Friday, August 15, 2008

On the topic of Tropic

A coalition of disabilities groups has called for a national boycott of TROPIC THUNDER because the film refers to the “intellectually disabled” as “retards”. Here we go again. Angry zealots in a big uproar because of a word they find insensitive. I guess the fact that a character is in blackface for a good portion of the movie, that’s just peachy.

Don’t these self appointed watchdog groups realize that when they call for a national boycott it only makes people want to see the movie more? And all they’re doing is providing free publicity and buzz for the flick? Who’s the intellectually challenged now?

I haven’t seen the movie. I hear it’s equally offensive to all but very funny. Throw in gratuitous nudity and it sounds like a picture made just for me.

But if it’s not your cup of tea…. Don’t see it. And don’t tell others not to see it unless you want the movie to beat the DARK KNIGHT this weekend at the boxoffice.

45 comments:

Dan Coyle said...

Journalist Bill Wyman has argued all this protesting has actually been encouraged by the studio, to drum up buzz.

sephim said...

What I find offensive is a group of able-bodied people feel the need to speak up for those who are disabled - what a pack of condescending fucks.

TCinLA said...

The easily-offended will always be easily-offended.

The movie skewers all the assholes and fucking morons and goddamned psychopaths I have run across in the business in 25 years. It's not a comedy - it's an amusing documentary - that tells the truth.

James Patrick Joyce said...

"Who’s the intellectually challenged now?"

Thank you, sir. I couldn't stop laughing. Even through the momentary stab of guilt, I laughed.

Tim W. said...

Just wondering if that `cup of tea' crack was a shot at the British? I have British ancestry and don't appreciate it at all.

ms. p said...

Hey, I'm Asian. Most tea comes from Asia. Now I'm offended!

Matthew said...

I have friends visiting Asia. Now I'm offended!

just saying said...

I'm guessing none of the posters so far have any contact with mentally impaired people - and probably avoid it. But what is more disturbing is that thy seem to justify this movie's stance with the 'there is an off switch' argument. That is one step away from saying you have nothing against blacks, asians or jews personally, it's just their culture you can't stand.

Vermonter17032 said...

Look, the point is this all works to EVERYONE'S favor. The film gets extra hype, and the groups who urge a protest get PR and -- more than likely -- new members and additional donations. It's a win-win situation. No one is really outraged. Believe me.

Vermonter17032 said...

Look, the point is this all works to EVERYONE'S favor. The film gets extra hype, and the groups who urge a protest get PR and -- more than likely -- new members and additional donations. It's a win-win situation. No one is really outraged. Believe me.

Michelle said...

I worked with "mentally disabled" people for years. They call each other retards. True fact.

ref said...

I must confess I haven't seen it, but all the descriptions I'm hearing tell me it's a spoof of vain, petty actors and directors and pretty much the whole film industry. That the characters use the word "retard" is meant to show them as vain, petty, ridiculous, contemptable people. For Baal's sake, you guys, get a context!

Sebastian said...

Again the discussion is drifting off.

So those mentally disabled people call each other retards. Doesn't allow you to do it. I'm not allowed to call an african american "the n-word" either.

Truly bad examples. Focus on the topic: the movie's making fun of everybody and as a result. there are still people who think they can ride the media hype wave and use it to their advantage. Ridiculous.

But it's the same as with the christian right. If you are as stuck up as those people, when you are offended by the movie without even seeing it, you will most likely get your attention drawn to their organisation and spring a few bucks for their cause of annoying people with more than two brain cells like me... us... whatever.

emily said...

Boycott sex.

David O'Hara said...

Call me whitey, cracker, honkey etc. Do I care? No, because I don't think my race is over-all inferior to any of the other races. Some races average a higher IQ than mine, others dominate the NBA. There are differences. Labels only raise hackles when there is some derogatory truth in them THAT THE RECIPIENT FEELS.

Actually, most if not all predjudices, are/were based in some truth. (gasp!) If the derogatory term was picked out of thin air, it carries no weight - has no effect.

