!
  • In the Masters of Horror episode "Imprint", one of the pimps on the hellish island is a dwarf with a missing nose, signifying how the episode is gonna be one long decline into surreal horror and insanity.
  • In any of the "Stefon" sketches on Saturday Night Live, there will be at least one instance of dwarfs in the New York club scene, often while acting as household implements.
  • The Lone Gunmen: Part of the convoluted plot of "Madam I'm Adam" involved a female wrestler in a midget wrestling league, but it turns out her role in the whole thing is quite ordinary. Driven away by her husband's anger management issues, she starts an affair with a appliance store pitchman. (Both gents are normal-sized) Her husband gets a drastic procedure to curb his anger so he could try to repair his marriage, which caused him temporary amnesia, and the pitchman reveals himself as a first-rate Jerkass by making a creepy, fetishizing comment about the lady's height. The Gunmen, who are very used to the unusual (after all, Agent Mulder is a regular client), take the whole situation with barely a raised eyebrow.

  • German magazine "Cinema" once used this in a Take That against heavily subsidized German True Art movies.


     Professional Wrestling  
  • Midget wrestlers and matches involving midget wrestling is a common novelty-type match, booked more for comedy relief.
  • To cement his Heel–Face Turn Doink the Clown was joined by his midget sidekick Dink. This led to several surreal moments, but the most notable was probably their appearance in a 1994 Survivor Series match. Doink teamed with Dink, Wink and Pink, against Jerry Lawler and his mini-kings Queasy, Cheesy, and Sleazy.
  • Dylan Postl competed in WWE as Hornswoggle, an eccentric individual whose most common character was a leprechaun.

     Real Life  
  • A Christmas episode of the Australian talk show Rove Live had a group of dwarfs dressed as Christmas decorations get strung up on a Christmas tree. When viewers complained about the un-PC nature of the act, the dwarfs later returned to the show to explain that they were obviously OK with the act because they agreed to do it in the first place - and that it had paid them better than any other job they had done that year.

  • Elfriede Jelinek's Burgtheater.
  • In the Australian production of Love Never Dies, one of the "freaks" at the Phantom's Coney Island amusement park is Fleck, a little person in a jester-esque outfit. She is also one of his lackeys. (In the original London staging, this character was of average stature, but also "half-bird, half-woman".)
  • Michael Dunn in:
    • Two For Soroyan in the early 1960s.
    • The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe for which he was nominated for a Tony
    • The Inner Journey
    • The Abduction

     Video Games  
  • Dr. Odine in Final Fantasy VIII, a midget Mad Scientist with a fake German accent who, in the words of the Spoony One, looks like he's wearing the Wheel of Fortune.
  • The Mad Midget Five from God Hand are a ridiculous-looking sentai team with chipmunk voices, and they're mostly treated as comic relief. Averting Mook Chivalry, they attack you all at once. They are hard to beat the first time and even tougher the second. The game also features a psychic midget who is also ridiculous and difficult.
  • The midgets of the Borderlands series are even weirder than is standard for enemies in those games.

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