The movie Tropic Thunder opened yesterday. There’s a bit of an uproar over the the comedy/satire’s use of the word “retard”. The movie could be viewed as offensive to many, including blacks, Asians, gays, and anyone who cares about panda bears. Ben Stiller has one of the lead roles. In the film, Stiller’s character is an aging action hero—Tugg Speedman—attempting to make an epic Vietnam War movie. A running joke is that Speedman’s previous role was as an intellectually disabled man—played to every stereotype imaginable—in a box office disaster called “Simple Jack.” A fellow actor on the set of the war movie— Robert Downey Jr., is playing a white man who has undergone a pigmentation procedure to become black.
Are we hearing howls of indignation from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or the NAACP? Nope. A national boycott has been called by at least 22 intellectual disabilities groups. It seems like a funny enough movie. Movies are about suspending disbelief and entertainment or diversion. I watch a movie to “get away” for a couple of hours. Comedy is a favorite niche for my viewing. I have a sneaking suspicion that this movie will be mindless entertainment in the form of Harold & Kumar… As in… if you are taking it that seriously, you are wound too tight. I understand that words have meaning and that some words are offensive to ssome folks. Context is everything.