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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tropic Thunder

This afternoon I was reading through some of the more recent posts on the SPEDWatch forum that I belong to and I have to say I'm finding I really truly disagree with the current soup du jour: the movie Tropic Thunder with Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. Right now the people on SPEDWatch are up in arms about a scene in which Ben Stiller talks about having played a person with disabilities in a failed movie. He and Robert Downey Jr. have a conversation about not going "full retard" (which you can view a transcript of by following this link) and the members of SPEDWatch have decided to launch protests against the movie.

I have two words for the members of SPEDWatch: THE RINGER. Where were all the protests when Johnny Knoxville played a "retard" in order to crash the Special Olympics? Yes, people with disabilities were also included in the cast of the movie, but they were also so obviously objects of comedy. I mean hell, consider the line blurted out by the funny looking kid from Super Troopers (you know, the kid who loves acid and licks the partition in the cop car?) when the evil boyfriend character says something about getting ice cream... (If you've never seen the movie he yells, in a decidedly affected voice, "When the FUCK did we get ice cream?")

Yes I agree that our society has a long way to go in accepting individuals with disabilities. I feel it every time I take kids from a residential out into the community and I get stared at just as much as my kids do. And yes, I frequently feel the urge to slap the old ladies who *tsk tsk* my "poor little angels" as if they're pets who should be kept caged as much as possible. I'm considering adopting an autistic child and I'm well aware that at the age of 5 the fact that she doesn't speak, only sings, is considered adorable. But what will it be like when she's 15 and still in a substantially separate program and stimming in public? Yeah, it's going to be difficult to adjust to. However, demonstrating against a movie that is exercising its right to free speech...

Consider all the characters you've ever seen in a Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan, Will Ferrell type movie. Milton in Office Space... no one calls him "retarded" but the humor is certainly in the fact that he is portrayed as slow while he sits in the basement muttering about his stapler and burning down the building. Never Been Kissed... one of the high school students asks style-challenged Drew Barrymore's character if she's in Special Ed because she's socially akward. Much of our modern humor is derived from jokes and comments that target those who are weaker or don't necessarily fit into society's definition of normal. No matter the subject of these jokes, the screenplays are still a product of one individual's creativity. I will never tell one of my students that the word "retard" or any of its various forms is acceptible, but I will also never tell someone that they shouldn't produce their own work because I or someone else may view it as offensive. The last time I sat down with the Oxford Compact English Dictionary, that action is defined clearly as CENSORSHIP.

1 comment:

  1. Its so true! People need to take their heads out of one anothers asses and just deal. Its not towards them and like you said its freedom of speach. If they don't like it they don't have to go and see the movie!