Bravo DreamWorks! What Courage It Must Have Taken to Make Fun of “Retards”

Whenever I despair that true courage — the willingness to take on the powerful and the intimidating — is nowhere to be found, I have a couple of weeks like these.

Last month it was the courageous Michael Savage.

Where, after all, can you find a man willing to fearlessly ridicule autistic kids and show the moral fiber it takes to make fun of the defenseless and the disabled? Others may hide behind such gutless concepts as compassion, empathy, and – YUCK!! – love, but at least Mike wasn’t afraid to be proudly and shamelessly cruel.

Now that takes guts.

I think Savage may have inspired the most recent courageous person of the week.

Today we salute the compassion of Stacey Snider, a senior executive at DreamWorks, who has stood firm against those who would criticize “Tropic Thunder,” a film from Ben Stiller that has used its right to free expression to nail those annoying little kids that the film bravely calls “retards.” Check out the tag-line on the poster: “Once upon a time…there was a retard.”


That’s right. While others might have knuckled under and admitted they had done something unspeakably hurtful, Ms. Snider has honored herself and her industry by announcing that she is “proud of the movie. It is hysterically funny. I do think it’s got its heart in the right place.”

And not one to be intimidated by the forces of compassion, she defends the film’s depiction of disabilities by suggesting that “The star-studdedness of it, and the absolute playability of it, trumps it all.”

That’s right: Miss Snider asks us to accept this profound hurt because of the film’s “star-studdedness,” which “trumps it all.” It might be disgusting, but at least it is stars being disgusting.

Just out of curiosity, Ms. Snider, whose concerns and hurts are trumped by all these stars? The hundreds of thousands of children who already get called “retard” at school, on playgrounds, in shopping malls? The kids who get stared at? The parents who struggle to protect and defend those kids from emotional pain?

Here’s what really kills me. Do I think that any production executive or Ben Stiller sat down and thought: How can we make fun of kids with cognitive disabilities? How can we cause their parents unnecessary pain? How can I make sure the word “retard” echoes across the cultural landscape?

Of course not. It is worse than that. Much worse.

Because what this whole shameful episode makes clear is that the entire promotional campaign – the posters, the web sites, the trailers, everything – made it through the entire DreamWorks production and promotion process without anyone, not one person , ever stopping to ask themselves: Sure we can say anything we want. Sure we can use the word “retard.” But do we want to? Should we? Is it right? Is it kind? Who would we hurt?

Nobody asked. Nobody asked.

Nobody gave two seconds thought to the possibility that someone might be hurt; that some kid might come home and ask why another kid called them a “retard” after seeing a movie made by Ms. Snider’s company.

I wish I was pure. But there is not a soul on earth to whom I would confess all the disgusting nonsense I have laughed at. I actually appreciate that we live in a society that grants artists the creative freedom to make an audience sick.

But never, ever — if you claim to have even a minimum of guts or decency — mess with people who cannot speak back.

57 thoughts on “Bravo DreamWorks! What Courage It Must Have Taken to Make Fun of “Retards”

  1. Being There, Rain Man, I Am Sam, Of Mice and Men, Charly, Gilbert Grape, Forrest Gump, Sling Blade… the list of Hollywood films about people with mental disabilities is long because the Academy loves its “serious” handicapped themes, and always rewards them with shiny statues. I haven’t seen “Tropic Thunder,” but if it truly is a comedy – one without the expected “heart-tugging” ending – than I will respect it more for not separating people with such disabilities as comedic fodder from the rest of us “normal” folk.

    I wouldn’t worry about kids being called “retards” – that’s been a tradition on school playgrounds for eons – have pity for kids named “Jack” who will hereafter be known as “Simple Jack.”

  2. Really Dominic? Really? You wouldn’t worry about kids being called the R word because it’s a TRADITION??? In my lifetime I have seen a lot of “traditions” but calling someone the R word is not among them. Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve, Weddings and going to church yeah those are traditions. You obviously were the one holding said “tradition” and are still being the bully. So this email is for my little girl. The small one who can’t fight it. The small one who fights a war every single day to prove her worth. The bundle of sunshine who will hug you and love you in spite of the ugliness that at times like this surrounds her. I will respect only those who respect my child and not perpetuate hate crimes against her and using our children as the whipping posts for laughs. HERE IS AN IDEA …. WRITE SOMETHING FUNNY and quit taking pot shots at those who can’t defend themselves. Your respect is misguided and frankly uneducated.

