Tropic Blunder! My Daughter IS NOT a Retard!
Today has been very busy! Late last week, I learned about this new movie, Tropic
Blunder Thunder. It’s full of big name celebrities including Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, etc… The movie is a comedy making fun of actors. The main characters are actors in the movie, so there are “movies-within-the movie.” Tropic Thunder used one of these “movies-within-the-movie,” titled “Simple Jack” for a promotional campaign. Simple Jack was about a person with an intellectual disability and used hateful language and depicted his character in cruel ways. The promotional campaign included posters stating “Once upon a time, there was a retard” and a trailer for viewing which has Christine Taylor’s voice saying “I’ll talk to any retard I like.” During the production of the film, the cast discussed their concern about some of the racial slurs and wanted to make sure they didn’t cross the line with the racial banter, however they did nothing to protect anyone from the cruelty shown toward individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Major disability rights organizations discovered this and met with DreamWorks to discuss their concern and outrage over “Simple Jack.” The promotional campaign was pulled, however there were no changes to the movie made. In the movie, Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller’s character discusses his role as Simple Jack with Robert Downey, Jr. They discuss how Stiller stated that while making the film, he actually felt retarded. The two characters exchange cruel banter filled with derogatory terms toward people with intellectual disabilities and ends with Downey, Jr. telling Stiller to “never go full retard.” You can read the script HERE and watch parts of this scene on the trailer HERE. Shortly after this script leaked, t-shirts were found on the internet with the slogan, “Never Go Full Retard.” There are many more issues with the movie and those who have previewed it, such as representatives of the National Down Syndrome Congress say that after watching the film, they felt “assaulted” and it is actually worse than the internet activists have been able to show.
The creators and cast of “Tropic Thunder” have chosen to continue on with the release of the movie on Wednesday, August 13th without making any changes or cuts to the film. They claim that the film is satire and “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.” Ha! There’s some irony for ya!
Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, wrote the most wonderful article in the Washington Post today. He describes the cruelty that is shown in our society toward people with intellectual disabilities. I was startled to learn that “Gallup found that more than 60 percent of Americans don’t want a person with an intellectual disability at their child’s school. ” We’ve come so far and I’m so happy we are not the society of 50 years ago, but in a society that aborts over 90% of prenatally diagnosed babies with Down syndrome it’s hard to say that we’ve arrived to the place of acceptance toward people with intellectual differences.
While freedom of speech is one of our greatest gifts, I am hoping that we as a society can make the word “retard” and the abuse of the word “retarded” taboo. I hope that we can teach our children that it is never ok to make fun of someone with intellectual disabilities, whether it is direct or indirect. I hope that we can choose to not do the “PC eyeroll” at people fighting the abuse of the words “mental retardation.” I hope that we will tell Hollywood what is funny and what is not funny. This is not about being “politically correct” this is about dignity and respect.
What am I doing about it?
- Blogging about this has been a way for me to create awareness and vent my frustration about this film and the abuse of my daughter’s medical diagnosis of mental retardation.
- Online forums and communities have also been an area I have been making a strong presence in. This has been a great way to get more up-to-date information and get ideas on how to make some changes. There is power in numbers!
- Boycotting the film. While this may or may not keep a large number of people from seeing this film, it will keep those who love my daughter from watching it. For every 1 person who is interested in this film because of the negative attention it is receiving, I hope that 5 people will be turned off of the movie.
- I am waiting to see what The ARC and my local Down Syndrome Association recommends regarding physically protesting at the movie theater. If I make a public appearance, I plan on having information handy (and will be calling our news station that did the interview again!)
- Contacting every local news source has proven to be successful as well!
I expect a lot of people to think I’m being extreme, oversensitive, and time-wasting. However, most people that would think that don’t have a little girl who is going to come home from the playground someday crying because she was called a retard. Most people don’t have typical sons who are going to come home crying because someone called their sister a retard. Although, the name-calling that is bound to ensue my children’s future is the “best case scenario” for my kids. Most people are unaware at the cruel, hateful, violent, dangerous acts that are committed against people with intellectual differences all the time. According to The Arc’s Q&A on abuse of children with intellectual disabilities, the statistics are that children with intellectual disabilites are 4-10 times more likely than non-disabled peers to be victims of crime and twice as likely to be victims of physically and sexual abuse.
The bottom line is this. My beautiful daughter, Darah who has an intellectual disability IS NOT a “retard.” That word has no place in any of our vocabulary, and Hollywood needs to understand that while my daughter does not yet have a voice to stand up for herself, she has a Mamma! And this Mamma is not going to sit back and allow her baby girl to be the butt of the joke!