Tropic Thunder Being Boycotted by Disabilities Groups
Starting this week, dozens of disabilities groups led by Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, are expected to boycott Tropic Thunder at its world premiere on Monday night as well as its nationwide release on Wednesday. "Not only might it happen, it will happen," Shriver insistently told the New York Times. There was buzz about this last week when the groups complained about the online marketing campaign for the film, which resulted in Paramount pulling a few of the websites. However, their demands, which include pulling "all scenes and clips that include Ben Stiller's portrayal of Simple Jack from the movie, DVD, trailers, promotional material and merchandising" have not been met. "The movement needs to enter the public eye and not just be talking among ourselves."
Let's just get right down to it. I'm attempting to report on this news objectively, but I just can't help it - this is ridiculous! This coalition of a dozen or so disabilities groups have only recently begun to be offended by some of the material in the film. "A particular sore point has been the film's repeated use of the term 'retard' in referring to a character, Simple Jack, who is played by Mr. Stiller in a subplot about an actor who chases an Oscar by portraying a mindless dolt." As Paramount describes it, "the movie's humor was aimed not at the disabled but at the foolishness of actors who will go to any length in advancing their careers." Thankfully, Paramount is not changing the film at all and I commend them for standing up to this. They did change some of their advertising already, but it's an R rated film and none of it needs to be altered.
David C. Tolleson, executive director of the National Down Syndrome Congress, saw the film at a screening and responded openly. "I came out feeling like I had been assaulted," he said. Other groups, including the American Association of People With Disabilities, are planning to meet in Los Angeles on Monday to picket the premiere, but that's not all. "Mr. Shriver said that he had also begun to ask members of Congress for a resolution condemning what he called the movie's 'hate speech' and calling for stronger federal support of the intellectually disabled." Wait, what?! I don't know what "hate speech" there is, because I laughed my ass off in the movie and never thought twice about it's offensiveness. If they can't take a joke, which isn't meant to offend any disabled individuals, then it's their own issue to deal with, not the government's!
Now don't get me wrong, I clearly believe that using the term "retard" is offensive, however, in the context of the movie and the way it's presented, there is nothing wrong with it. If every R rated movie were to have its offensiveness examined, there would be protests from some group somewhere every single day of the year. Tropic Thunder is a hilarious movie that does push the boundaries of the acceptable, but that's what Hollywood does all the time and we're constantly accepting those new boundaries. If you're interested, you can read more about this boycott over on the New York Times or just forget about it and enjoy Tropic Thunder in theaters on Wednesday like everyone else. This whole scenario is ridiculous to begin with, but I thought the least I could do was report it for everyone's own personal consideration.