  3. Steve- Thank you for your post. To think that DreamWorks let this one “Slide” because of star power is making me ill. I can remember when “The Ringer” was up and coming and they actually consulted with the Special Olympics and The Arc…and who was that “The Farrelly Brothers” who work with Ben Stiller? I am shocked that DreamWorks didn’t know better….there was precident?
    I am boycotting and spreading the message to WALK AWAY….it is just not worth it.
    And Dominic…GET A CLUE!

  4. Steve – This article is wonderful!!!! As a mother to a 3 year old daughter who happens to also have Down syndrome, I commend you for this! We have enough ignorance and lack of empathy in this world, do we really need more? I will forward your article to all I know! Thanks again for advocating for people like my daughter!


  5. My son, who has Down syndrome, starts middle school in September. What timing. Movies like this just make it okay to make fun of him. And calling others “retards” on the playground wasn’t always acceptable. It is now to many people, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful to those being abused. It’s abuse – pure and simple.

  6. Thanks for the post, I also hope that Dominic should get a clue. Maybe “normal” people get made fun of (whatever normal is), but most of us aren’t oppressed! People with disabilities are openly oppressed in our society. Our idea of “prevention” is the abortion of 75% of fetus’ diagnosed with Down Syndrome. People throw the “r word” around on a regular basis and now thanks to Ben Stiller and this movie it will happen even more frequently! People get killed, hurt, tortured becasue we still think it is OK to talk about people and treat people in this way. Look up Brent Martin and see how far testosterone ridden teeange boys will go! Propoganda and dehumization was once rampant and resulted in slavery, the holocaust and genocide and discrimination across the globe. Word are important especially when they are brandished as weapons. People with disanilities can fight back, they can speak back, thsi would be the only part of your message I would disagree with. I hope every person with a developmental disability stands up and speaks out, but this time I hope people actually listen!

  7. Dominic, I’m scared to think about all the other “traditions” you practice. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. My husband got to screen this film last week and came home heartsick. DreamWorks is no equal opportunity offender. Let’s face it, they already took down their Simple Jack site and trailer and it wasn’t because it had such a nice message. You wouldn’t get away with saying “once upon a time there was a faggot or put in the N word” It just wouldn’t be accepted. But “retards” are just fair game. DreamWorks brought in a consultant about Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface, but it just never occurred to them to think about the group that they were demeaning.
    The sad part about our society is that the most offensive scene in the movie (never go full-retard”) got the most laughs at the screening. How sad is that?
    We all need to stand up and say enough is enough. My guess is that if Ben Stiller’s daughter had special needs there wouldn’t be a Tropic Thunder, period.

  8. I, too, hope that Dominic will get a clue. He should be more sensitive – and funny. Dare I say this, but he is such a retard for saying what he said.

  9. Would it be the job of karma for Ben Stiller to have a child with a disability?

    Sadly, unless they have a personal connection with disability, its hard for people to understand that “retard” is equivalent to “nigger”.

    Good post Steve.

  10. Words can hurt. I’m sorry I touched a nerve. My use of the hallowed term “tradition” wasn’t to place the callous act of name-calling alongside “acceptable” school customs. I was never one to use the word “retard” as a pejorative. However, I was on the receiving end of endless teasing when the Singing Nun’s “Dominique” became a hit song – a silly calumny which I survived. Hence, my remark about special needs children being called “Simple Jack.” In the subtext of my comment was the hope that they wouldn’t be called that particular name.

    I have had the pleasure and honor of working with the California Special Olympics program, and have experienced the respect, affection, hugs of its wonderful participants.

    Clueless? That’s a word that’s more descriptive of Algonquin Mitch who actually used the word “retard” in the very insidious context which we all abhor.

  11. Pingback: Chewymom » Blog Archive » Don’t Support “Tropic Thunder.”

  12. This protest is ridiculous. Tropic Thunder is a satire of the movie business and while I don’t disagree about the “r-word” being inappropriate, if you know anything about the movie you should clearly understand that this is an R-Rated movie with adult themes and one that pushes boundaries. You don’t see people protesting Robert Downey Jr. in “blackface” because they understand what the point of his portrayal is. It isn’t an insult to black people any more than the use of “Simple Jack” is an insult to those with mental disabilities. It is an insult to actors who feel they must play those kind of characters to gain artistic and acting credibility.

