It is with a sad, heavy, and down-right pissed-off heart that I write this post. There is a new movie, Tropic Thunder, premiering August 13th which was written, directed, and stars one of my favorite comic actors, Ben Stiller. It also stars the very funny Jack Black and the supremely talented Robert Downey Jr. I, for one, will not be going to see it and ask that you pledge not to do so either. Why? Well, Ben Stiller's character plays a has-been actor whose one Oscar bid failed for a movie titled "Simple Jack" with the tagline"Once upon a time...there was a retard." HOW IS THAT OKAY!?!?! The movie within a movie, even has its own website www.simplejackmovie.com. One of my heroes, Patricia Bauer -- formerly of The Washington Post who has an adult child with DS and writes about disability issues -- addresses the issues on her blog.
Needless to say, the disabilities community is up in arms because although DreamWorks/Paramount and those associated with the movie are saying the movie is an equal opportunity offender, not a single disabilities organization was consulted in the making of this movie. Several organizations including the National Down Syndrome Congress and Special Olympics are calling an emergency meeting with the studio to discuss the community's concerns about the way people with intellectual disabilities are portrayed and ridiculed in the movie. If you think I'm exaggerating, read this part of the script where Downey's character tells Stillers "never go full retard." Can you believe THAT?!
I have tons of concerns, not the least of which is that these men who are idolized and followed by so many, don't care who they squash on their way to collect a quick buck -- and I'm sure they sleep at night because they view their work as "art" and don't take any responsibility for reinforcing and furthering these negative stereotypes. More so, they are giving jackasses of the world license to use that derogatory, insulting, ugly word! Can you even imagine what would happen if instead of using "retard" they used the "n" word? When will we as a society not tolerate this type of behavior? Sadly, Ben Stiller is dead in the Rhyneer household. Please tell others not to bite on this movie...if we can each spread the word and put a dent -- even if it's a small one -- in their box-office take, it'll hurt and maybe they'll start paying attention. I'll keep you posted on what develops.