The trailer for Wonka dropped yesterday, and — like what were no doubt the results of the post-tour survey the parents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were given after their visit — the response was mixed. Timothée Chalamet looks as magnetic as ever in that magenta suit, but as for Hugh Grant‘s tease of a turn as an Oompa Loompa… well, it was memorable, to say the least.
Putting aside any nightmare fuel anecdotes for a moment, though, it didn’t take long for the conversation to spread to dwarfism and dwarfism representation with respect to Wonka and its creative choices regarding Oompa Loompas.
As someone who doesn’t live with dwarfism, any commentary I could have on the matter would mean less than nothing, so we’re going to launch right into the take presented by TikTok personality hi.itsvi, who does live with dwarfism and whose nuanced take on the subject is one that everyone should listen to.
She starts off the dissection of the topic by pointing out how often she and others living with dwarfism have been subjected to “Oompa Loompa,” “Seven Dwarfs,” or “munchkin” jokes over the course of their lives, and how Wonka could, unfortunately, end up being a point of resurgence for those jokes.
She continued, however, by noting how Wonka might be the first Willy Wonka film for many audiences, and due to the fact that Hugh Grant is not someone who lives with dwarfism, it’s equally safe to assume that the Oompa Loompas won’t end up being associated with people with dwarfism as a result.
Further still, though, she argues that Wonka provided the perfect opportunity to create respectable representation for people with dwarfism by casting them as Oompa Loompas with genuine backstories and personalities that went beyond their usual distinction as a quirky, fantastical species. And seeing as dwarfism representation in film is hard to come by without veering into caricature-adjacent territory, it’s disheartening that the opportunity wasn’t taken.
I have but one thing to add: when it comes to issues faced by a certain demographic, prioritize listening to those who occupy that demographic. Bonus points if they don’t have a layer of privilege surrounding them due to their prominence in the entertainment industry.
Wonka erupts into theaters on Dec. 15.