    With all due respect, the “r-word” isn’t an appropriate term… but there are a whole lot worse words to use.

    If anything, the movie should highlight the hypocrisy of Hollywood who uses the plight of those with disabilities for profit.

  13. Kevin, The problem with your attitude, while it is technically correct, is the marketing of this R-rated movie will be as most movies tend to be marketed in such a way that those under 17 will be intrigued by it. It is my understanding that there are already t-shirts available with the phrase “Full R*****” on them. These will end up finding their way onto children. The terminology will find it’s way onto the playground and into the schools. Until the complaints started rolling in you could find clips with those offensive scenes blaring for all to see (not just allegedly intelligent adults who would know not to use the term). Unfortunately, even when people know you have a child with a mental disability you still here the “r-word” used. (Most of the time it is used with a disgusted tone too! Don’t know about you but after awhile it starts to sting.) I pray my son never understands that someone may very well be putting him down when he overhears that word.

  14. Thanks so much Steve for writing from the side of moral courage. Last spring at my son’s high school a boy threw a water bottle at the feet of a student with Down syndrome and commanded he pick it up. This boy’s mother happened to be there and couldn’t believe what she heard and asked they boy what he was thinking. The boy replied, “That’s what our retards do here, they pick up our trash.”
    The Full Retard scene is giving permission to our immature teens to demean our kids with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Simply unacceptable. And comments like Dominic’s and Kevin’s PROVE that there is no empathy for people with disabilities in our country. The R word needs to be cataloged along with the N word in our history books as cruel and demeaning.
    I counsel parents who have a prental diagnosis of Down syndrome…they can handle the possibility there might be more medical issues, they cannot handle the possibility that their children will be made fun of and bullied…and they chose to NOT have their babies because of the word Retardation.
    Oh, and thanks for clarifying your position Dominic…love your reference to your work with the special olympics…reminds me of the white guy trying to not come off as a biggot who says, ‘Some of my best friends are black.’ If you truly had friends, not a benevolent relationship, but a FRIENDSHIP with a person with an intellectual disability then you would not have written your first post.

  15. I have to agree with Kevin. While not supporting the use of the word “retard” you have to take into concideration that it is an R rated movie… i would doubt that a whole lot of middle schoolers will be seeing this film.

  16. Well said, Kevin. What a load of pathetic bleeding-hearts there are on here. It’s true that do-gooders are the biggest haters of the freedom of speech. Some of the replies prove it.

    Political correctness is the real evil here – not a stupid comedy film.

  17. I think this article is well written. I will not be seeing the movie nor will my friends or family. In fact I doubt very much that anyone that loves someone with cognitive delays will be running out to see it. The sad reality is that not everyone is going to be aware and some unsuspecting parent, sibling or grandparent will go see this movie unaware and will likely flee the theater in tears.
    I am happy to hear it is R rated. At least the children my son will be in Preschool with this fall wont be running around calling him a retard! At least not yet. Not until they have been exposed to the attitude that the use of the word is OK! Maybe we should all consider changing that! I thinking being ridiculous and protesting this disgusting movie is a good place to start! Just an idea.

  18. I have had more than few friends with special needs outside of the Special Olympics. One thing they have in common with the rest of humanity, is the need to be treated normally. The one thing they don’t have in common with us is priggish self-righteousness.

    I suppose accusations of tokenism are better than being called clueless. How long should I wear my hair shirt, Judge Sandra?

  19. If I have to hear Ben Stiller pat himself on the back one more time for his careful use of racial humor – how he took precautions and thought through what he was doing so as not to offend people of color – I will scream. Anyone who actually thinks this movie is an “equal opportunity offender” is misinformed – read the articles in the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly. There IS a way to use humor – even disability-related humor- that does not debase and demean. Ben Stiller was either clueless about that or intentionally cruel.

    And FREEDOM of SPEECH applies to governmental actions, not to citizens expressing their disgust at the use of speech to degrade and dehumanize. I counsel those with a prenatal diagnosis as well (having had one myself) and one of the BIGGEST FEARS is that their children will be ridiculed. Way to go Dreamworks. Good job Ben Stiller. Will you be storing your copy of Tropic Thunder next to Schindler’s List?

  20. Sorry, Kevin Crossman, but you are a foolish sheep. The R-rating means nothing and we all know it. Plenty of underage children will see the movie on opening night because this country is fully of parents who have no problem using the r-word whenever it suits them. “Full R-” will be all over the school come Thursday morning. If you don’t understand this, you are living in a fantasy world. The adults will just pass the tradition on to their children.