If the mentally-disabled are not retarded, then are they - mentally advanced - intellectually superior - Specially Olympic?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ken, but you're wrong. If you have the bollocks to go up to the next black guy you see and call him a nigger, or go up to the parent of child with Down's Syndrome and call them a retard, then fair play to you.

It's not about being 'easily' offended.

David Young

SharoneRosen said...

ref said it right! CONTEXT is todays word.

Vain, clueless, selfish people use hurtful words because no one else matters to them. Those are the characters being portrayed. Using the R word only shows what asses they really are.

Mike E said...

"Just Saying," this is NOT "one step away" from being a racist and, sorry David Young, but it's not the same as walking up to individuals on the street and insulting them, either.

If you are afraid of words, don't write. Please. Don't write.

Jokes can make us feel uncomfortable from time to time, that's the nature of humor. What's next? Are we going to cut out jokes about AARP members because "elder Americans" will be offended? (No offense, Ken.) :)

If you have thin skin about jokes that have nothing to do with you personally, or even jokes that do, I highly suggest you cease trying to write TV comedy. Because when you get in a room full of comedy writers, nothing is sacred. Nothing.

Watch Family Guy for some nice, even-handed, bashing of all things sacred. Retards, Right-wing Christians, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Parents, Children, on and on and on.

Comedy is about roasting Sacred Cows to a nice medium-rare and then serving them up to rednecks and stiff-necks alike.

If you are afraid of words... Please don't write.

Mike

ish said...

David Young:

So someone making a film about the KKK shouldn't allow their characters to use the word "nigger" because its offensive?

Isn't that the point, that the language that characters use tells us something about them? And that the language used in Tropic Thunder reveals the characters as shallow and stupid, which is the point of the commentary?

Sorry to get all Socratic on your ass, but if you answer those questions honestly, you should see that you're the wrong one here.

If you're looking for something to boycott, try it against people who create controversy to earn money off the backs of those they claim to protect, and keep your censorship under your own roof, so the adults can watch films in peace.

Anonymous said...

There's a very specific point here which shouldn't go unaddressed. It's not about a boycott, it's about the fact that where Hollywood filmmakers will tiptoe around issues of race (for very good reasons), there's a free for all when it comes to disability.

Retard, spastic, mongo; all words seemingly allowable by your standards (in proper context). All words with the power to injure and hurt. Does it mean that those words should be proscribed? Of course not. But some thought should go into how they are deployed.

Witness all the amputee jokes this side of the Atlantic about Heather Mills; dull, crap, uninteresting humour.

Sit in a prosthetic clinic any day of the week with kids who're amputees and who've had to listen to the same tired pish jokes from their school mates. I would go into how much it upsets them but the wankers here would only find a gag in it.

Yes, unfortunately, life does work like that. Humour is carried over into real life.

Feel free to pick away.

Cathy Krasnianski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy Krasnianski said...

sat·ire [sat-ahyuhr]
–noun 1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

It's a sad day when we can no longer laugh at ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I'm so down with seeing this flick, and I was saying that to a friend online till she mentioned the whole uproar. Before I could respond with something smart-assy, she told me about her sister with Down Syndrome. I feel bad for her, but not enough to stay away! Sorry. Call me intellectually challenged if you like, people. Hee.

Anonymous said...

@tcinla: *LOL* "...it's an amusing documentary..."

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Don’t these self appointed watchdog groups realize...

Telling ideologues to be pragmatic is like... actually there's no need for an analogy.

Stacey said...

Those last two were from me. I had to publish them quickly to free up this PC that runs our store cash software on a virtual machine.

jbryant said...

I wouldn't expect the parent of a mentally impaired child to bust a gut laughing at Stiller in his "Simple Jack" persona, but not everything is for everybody, especially when it comes to humor. And as others have pointed out, the intention in this case is to skewer the idiots who think such portrayals are sensitive and award-worthy.

