Monday, August 11, 2008


Many people predicted that this Wednesday's opening of Tropic Thunder would generate a lot of premature hysteria and protest over Robert Downey Jr.'s "black face" character. But after trailers were released, the context of that character made sense and, to my knowledge, little outrage has surfaced.

But now there is anger over Tropic Thunder's use of the word "retard", which has recently been classified as hate speech by groups like The Arc. I understand the sensitivity and intentions of mentally handicapped groups like The Arc, but I have a real problem with people throwing the "H" word around anytime they hear an utterance of the "N"-word, "F"-word, "R"-word, "D"-word etc.

I mean, what is the context in which the word is used? Surely, if Ben Stiller walked up to a mentally handicapped person on the street and yelled, "Get out of my way you fu*king RETARD!!!", then yeah, I think you could argue that that might be hate speech.

But In Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller plays an action movie star that's striving for respectability by playing a mentally handicapped character in a film called Simple Jack. I haven't seen the movie yet, but in the trailer it appears that Stiller is spoofing Hollywood actors and the fawning adoration of the Academy and not people with disabilities.

However, the president of AAPD sees it differently:

“I saw the film this morning,” said Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, one group calling for the boycott. “It was even worse than the hateful stuff they used in promoting it.” (NY Times)

This opens up a discussion for how certain taboo words are used as slang in pop culture.

For example: people use "gay", "ghetto" and "retarded" as negative adjectives for things. I use these terms. Am I being insensitive? I don't know. I guess that depends on the people who are hearing/reading me. I can tell you I'm not homophobic, anti-poor, or whatever "phobia" goes along with the mentally handicapped, but if someone thinks I am, that's fine. I'd rather talk it out and debate it instead of walking through life with my hand over my mouth and eggshells under my feet.

One thing seems certain though as Wednesday approaches: Downey Jr. appears to be off the hook... for now.


Jess said...

I agree, the kneejerk reactions to possibly insensitive things is a little overwhelming. It's usually all in how you use it and for what purpose.

Fletch said...

As a chicken, I am offended by your usage of eggshells. Putting them under your feet - for shame!

Fox said...

When I drove into work this morning, they were talking about a pre-screening for activist groups on the news and a representative for one said it was "offensive from start to finish." From start to finish? REALLY???

Well... that just makes me more curious. Maybe Tropic Thunder is a bad film, who knows, but I find it hard to believe that Stiller is just being a bigot to be a bigot. Sometimes saying uncomfortable things is the best way to start a discussion (i.e. South Park) and sometimes it's not (i.e. Borat).

I wasn't a fan of Zoolander, but if there are any models out there that saw it and were offended (or not) I'd like to hear your take. FASHION MODELS, respond!

And Fletch ... well played!

FLASHBACK: Remember when some flight attendants were offended over Flightplan?

Piper said...


You just can't be sensitive enough these days.

I am offended because you are offended. I am anti-offended so the fact that you're offended translates to hate speech to me and I hate hate speech.

Fox said...

Piper, I'm offended that you have a retarded looking person in your picture box!!!

elgringo said...

I would think that the Hitchcock estate would be offended at Flightplan.


Fox said...

Hee hee... very nice, Scott.

My commenters are the best! :)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Actually there was a vote and it turns out Rick Olson's commenters are the best. Both of them.

Hahahahahaha... oh, I crack myself up. That Rick, you know I love him, even if he is a total gaytard.

Oh Rick I'm just joking with you. Truth be told I have teenage children and I have heard that word, "gaytard", a compound hate word, bandied about more times than I can remember. And I can tell you that all of them are progressive open minded people. It's just a word to them. Each and every one of them would agree that if you said it to a homosexual mentally handicapped person it would be offensive. Fortunately, our human brains allow us to discern the difference.

Fox said...

Ouch... you just bitch slapped Rick like an liver-spotted, hare-lipped, oxygen cartin', white trash whore!!

If I know Rick, he's about to get midwestern on yo' ass! (Does Rick even know we're talking about him?)

And "gaytard" is actually progress in the world of slang. My two favorites of the modern era are:

1. "bootydo" - as in, "Yo, Cristina Aguilera's got a bootydo... her stomach stick out more than her booty do".


2. "the honor (on-her) system" - as in a way to keep your lady from wandering. As in, "yo, you gotta get on her and stay on her or she's gonna leave your ass for another man!"

kindertrauma said...

I have never heard Gaytard before and I now think it's going to be in my vocabulary forever. In fact if people just used "gaytard" instead of the other words mentioned it would solve everything. Who would get mad, the gaytards? they are a very small group and....... wholly crap I just realized I am one.

Fox said...

I like your philosophy Kinder. I think taking ownership of a nonsensical hybrid term is the best way to take the sting out of the "alleged" offensive root words that they come from.


wetneck, trailer monkey, sand pirate, etc.

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