    This has nothing to do with political correctness. I have no problem with this movie being made. What I do have a problem with is that sends a message that it’s ok to use the r-word. Frankly, people are too stupid to really understand that satire often has unintended consequences.

    The funniest part about the whole thing is that after thinking about it, I think the real butt of the joke is the PEOPLE who will eat up anything Hollywood throws at them. In satirizing Hollywood actors, they are actually producing a real-world satire in which you and your ilk have the starring role.

    Congratulations on your new-found stardom. Enjoy it and may your offspring not inherit your antipathy of the intellectually disabled.

  21. Dominic – so what – you have some disabled friends? I suppose you have some black friends , too? And some Mexican friends? Are we supposed think better of you? The only self-righteousness I see here is you.

    Honestly, it’s not even your fault that you don’t get it. It’s the fault of all the advocacy groups that have failed to change public perception of the intellectually disabled. They don’t run around calling each other “R-” in an endearing way. There is NO justified use of the word, except when using it within scientific or medical context.

    Clearly you have no personal connection, otherwise you couldn’t possibly take your stance. Yes, the movie has a right to be made. We also have a right to condemn it as we see fit.just because something is produced doesn’t mean it is fit for consumption.

    The end game is not to ban movies, it’s to change perception so that no one would want to make a movie that disparages a segment of the population. If this were “Brown Jojo – Once upon o time there was a nigger”, there would be riots in the streets. There is absolutely no difference with “Simple Jack – once upon a time there was a retard”. Frankly, I’m disgusted that groups like NDSS haven’t done more to get the word out. We’ve been letting friends know about the movie and everyone is oblivious.

  22. Yes…calling someone a retard is a tradition, just like calling someone a nigger, kike, faggot, polock, guinney, wop, porch monkey, raghead, dune koon……’s a tradition to offened others and add to the dogma of those less fortunate.

    I love free speech……I think when I go see Tropical Thunder at the theatre I will scream FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Thanks Steve!

    Joe, “Something About Mary” was more limited in its treatment of the developmentally disabled and they did not base their marketing scheme around that one scene. Also, Mary does try to be a defender of the disabled. But the scene is offensive and we can see what inspires Stiller and what he thinks is funny.

  24. Pingback: Random Thinking » Blog Archive » Stupid Movies

  25. Pingback: Disability News | » News Archive » More coverage of ‘Tropic Thunder’ …

  26. Once again, I think a lot of people have missed the point. “Simple Jack” was actually meant to point out how exploitive Hollywood is in the first place. Stiller’s character, “Tugg Speedman”, apparently took the role as an Oscar-grabbing attempt and was roundly condemned for it. Before being removed from the web, the “Simple Jack” section of Speedman’s “official” website included lines like “Speedman scorched audiences with his hideous portrayal of a mentally impaired farm hand in ‘Simple Jack’.” In other words, this fictious film was already being condemned as exploitive by an imaginary audience.

    Stiller is using this as a device for people to examine Hollywood itself, much the same way Robert Downey Jr’s blackface character is used. I applaud “Tropic Thunder” for attempting to focus people’s attention on these issues. Unfortunately, most didn’t get it and instead end up condemning the pointer, not the target.

    Don’t always go with the kneejerk reaction. Think about it first.

  27. So Dominic, you’ve managed to make the 3 typical statements, someone who is a bully that pretends their not would make:

    1. “I was made fun of myself too, I know how it feels!”

    2. “But I worked with the Special Olympics, so I’ve been nice to people with mental disabilities!”

    3. “It was tradition, it’s what everyone does!”

    Your claims still do little to disprove that you are indeed a bully. Just learn to admit to it, understand that it is a choice. That when you could’ve learned empathy and insight from being bullied yourself, instead you learned that it’s better to be the one doing the bullying.

  28. Bravo, Steve! What continues to be incredible to me is all the people defending movie because who say we’re suppose to have a sense of humor and appreciate the satire — the problem here is most of the people who will see this film don’t know even what satire IS…but they will remember to use “full retard” the next time they see someone with a cognitive disability. It’s just plain mean.

  29. Ben, it is you who are missing the point. His disability humor is NOT “much the same” as his racial humor. He handled these two potentially conversial humor sources very differently. He specifically created a product that would NOT offend people of color – he brags about his stategies in various interviews. He just did not care about doing that with our children.

