Those of you who have watched HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones will no doubt have taken note of Peter Dinklage, the actor who plays Tyrion Lannister, also known as the the Imp. Tyrion is a dwarf – not a Tolkien dwarf but a human one — whose role in a world that has little sympathy for those with physical differences is an interesting one, to say the least. Dinklage plays the role to the hilt, being a dwarf himself and having had a career that for many years was a struggle because he refused to accept any of the easy work often given to dwarf actors — Santa Claus elves around Christmastime, for example.
Dinklage won an Emmy last year for his work in Game of Thrones, and it is well-deserved. He also won a Golden Globe for that same work this year, and in his acceptance speech, he said that people should Google the case of Martin Henderson, a dwarf in England injured by a few people who thought it might make good sport to throw the little man around. Some thought Dinklage was dedicating his award to Henderson; he was not. He was, however, drawing attention to the fact that dwarfism is one of the few disabilities left where it is okay for people to openly ridicule.
Dinklage is an interesting person. His dwarfism defines him, but only to a point. And for as much as it is a disability, Dinklage himself does not fly that banner. And why should he? For the physical limitations that his physical structure may have imposed on him, he has succeeded despite it, and to some degree because of it. Some days he is okay with being a dwarf. Some days he is not. All days he is who he is because of it, and in the long run, it would seem to be a good thing.
I bring all of this up because it touches on something I mentioned in the cover story of April’s National Underwriter Life & Health, a story called “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.“ It is about, in large part, USMC Cpl Matias Ferreira, who lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in January 2011. Not yet a full year after that, Matias was running his first half-marathon — and on two artificial legs — at the Disney half-marathon in Orlando, Florida. I urge you to read this story of mine, because I feel that people like Matias — and organizations like Achilles International and Cigna, which both went to great lengths to support Matias — are redefining what it means to be disabled.