Spare me the jokes.
I've heard them over and over again since the moment Tom Cruise optioned the rights to Lee Child's Jack Reacher franchise. I've heard them from the fervent "Reacher Creatures" and the casual fans, from people who think Cruise is simply a nut and from people who believe that Reacher is the perfect hero.
I even saw them on the very stage at the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame where I was handed a Barry Award a couple of weeks ago (I'm still reeling from that). And at Bouchercon panels, in Playboy Magazine (I really did only read the article, because it was a direct link online) and on every listserv involving crime fiction for the last year and a half.
The new trailer for the movie Jack Reacher came out a few days ago, and I'm hearing them again.
I've heard the Tom Cruise jokes. I've SEEN the Tom Cruise jokes. And frankly, I'm offended by the Tom Cruise jokes.
Fine. You didn't get (fill in the name of the actor of your choice) for Jack Reacher. Live with it. But you know what? You're not upset because Tom Cruise isn't a bona fide action hero; see the Mission: Impossible films (or at least the last one, which was pretty good). You're not upset because Cruise danced on Oprah's couch or because he got divorced from whomever that was or because he complained about Brooke Shields taking anti-depressants or any other lunacy.
You don't like Tom Cruise because he's short.
I know; I know. Reacher is described in the books as being 6'5". He's a regular mountain of a man. I get it. But if Matt Damon had been contracted to play him, or Kiefer Sutherland, or Samuel L. Jackson, I'm willing to bet there wouldn't have been an uproar, and Reacher doesn't look like any of them, either.
People don't just mind Cruise as Reacher because he's short--they SAY it's because he's short. What does this say about us?
Hollywood is rife with examples of actors playing roles that don't match up with their literary counterparts. Dorothy Gale was, I believe, about eleven years old. Judy Garland was visibly not eleven years old when she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. When Diana Ross played her in The Wiz, she was really not eleven years old.
Benjamin Braddock is described in the novel The Graduate as tall and blonde and about to turn 21. He was played by Dustin Hoffman, who was not tall, not blonde, and 30 years old. It turned out all right.
In Lawrence Block's books, Bernie Rhodenbarr didn't look that much like Whoopi Goldberg. Was Burglar a lousy movie? Sure. But that's not just because they didn't resemble each other much. Robert Urich was way too good-looking to play Spenser (who describes himself as looking like "a thug"), but a lot of people liked that TV series. Dr. Watson is a woman on TV these days. There was a brief moment when Ving Rhames played Kojak. Anybody want to argue with that?
The fact is, it's still okay in our current society to make fun of short men and fat people. Political correctness (which is really not an awful idea no matter what they tell you) has had its way with other stereotypes, but if you want to dump on short guys and the overweight, have at it. Those who are neither will inform you that not to take offense is to lack a sense of humor.
Well, as a short guy (don't even get down on your knees, look me in the eye and utter the phrase "vertically challenged" or "height impaired" because if you do, I will have a clear shot at poking you in the eye), I'm offended. Honestly.
Tom Cruise can't play Jack Reacher because he's short? Tom Cruise is taller than me. You think the character's entire basis is that he's tall? Get Shaquille O'Neal to play him. If, like me, you think a character is more than a set of physical attributes, then you might want to look at some of Cruise's work. He is, no matter how crazy he might be off set, a really good actor. From all reports, he is a professional and a perfectionist. I don't know him and have no stake in his career, but when he's been in stuff I've seen, he's been good.
So face up: You don't want a short guy in that role because you think it diminishes the character that the actor wasn't born with the genetic advantage of height. You're discriminating against a man for not being tall. Just say it out loud; you'll feel better.
You don't want to see Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher? Don't go when the movie comes out. As Lee Child himself will point out, the books still exist. You can read them and picture the character any way you want. But admit it to yourself--your only problem with the actor is that he's not tall. When you see me, you can tell me that.
You might have to look down a little. It's okay. I'm used to it.