    I honestly do not care what larger message or satirical goal he had in mind – I do care that he used my child in an insulting and disrepectful manner. Our children KNOW these actors – my 8 year old is watching a program right now where Ben Stiller is the narrator. Sesame Street had Jack Black on its anniversary show. Numerous kids’ shows have these actors. Nickelodeon is a big Jack Black outlet. I thought I was safe from having to see their faces by putting on “Shaggy D.A.” – oops, Robert Downey, Jr.! When this movie is in homes next year, how many parents will give more weight to who the actors are and the fact that it is a comedy than to the R rating? How many times will those words echo through the school hallways?

    The dehumanization and blatant disrespect of individuals with intellectual disabilities simply isn’t funny to those of us aware of how much words hurt. Those spoken by influential movie stars, all wrapped up with a funny punch line, make it even more socially acceptable to ridicule our most vulnerable citizens. So while the masses and critics are singing the praises of this comedy, the notes fall flat for those of us who have loved ones with an intellectual disability and have to pay a high price for this movie’s success.

  30. This is comment 35 in the most balanced discussion on any post I’ve seen on this topic. True colours are being shown and that is a thing to be applauded. I suspect that ultimately this movie will do huge business for Dreamworks et al, and I have a fear that those urging a ban may well succeed in achieving the opposite. You cannot proscribe a word, and any film that I can think f that was banned only ever went on to become more (in)famous because of it. BS (ho ho) can indeed argue that the depiction of Simple Jack (and the cold calculatedness of the ‘star’ Tugg Speedman in taking the role) is a direct hit on the Hollywood set-up. He could even feel offended that his original meaning has been eroded by the disability lobby. It can be argued over another 35 well balanced replies to your post, Steve, but it will still come down to your final three lines, which so, so many people out there simply do not get:
    ‘But never, ever — if you claim to have even a minimum of guts or decency — mess with people who cannot speak back’
    They could not have put it better themselves.

  31. The movie is actually doing America favor by bringing the topic to the foreground. It IS being discussed – adults ARE taking notice. But this is really not a thing to worry about. I was curious to get a reading on the word “Retard” so I looked it up on Very satisfying to see that it is greatly regarded as an insult to people with true mental disabilities. It is, however, used as an insult to normal people who do something stupid. I admit to using the word – in front of my 11 and 6 yr old. Guess it’s better than calling that other driver: bitch, cock-sucker, niggah, jagg-off, mother-fucker – like my dad did in front of me when I was a kid. I regularly use the word fuck, shit, etc. in my head and in conversation with just a few people in my life.

    But that’s not what we need to fret over – what about how the whole world view: the US economy is abysmal, China is dangerously powerful – as well as Iran with it’s nuke building, there is lots of fighting, starvation, etc in this world. The majority of the world lives a life that’s completely opposite of ours: in extreme poverty.

    Society is getting better – the world is a much better place in the civilized places than it was 200 years ago. Things that were acceptable in the US 60 yrs ago, ei – public racism and sexism, are now very unacceptable.

  32. Okay – I typed in Retarded in Youtube and watched to first video. Over 2 million views. It made me laugh. And, I’m telling you, people love to laugh at racist, sexist and retard jokes.

    We’re secretly jealous of them because their denial mechanism works a thousand times better than ours. Ignorance is bliss and you know it.

  33. Steve,

    Thank you for you well written piece. As a sibling of a man with Down sydrome, there is absolutely nothing funny about using the r-word. Historically, it is only used to harm the human spirit by insulting another huamn being’s abilties. We know as a society that the word is degrading, it’s time to stop using it.

  34. Thanks Sandra E and Jackie.

    Poor Dominic and Richard C- Let’s pray that neither of you ever have a special needs child, your compassion and empathy is just too much for us to handle!

    Freedom of speech…sad, pathetic excuse for hurting so many people.

    It may be LEGAL, but it AIN’T RIGHT.

    From a mom of 4 yr old w/ Down Syndrome

  35. Master, you might be interested to know that not only was “retarded” a medical term, but “moron,” “idiot,” “imbecile” were also medical terms used, at one time, to describe the functioning level of people with cognitive disabilities. Our society frequently seems to co-opt language to use in ways that will disenfranchise those who are different.

