Tropic Thunder Being Boycotted by Disabilities Groups

August 10, 2008
Source: New York Times

Tropic Thunder

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.

Find more posts: Editorial, Opinions



They should be more offended by people that would actually do that to get a Oscar.

Joker on Aug 10, 2008


This is stupid! You don´t see african-american groups crying about Robert Downy Jr´s character getting a skin-color changing surgery for the role.

Jacob on Aug 10, 2008


want to see this more now

OCP on Aug 10, 2008


Epic win. Epic freakin' win.

Will S. (Co Springs) on Aug 11, 2008


It's political correctnessgone to far, so far it has become retarded.

sargentDiggler on Aug 11, 2008


Whiners. This makes me want to see TT even more.

RandyG on Aug 11, 2008


That is retarded and lame!

Mayhem Studios on Aug 11, 2008


That clip of Simple Jack was hilarious because it was so true, now I wanna see this movie all the more. BTW I was super hyped for Pineapple Express, pretty disappointing.

Richard on Aug 11, 2008


LOL at alex. You seldom actually "report". Your subjective, editorializing style is what makes this site what it is (as much as you attempt to stay within the boundaries of righteous journalism, that's almost always ho-hum to skim across - if anything, we need a tad more sensationalism). But i understand the plug for a disclaimer - it's a true writer's etiquette. With that out of the way... Sure, it's quite the type-crass synonym for imbecile, but for the most part, retard is used so frequently in regular speak (in contemporary english-language conversation to be colloquial), who actually gives a fidduck?! And when you're watching a movie ben stiller is producing (or playing a major role in), you should expect some type of controversy along the way. He's been doing this for over a decade, should this really surprise the mentally challenged? ("Where's my baseball?!?!"). And it has nothing to do w/ being insensitive. I work with children with autism and even they know the difference between art and life. If someone is poking fun at you and it's not directly aimed at you, why not have a sense of humor about it? Life is too short to fret and be bitter about the small stuff. The bigger picture is what we must focus our attention on (famine, war, ascending petrol-prices, immigration, presedency, etc.). What's hollywood but a roll of film and cocaine?!?! *shrugs* The sweetest day of may.

BinYe East on Aug 11, 2008


LOL, people are always looking for things to protest. OMG!!!!!!!! Jack black is fat!!! I am protesting this movie because it glamorizes obesity!!! lmao

Coolness on Aug 10, 2008


You know what this means right? I can park in the cripples' parking spots when I see the movie this week, and if a cop says anything I can just send him to this article.

Homero on Aug 11, 2008


The Simple Jack scenes look embarrasingly bad to begin with, who the hell cares.

Brad on Aug 11, 2008


"I park in Handicap spaces while Handicap people make handicap faces IM AN ASSHOLE!!" Denies Leary dosent care either.

Ripper on Aug 11, 2008


Tell all the people complaining about Simple Jack to stop being RETARDED... It's a movie.. laugh!

moviereign on Aug 11, 2008


I am not exactly against this. The movie was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy over the top in every aspect and the portrayal of the mental handicapped was not well done. It was done for a laugh. While I think groups like this sit in a room waiting for something to pounce on, it doesn't make it okay for Ben Stiller to romp around the movie like a mentally handicapped person as a joke. Overall the movie was funny, any part with stiller was crap in my mind though.

Atomic Popcorn on Aug 11, 2008


I think retard has become a word you just don't use regardless of the situation and in this context I think they could have gone a different way. As for trying to poke fun at actors who will go to great lengths to win an oscar...wouldn't it have been funnier if he was playing someone who had a dramatic appearance change or was an action star who all of a sudden was trying all or these deep movies? This isn't the first time a Ben Stiller movie has come under fire from disability groups and it probably won't be the last.

janet on Aug 11, 2008


There's nothing wrong with the word "Retard." Just ask George Carlin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h67k9eEw9AY

Devon Shaw on Aug 11, 2008


They needed attention and this movie is what will bring attention to them, simple as that. I find it funny that they cry about exploitation when all theyre doing is exploiting an aspect of this movie to support their (good) cause. long live the two faces.

tw on Aug 11, 2008


i havent stopped telling my friends to "never go full retard" since i saw the movie

jont on Aug 11, 2008


.....and they never bitched about that Johnny Knoxville movie about the special olympics????? I don't get it. Publicity stunt? It's only a matter of time til other groups bitch about Robert Downey Jr playing an African-American!!

Blue Silver on Aug 11, 2008


"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." And then he tried to bite his ear. Who told him he felt assaulted? His mom, right after she adjusted his helmet? "While I think groups (blah blah blah), it doesn't make it okay for Ben Stiller to romp around the movie like a mentally handicapped person as a joke." You know what makes it ok, Atomic Popcorn? The First Amendment. There's a lot of crybabies out there. Go change your tampons, and understand that if the worst thing that happens to you today is you feel offended at something, you've had a pretty damn good day.

Colin on Aug 11, 2008


I'll have to see the movie myself before I can judge, but honestly, after seeing that Johnny Knoxville movie The Ringer, I've come to really understand how mentally challenged people actually act, they dont just walk around going "adurrrrrrrrr", they actually have feelings and shit. So if I see Ben Stiller walking around going "adurrrrrrrr" I'm gonna be offended, but I'm not gonna protest the movie or complain because I know it's just a joke, but I'm probably just not gonna like it and not find it funny, unless it's hilarious beyond all limitations.