There is not one second of footage in this film that encourages laughter at the expense of an actual mentally impaired person. I suspect it only took one glimpse of Stiller in character for the "advocates" to smell blood (and publicity, and money). As usual in these cases, it's unlikely that the protesters have actually seen what they're protesting (using the old excuse that they don't need to jump in the sewer to know it stinks). A lot of well-meaning people get caught up in this kinda thing, but it gets tiresome.

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Boycott"? Why not a "Girlcott"? I'm offended. Girlcott Kent's flog. That'll teach him.

Meanwhile, I'm also girlcotting BIG BROTHER because they keep using the term "Unitard," like all tards are uniform. I'm offended.

And DANCING WITH THE STARS! They mention leotards. On behalf of all the tards named "Leo," I'm offended.

No one's even mentioned the reason I'm not going to see TROPIC THUNDER: Jack Black. I am so sick of that obnoxious egomaniac. Speaking as an obnoxious egomaniac myself, I'm offended. Girlcott all movies with Jack Black.

David Young, I'm old. Your name offends me. Call yourself "David Ripening-Impaired" or I'll girlcott you. I would never walk up to an under-AARP-age person and say "You're young!" As an old person, I am too fucking tasteful and classy to use the Y word.

On an entirely different offensive note: now we know why, in the movie GOLDFINGER, the Red Chinese were financing Goldfinger's raid on Fort Knox. They needed the gold to make medals for Michael Phelps.

This whole topic is learning impaired.

Cheers!

paperzach said...

I eagerly await all of the comedies that are sure to come out in the next few years where nobody is made to question their values. That'll fix comedy, just make it all so bland and unoffensive that we can all sit in the theater together and nobody can ever call foul.

Personally, as an ugly person, I would appreciate it if they stopped using ugly people to represent sexually undesirable qualities. Both me and my malformed second head find that offensive and hurtful.

just saying said...

I'm surprised that a comedy pro like Ken would not acknowledge that for everyone that gets the irony, there will be a dozen ignoramuses who find their limited worldview affirmed by cheap shots like this. That's what the support group object to. Me, I think bad satire should be punishable by death.

Anonymous said...

BOYcott Emily!

jbryant said...

so, "just saying," as if writing comedy weren't hard enough, now we have to purge every line of any connotation that might inadvertently affirm the limited world view of ignoramuses? The "cheap shots" this film takes are directly AT such ignoramuses, not the mentally impaired or their champions. If the ignoramuses don't get that and instead use the film as ammo for their prejudice, it's on THEM, not the filmmakers.

Some of this reminds me of all the crap Randy Newman has taken over the years for singing in character as various racists and idiots. Remember the brouhaha over "Short People" back in the late '70s?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

What's all this controversy about retreads? I've bought retreads for my car many times and they've worked out fine. They're cheaper than new tires and last for thousands of miles. I just don't understand why anyone would want to stop any talk about retreads. It's insane. It's preposterous. It's just plain cra-- What? Retards? Oh, well, that's different. Retards can't drive.

Charles Jurries said...

I've been watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show on Hulu.com, and they are great, classic comedies that crack me up a lot, without racist or otherwise demeaning humor.

Not to say that jokes in Tropic Thunder wouldn't be funny. However, I don't think it's necessary for a good comedy. And it usually skewers towards the lowest common denominator. If this film didn't have A-listers starring in it, it would be a direct-to-DVD "American Pie Presents" film.

Looking at early ticket sales for this weekend, the studio is probably regretting not doing that, too. $26 million for this weekend, $34 million total for this week. That's with a $135 million+ budget!

ellyodd said...

As someone who works with children with various disabilities, I do not use that word. That would be a reason to fire me. Personally, I don't find it that offensive.

But Ken, you HAVE to know, that "retard" is equal to "nigger" for a lot of people. And we should respect that.

Stacey said...

Just got back from seeing Tropic Thunder. I'm highly offended that the movie's buzz didn't live up to promises of offensiveness and hilarity. I was actually expecting a lot more. I was a bit disappointed. Oh, well.