    Those of us who have family members, associates and friends who have disabilities DO frequently agonize over the language used to describe those we care about and maybe we can be too sensitive. But in a larger sense, If we consider the language we use to describe those who are different in an historical context, it becomes clear that the way we treat people who are different is preceded by the way we talk about them.

    People with disabilities have been warehoused, experimented on, physically and sexually abused periodically through the centuries. I thought they we had become enlightened enough to respect those different from us; to value the intrinsic value of each individual.

    When movies like “tropic thunder” are released, and I wonder just how much our cultural attitudes have actually matured

  36. Several traditional terms denoting varying degrees of mental deficiency long predate psychiatry, but have since been subject to the euphemism treadmill. In common usage they are simple forms of abuse. Their now-obsolete use as psychiatric technical definitions is of purely historical interest. They are often encountered in old documents such as books, academic papers, and census forms (for example, the British census of 1901 has a column heading including the terms imbecile and feeble-minded).

    There have been some efforts made among mental health professionals to discourage use of these terms. Nevertheless their use persists. In addition to the terms below, the abbreviation retard or tard is still used as a generic insult, especially among children and teens. A BBC survey in 2003 ranked retard as the most offensive disability-related word, ahead of terms such as spastic (not considered offensive in America) and mong.

    Cretin is the oldest and comes from a dialectal French word for Christian. The implication was that people with significant intellectual or developmental disabilities were “still human” (or “still Christian”) and deserved to be treated with basic human dignity. This term has not been used in any serious or scientific endeavor since the middle of the 20th century and is now always considered a term of abuse: notably, in the 1964 movie Becket, King Henry II calls his son and heir a “cretin.” “Cretinism” is also used as an obsolescent term to refer to the condition of congenital hypothyroidism, in which there is some degree of mental retardation.

    Idiot indicated the greatest degree of intellectual disability, where the mental age is two years or less, and the person cannot guard himself or herself against common physical dangers. The term was gradually replaced by the term profound mental retardation.

    Imbecile indicated an intellectual disability less extreme than idiocy and not necessarily inherited. It is now usually subdivided into two categories, known as severe mental retardation and moderate mental retardation.

    Moron was defined by the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-minded in 1910, following work by Henry H. Goddard, as the term for an adult with a mental age between eight and twelve; mild mental retardation is now the term for this condition. Alternative definitions of these terms based on IQ were also used. This group was known in UK law from 1911 to 1959/60 as “feeble-minded.”

    In the field of special education, Educable (or “educable mentally retarded”) refers to MR students with IQs of approximately 50-75 who can progress academically to a late elementary level. Trainable (or “trainable mentally retarded”) refers to students whose IQs fall below 50 but who are still capable of learning personal hygiene and other living skills in a sheltered setting, such as a group home. In many areas, these terms have fallen out of favor in favor of “severe” and “moderate” mental retardation. While the names change, the meaning stays roughly the same in practice.

    Usage has changed over the years, and differed from country to country, which needs to be borne in mind when looking at older books and papers. For example, “mental retardation” in some contexts covers the whole field, but used to apply to what is now the mild MR group. “Feeble-minded” used to mean mild MR in the UK, and once applied in the US to the whole field. “Borderline MR” is not currently defined, but the term may be used to apply to people with IQs in the 70s. People with IQs of 70 to 85 used to be eligible for special consideration in the US public education system on grounds of mental retardation.

    Along with the changes in terminology, and the downward drift in acceptability of the old terms, institutions of all kinds have had to repeatedly change their names. This affects the names of schools, hospitals, societies, government departments, and academic journals. For example, the Midlands Institute of Mental Subnormality became the British Institute of Mental Handicap and is now the British Institute of Learning Disability. This phenomenon is shared with mental health and motor disabilities, and seen to a lesser degree in sensory disabilities.

  37. You are some seriously misguided “moral” people who can’t read into a joke. I’m sure you were all so offended by Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal” because it mentioned eating children. I’m not expecting most (if any of you) to even know what that piece of literature even is after reading most of these comments and this article.

    I saw this movie with a friend who has an uncle that has down syndrome. He loved the movie, and loves his uncle. His mother is a teacher for children with special needs. He and his family are actively involved in their community and with individuals you think are being made fun of in a movie you haven’t seen. He enjoyed this movie, because he’s intelligent enough to see the people actually being made fun of were the actors playing these roles in other movies.

