The upcoming comedy Tropic Thunder is facing protests from American disability organisations due to the inclusion of the word “retard” throughout the film.
Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, the film is a satire of modern Hollywood, and particularly of self-centered and obliviously offensive actors.
Stiller plays a character called Tugg Speedman, an action-superstar who once played a mentally disabled character called Simple Jack in his efforts to win an Oscar. The film also stars Jack Black as a heroin-addicted comedian, and Robert Downey Jr, as an Australian method actor portraying a black man in the film within a film.
Throughout the movie, references are made to Speedman’s role as Simple Jack, with the word “retard” used several times. Disability Rights groups, as well as the Special Olympics organisation have called for a boycott of the film for using the derogatory word.
Way to miss the point completely guys.
Tropic Thunder is making fun of actors and filmmakers who disrespect people with disabilities, and exploit them for their own personal gain.
Satire has to be offensive. It has to shock people, because it forces people to look at what it is they are satirising. Think of Borat, which only two years ago was also being accused of being anti-semetic and homophobic. Borat is one of the greatest social satires of the last decade, and used the Kazakhi reporter as a cipher to make us face our own prejudices.
Tropic Thunder is doing the same, with Speedman playing a mentally disabled man and Downey Jr’s character playing a black man, just for the accolades and without any respect for who they are portraying.
Of course, no one should ever be made fun of for their disabilities, race or sexual-orientation. However, if political correctness swallows up satire, (one of the most important forms of expression) then we would really have something to protest about.