Best three parts of the movie are, in essay format of course: Robert Dreamy Jr., Jack Black and (I hate to say it) Tom Cruise. Seriously. And Tallulah, Jack isn't his typical obnoxious self in this. He gives a funny, measured performance of a heroin addict that was ripe for over the topness but he chose to reign it in. Glad to see it, too, b.c. I'm also sick of his Tenacious D. on crack schtick.

@ellyodd: The literal meaning of the word retard is slow, not useless or devoid of value, and that's exactly what people are implying when they take offense. I'm slow doing stuff, too. My brain, thanks to my thyroid, doesn't work as fast or efficiently as it used to. And my ovaries are deaf, dumb AND blind because they don't respond at all to my slow brain's memos to release eggs into the wild so my MIL can get off my case about babies. Am I upset and offended? Hell, no! Having said all of that, I am white and I take offense to your putting the word retard on the same level as nigger. One word describes abilities, the other describes a whole race that was repressed, humiliated and degraded. It's not the same thing. Never will be. Stop trying to.

Stacey said...

Stop trying to imply that it is.

(I don't know what happened to the end of that last sentence. Weird.)

James Patrick Joyce said...

I still say that, "Who’s the intellectually challenged now?" was a hilarious line.

I think you are all being alternatively intellectually talented (AIT), by not commenting on the post, rather than the general issue.

Bunch of AITs.

Anonymous said...

It'd only be offensive if you called it "niggerface".

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I didn't know Tom "Smirking Dwarf" Cruise was in this movie. Now I know I won't see it. Millions for charity, but not one cent for an asshole Scientologist.

Ellen said...

I found "Tropic Thunder" to be really funny. If anyone should be offended, it's the Hollywood types the movie depicts.

One group that nobody seems to have any qualms making fun of is nerds. Some "Wordplay" reviewers thought it was perfectly OK and really clever to use the tone of, "Oh, look at all these awkward misfits that we are superior to." I could only wonder what the reviewers were best in the country at.

james ford said...

let me preface that i am african-american. we have this knee-jerk reaction that everybody is supposed to be of the same mindset. it would be ridiculous to make a movie about racism (like CRASH or MALCOLM X) and not have racial slurs invoked... that's the frickin' point. it's like banning HUCK FINN because because they use the the word 'nigger'... yeah, jim's a slave and that's how people were.

secondly, 'retard' is an actual word. like a 'flame retardant.' it means something that is slow. i understand the not using handicap because the origins of the word were from beggars (hand with cap). african american makes sense because there are italian americans and jewish american groups everywhere. 'retard' is a word would be replaced with something and then twenty years later it will be replaced with something different because that word has a bad connotation. understand it isn't the word, it's the condition.

i'm sorry but i know these people have hardships but let's stop pretending they don't. i've seen boycotting photos with t-shirts that say 'i don't have disablities, i have special abilities,' no you don't. you can't walk through walls or fly. you have a harder time doing things the rest of us take for granted and i know that. if you need help, i'd be happy to help, if not, give the state back it's parking sticker and checks and get in line with the rest of us.

and just so we're clear, an actor playing a white actor who dresses as a black actor is not blackface. mickey rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S is in yellowface because not only is he not asians, he's playing an asian stereotype. you could make the same argument for eddie murphy in NORBIT and COMING TO AMERICA but i don't think he was portaying anymore negative a stereotype than he does as when he's other black characters. if he's going to dish it out, at least he gets a large helping himself.

www.jamesford.wordpress.com

angelmeg said...

If they think this is the firt time Ben Stiller makes fun of the the intellectualy disabled they obviously never bothered to watch any of his other movies.

rob said...

I haven't seen Tropic Thunder yet (though I plan to). But doesn't this come closest to the use of the word "nigger" in Blazing Saddles? Anyone who has actually seen the movie should be able to understand that the ones using the word in the movie were the idiots. (See Cathy's definition of satire above.)

Do the Tropic boy/girlcotters feel that Blazing Saddles was unfunny, demeaning and should have been protested?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this and I wondered - did Forrest Gump get protested like this when it first came out?