    How about instead of crying about what people show on TV and in film, you get involved in programs that help the public and the mean kids on the playground understand the conditions they are making fun of. I’ve been involved in programs all throughout high school that got us involved with those with intellectual handicaps, and that taught me a lot. Movies like this highlight how far we still have to go before people realize the offensive aspect of films isn’t derived from the film itself, but the over abundance of super-sensitivity and over sheltering that takes place in this country.

    It’s a word in a film. It’s what you make of it. You can laugh at the situation, or you can sit back and take offense to six letters. Children making fun of others will never stop. The word “retard” has become a part of language, for better or for worse. Denounce those that use it negatively, and not the people who are using it to highlight actual problems in our society.

    On another note, the marketing campaign was a bit misguided. It’s a rated R film, and it should’ve been handled a bit better in terms of what they showed on television ads.

  38. ‘the marketing campaign was a bit misguided’
    Don’t be silly. Dreamworks does not make misguided marketing calls. Not one bit. Not one iota. Stiller knew who he was lampooning. It’s just obvious he didn’t care who he was hurting in the process. And Dreamworks are just saving millions on marketing while we imbeciles, cretins and retards miss the point and sell their message for them.
    Here’s where Stiller got his inspiration:

    And again, if you want to remember how to stay on topic, refer to the last three lines of Steve’s article at the head of the page…

  39. It’s unfortunate that people can take things out of context and use it as an excuse to be self-righteous. There is nothing funny about people with disabilities, but it is funny to call out Hollywood because it seems to think that a “serious” portrayal of LD or autistic people makes good art. I find it interesting that the NAACP isn’t jumping all over this movie because of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of an egoistical white actor undergoing surgery to play a black man. Maybe they saw the movie and understood its context before denouncing it. A lesson to be learned there.

    Of the people that are objecting, how many have seen the movie? How many saw Sling Blade, Forrest Gump, Rain Man, I Am Sam or Of Mice and Men and were offended?

    Everyone has a right to their opinions and I don’t want to begrudge or belittle anyone for being offended, but I think many people are being offended without looking at the context. That’s ok, because if a movie like this actually changes what Hollywood thinks is acceptable, then this dialogue is good and movies like this will have to find something else to satire.

  40. “But never, ever — if you claim to have even a minimum of guts or decency — mess with people who cannot speak back.”

    Shriver, Special Olympics, concerned parents, blogs, protests… that’s a whole lot of people speaking back.

  41. The real tard here is the writer of this article, failing to see the satire. The film actually tries to show you that hollywood is usually pretty bad at portraying the disabled folk. And actors use it as a cheap shot to win an oscar.


  42. ==================================
    L e o n a r d J . B o u r r e t
    4 0 – B P a s c a l L a n e
    M a n c h e s t e r , C T 0 6 0 4 0 – 4 6 2 6
    P h o n e : ( 8 6 0 ) 6 4 7 – 1 2 2 6
    e – M a i l :

    August 16, 2008

    Mr. Ben Stiller
    Red Hour Films
    629 North La Brea Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90036

    Dear Mr. Stiller:

    The boycotters, picketers, protesters, and ticketbuyers have a voice. If we do not like
    what we hear and see, we can–at the very least–cause a negative impact on present
    and future film projects.

    For example, gay and lesbian people boycotted–and so embarassed the orange juice
    industry–that they adversely impacted the entire orange industry. As a result, Anita
    Bryant apologized to gay and lesbian people for her discrimination and prejudice, after
    her career was completedly ruined. Gay and lesbian people have learned to become
    strong lobbyists–to effectively control and manipulate the legal and political systems–
    for civil liberties, civil unions, and gay marriage. Additionally, caucasians will soon be
    outnumbered by african americans and hispanic/latino people. The babyboomers are
    also getting old enough to retire–and increasing the number of senior citizens–they,
    too, will impact big business, conglomerates, the media (including the film industry),
    as well as the legal and political systems. Consumers (including the disABLED) are
    rapidly changing the face of America.

    Whenever someone holds a ‘loaded gun’ and points it at someone else–no matter who
    it is–it is tragic, and anything but funny.

    Even so-called ‘voiceless people’ are consumers–and, as ticketbuyers, we carry a loud
    voice. Ticketbuyers have both power and a voice. We can always issue caveats–and
    there will always be others who will heed them. In “Tropic Thunder” (2008), ‘retard’ is a
    negative label or word–which some might consider funny, when used once–but, when
    used repetitiously, it most definitely becomes offensive. Laugh that one off.

