Let's face it--Ben Stiller's movies are not known for being delicate. However, disability rights groups and the Special Olympics are demanding that Dreamworks pull the new film because of a scene where Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller's two characters (who are also actors) discuss the differences between playing a "retard" and "full retard." Downey, who plays a character in black face (we won't go there) also tosses around several belittling terms regarding mentally challenged individuals, including "moron" and "imbecile." In fact Ben's character relayed his experience playing Simple Jack with these words, "There were times I actually felt stupid." Huh?
Some moms don't understand what the big deal is, since Ben is known for satire, and says that he is actually poking fun at actors. Dreamworks spokesman Chip Sullivan said in a public statement that the "film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities"--and while the movie giant has pulled some promotional materials for the film (including a Simple Jack promo Web site), they aren't making any changes to the movie.
But when actors playing actors who play mentally challenged characters poke fun at their roles, is that going too far?
One momlogic staffer who doubles as a comedy writer had this to say: "I thought it was hilarous! The reason that it works comedically is because the characters are incredibly stupid. So instead of making fun of the mentally challenged--it's not an insult to the mentally challenged--it actually lifts them up because it shows how ignorant people really are. If you have any respect for those characters then it would be completely insulting. He's trying to insult actors. You know who should be insulted? Actors. They should call the actors union."
But John Paizis, founder and director of Performing Arts Studio West, had a different opinion: "The unabashed use of the "R" word in the film Tropic Thunder is a concrete example of the continuing need for education of the film and television community regarding the dignity and abilities of persons with developmental disabilities. I have worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for 28 years. I have seen the pain that has been suffered by this population by the use of this word. To persons with developmental disabilities, it is equivalent of the using the "N" word and its effect on African Americans. I am a firm believer that the enlightenment of the entertainment industry is best served by introducing directors, writers, producers and casting directors to talented, trained actors with these types of disabilities."
Click to see the controversial Tropic Thunder clip.
What do you think: completely offensive or harmless fun?