Kail on Aug 11, 2008


i waqsw watching a pg-13 movie the othe day where he called his friend a retard why didnt they boycott that...these dudes need to pull whatever it is out there asses and relax...worry about more important shit than a movie that people are going to see weather they do that or not...

sam on Aug 11, 2008


Colin #21, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU... just got my best laugh of the day. I would normally berate folks for attacking(yes I know hypocrit, haha), but that was just funny. I use that line way too much ..... "If that is the worst shit that happens to you today, Then that was a good day." I dun care if someone loses a leg in a car accident, that line still applies.. haha

Dusty on Aug 11, 2008


I'm hoping these handicapped communists at least turned out to publicly shit their pants in protest of "The Ringer." Or even Forest Gump for that matter. Why is it groups which only exist because of the rights we are granted regarding freedom of speech, the press, self-expression, etc., feel it is their duty to make everyone feel bad for exercising theirs? 100 years ago these guys would've been locked up on an island somewhere in a state facility, why do they feel obligated to make us regret changing that social norm? Get over it, it's a movie and what looks to be a funny one at that. And plus Simple Jack doesn't even look like its huge selling point, I mean, did you see that little Asian kid stabbing Ben Stiller in the red-band!? No, of course you didn't, you were too busy putting on your ski boots to go out to the picket lines...

El Conquistador on Aug 11, 2008


im offended that they are offended. this country is too PC and sensitive to deal with sometimes. not everyone is going to have the same point of view as everyone else and everyonee has the right to express how they feel regardless. its in the consititution...so jog on special olympics people, i could care less.

Mortuus on Aug 11, 2008


My local theater doesn't have a wheel chair ramp. But anyway. Some black groups were offended by RDjr. character, till they watched the movie, where i think they all saw it for what it was, a movie making fun of actors. But yes, both our countries (i am in canada) are getting way over the top on the whole PC thing. Btw. I didn't read about people complaining about The Ringer or I am Sam or White Chicks. Anyway, I have to go get my tickets for this movie right now.

Buttons on Aug 11, 2008


I wouldn't think mentally handicapped people would go to it anyway.

DCompose on Aug 11, 2008


In related jokes, all the retarded people went to Kung Fu Panda. NOTHIN' BUT NET.

DCompose on Aug 11, 2008


True that # 27, boycotts like this tend to make me lose respect for the groups Doing the 'cotting lol.

Buttons on Aug 11, 2008


It is offensive the term, but in the context of the movie it really isn't. They aren't bashing mentally challenged people, but the people that play them! The studio did a very righteous thing by pulling down the website and changing the trailers which is very kind. But change the movie and espically THIS late in the game???? Now THAT is retarded to think about.

Ryan on Aug 11, 2008


That sucks for Ben Stiller. The first movie he directs since Zoolander and there's going to be retards across the street from the red carpet with signs and banners, chanting out of sync and being told to be offend by him and him alone. HAHAHA. Well, I love you ole Benny.

Dustyman1505 on Aug 11, 2008


If cripples want it pulled then it must be extremly funny keep it in the film

matt on Aug 11, 2008


...Yeah I dont see any black activist lobyists getting all worked up abour RDJ.... you know a white guy playing a black guy. Christ, stop this Politically Correct BS.

Morgs on Aug 11, 2008


If it offends you then don't watch it. But people that want a film to be banned or changed because of that "offensive to them" material are trying to force others into their viewpoint. That's immoral. No one is being harmed. Grow a pair.

Puke on Aug 11, 2008


I picketed I Am Sam and all I got was a broken bottle shoved into my forehead. WHAT A COUNTRY.

DCompose on Aug 11, 2008


I have a daughter with special needs. Before she was born, I used the word retarded in conversation. I was naive about the offensiveness of the word. Now, I am personally aware of the issues and cringe when I hear the word. I believe the use of the word is insensitive, but I also understand most do not have the personal perspective that I have. There will always be a few insecure or insensitive types that don't really care. I understand the objections of some of the special interests because, to some degree, it is their obligation to the constituents they serve to bring these issues to light. More than likely this movie created a high-profile platform for the desire to remove the word retarded from our lexicon when referring to intellectually disabled individuals in some demeaning way, parody or not. The public imitates what is popular, and entertainment is a huge influence on popularity. Unfortunately, this type of awareness tactic often creates more problems than it solves. For some unknown reason, people's first reaction is to retaliate and use it more often when someone tells them it is offensive. A sad commentary on our society, I think. I'm not a huge fan of Ben Stiller. I think his comedy is funny sometimes, but mostly not. This sounds like a mostly not for me.

Russ on Aug 11, 2008


You know someone will always be offended by something and if we all catered to what everyone else wanted then this would be, um I don't know, China or something, anyway, I'm glad we can offend even if I'm begin offended, trying to demand the things this group is demanding is just making it worse for themselves and those they are trying to "protect" which really actually probably don't have much of a concept of the offense in the first place. I have family that is disabled and I'm sure they would hate this movie, so they don't watch it.

Richard on Aug 11, 2008


I work with intellectual disability children on a daily basis, and they find it hurtful to hear people say "retard" even if it wasn't meant towards them, they know that the word Retard is referring to people like them. People who were born with a disability, are only seen as retards, no one looks past it to see their abilities. If you were to give people like that ten minutes of your life, you'd understand why it is so offense to them.

marissa on Aug 12, 2008


So this is Stiller in his 'Simple Jack' role: http://radar.net/see/1860206 A lot of the content like this has begun being pulled from the 'net by the studio. Is this a step in the right direction, or does it not please anyone (not enough for protesters, too much for film fans)?

srog on Aug 14, 2008

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