    Be Warned,

    Len Bourret

    ———- Forwarded Message ———-

    Review: “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
    by Len Bourret (Copyright 2008)

    Lucille Ball, who many still consider to be the first lady of comedy,
    never resorted to obscene language, labels, name calling or sex,
    to effectively deliver her special and unique brand of laughter. Lucy
    emphasized her versatile acting abilities, and did not depend on
    animation or special effects. In fact, a script should focus on a
    strong storyline, rather than anything that detracts from it.

    It is always pathetic and sad when laughter becomes derisive, and is
    at somebody else’s expense. An actor must be artistic and creative,
    but he or she should also be responsible. Derisive laughter is like a
    ‘loaded gun’, which explodes in somebody’s face. Such laughter is
    tragic, and anything but funny. This film brings up many issues, but
    it never really deals with them on a comedic or serious level. I do not
    think, for example, that drug abuse or addiction is funny on any level.
    While the taking of drugs may be acceptable in today’s Hollywood,
    this practice is not acceptable in other areas of the world. In the mind,
    this film’s script may be funny theoretically–but, in the heart, such a
    script is unacceptable on an affective or ‘gut level’. The script just does
    not work, and a significant number of critics have not rated this film
    higher than a 7 or 8 out of 10. This film is not the funniest movie of any
    season or year, and certainly does not deserve a rating of 9 or 10.

    This is America–and, in a free democracy, each of us has the right of
    assembly and the right to speak. You have a right to your opinion, and
    I have a right to mine. The film is awful, and I rate it a 1 out of 10.

    e-Mail address for Len Bourret:

  43. The sad thing is that many of the pro-movie comments are actually reinforcing the negative stereotypes that the opponents are warning against. Calling people “retarded” for protesting the movie actually lends credence to their argument.

  44. The National Association of Bigots needs some new writers. Comments such as; “lioghten up”, you’re just being PC” and “get a life” are so in-original and over-used they’ve become boring. Every time Ben Stiller tries to justify himself, he just digs deeper into the quicksand of his own ignorance. At least Paramount fired Gary Rich, its worldwide marketing president, for his role in this disaster.
    I did see the movie (no I didn’t pay, I went to a sneak preview). It made fun of bad actors, bad producers, bad directors and other Hollywood types. It also made fun of people with disabilities. Movie people are fair game. People with disabilities are not. Thank you Steve for pointing out the gutlessness of the people responsible for Tropic Thunder.

  45. Perhaps the film, which I saw, is actually poking fun at actors who attempt to portray disabled folks? I found the Simple Jack scenes funny, not because I find disabled folks funny, but because I’m laughing at the satire of hollywood’s depiction of disabled folks.

  46. Pingback: SPED*NET Special Education Network of New Canaan, Ltd. » Blog Archive » Selected News Stories and also Letters from our state-wide and national organizations.

  47. Pingback: SPED*NET Special Education Network of New Canaan, Ltd. » Blog Archive » Tropic Thunder Updates

  48. “TROPIC THUNDER” storms North American box office

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Action movie spoof “Tropic Thunder” commanded the No. 1 spot at North American box offices for the second straight week.

    “Tropic Thunder,” which stars Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller and Jack Black, had an estimated weekend total of $16.1 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, bringing its total domestic take to $65.7 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

    Downey, Stiller and Black have won much laughter from audiences playing a group of self-absorbed Hollywood actors caught up in a real-life battle with narco-terrorists while filming a war movie in Southeast Asia. The film was directed, co-written and co-produced by Stiller.

  49. Consumer:

    Happy to post your news clip. The market has spoken. As you may know, I love the messy and open free market of expression that uiltimately allows the audience to speak.

    But just out of curiousity, why did you send it anonymously? I have always felt that we should be proud and open about our feelings. My opinion about the use of the word “retard” was received with both support and pretty nasty scorn. But I would have never considered doing it anonymously.

    More specifically, I am curious if this comes from a studio exec proud that the market spoke the way it did, an average audience member who felt vindicated by the film’s performance, or maybe even a corporate digital message campaign? Absent knowing who you are, it is at least fair of me, I think, to wonder about the source and context and motive of your posting.

    I’m serious. Why would you send an inoffensive news clip like this without your name attached?

    Please know that — on this site at least — no one needs to worry about their point of view being receieved with anything less than complete respect and civility.

    And that certainly and especially includes people who disagree with me.


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