John Leo
Donald Sutherland and I have much in common. We went to the same school and graduated in the same class, but he is 6 foot 4 and I am 4 inches shorter, so I cannot be part of the new identity group that claims him as a member.

Sutherland is the current poster boy for the heightist movement. He is on the cover of Tall magazine's premiere issue, which deals with all the pride and heartbreak felt by people of elongation. Sutherland is interviewed at length, so to speak, but he didn't seem to have much to say heightwise, though the writer observed that the star seemed "larger than life."

Sutherland just talks about his movies and his family, not once explaining the impact of height awareness on his life and career. He doesn't mention that the publisher of Tall calls for "an inspirational culture of height." The publisher, 6-foot-9-inch Everard Strong of Oakland, Calif., thinks the boundaries of the new culture start at 6 foot 2 for men and 5 foot 9 for women.

The problem is that inspiring articles are hard to come by. I can think of a few. "Cleaning Gutters Without a Ladder" would have inspirational value. So would "Top Shelf -- We Can Reach It and You Can't." And for gender inclusiveness, how about "From Here I Can See Your Bald Spot," a dating memoir by a tall woman.

Articles in the first issue of Tall are somewhat less gripping. There's a report on an extra-long mattress, an analysis of back pain among the lanky, and a photo of the world's biggest chair (66 feet 6 inches). What tall people should do about the chair isn't clear. Maybe just feel proud.

Also featured in the issue are the tallest late-night talk-show host (Conan O'Brien, 6 foot 5), the "longest-limbed female twins alive" (basketball players Heather and Heidi Burge, 6 foot 5), and the scary nemesis from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Roger Morrissey, 7 foot 4). The twins were nicely positive about their height ("We saw it as an advantage rather than a curse," said Heather), but Morrissey's long career playing monsters and aliens clearly raises anti-height bias as a social issue.

Associating tallness with menace has been a recurring theme in popular entertainment. Many 7-footers have never fully recovered from seeing those sky-high characters in "Yellow Submarine" trying to slaughter everybody with apples. You can't do this with short or handicapped people. Depicting tallness as evil may well be the last safe prejudice to have in America.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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