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Tropic Thunder: ‘Once upon a time … There was a retard’

August 1st, 2008

UPDATE: National rights organization prepares for boycott, protest

UPDATE 2: Screenings postponed as premiere looms; Boycott, protests planned

Readers, please send in your comments here

You’ve seen the trailers. Tropic Thunder, a big budget summer comedy by DreamWorks Pictures, is due out August 13. But here’s something the trailers don’t point out: Ben Stiller plays a role that leans heavily on the term “retard.”

There are those who view the word “retard” as offensive and demeaning, and think it fuels social stigma against vulnerable people. And there are others, like perhaps the R-rated film’s star, director and lead writer Ben Stiller (at left in an image from one of the studio’s marketing websites), who may think the word is inoffensive and a good complement to the film’s other gags, stunts, explosions and gross-out jokes.

Already disability advocates are registering dismay about the language on the image above — “Once upon a time … There was a retard” — and conferring about how to address it. Let’s be clear: I haven’t seen the movie, and early reviews are scant. (Click here to see what Variety and the Hollywood Reporter had to say.) Here’s what I have been able to piece together:

Tropic Thunder is a testosterone-pumped action/adventure/comedy featuring mega-stars Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black as self-absorbed actors filming a war movie on location.

Stiller is Tugg Speedman, a fading action star who earlier failed badly in his bid for Oscar glory as “Simple Jack,” a man with an intellectual disability. “Simple Jack” is featured as a film-within-a-film, with Stiller outfitted in a classic institutional bowl haircut and bad teeth. It even has its own marketing website — the slogan is “What he doesn’t have in his head, he makes up for in his heart.” A satirical plot synopsis posted there quotes a critic as saying that Speedman’s Jack was “one of the most retarded performances in cinema history.”

Downey, as the more distinguished actor, gives Speedman advice on maximizing his chance for future Oscars: “Never go full retard.”  When the actors are taken hostage by real guerrillas who turn out to be Jack fans, they force Speedman to re-enact the role for their entertainment.

It’s just good clean fun, the studio might say, pointing out that the movie also pokes fun at racial stereotypes. It’s a sendup of old Hollywood films that trotted out able-bodied actors in disability drag, like Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” and Sean Penn in “I am Sam.” Stiller isn’t laughing at people with intellectual disabilities, I can imagine his publicist saying. He’s laughing at the way Hollywood portrays them.

But for the estimated 14.3 million Americans with cognitive disabilities and their families, such arguments may be problematic. These people share a history of segregation and exclusion, and report that what many call the “R-word” reinforces negative social attitudes just as surely as racial, ethnic and sexually oriented slurs do. See earlier posts herehere, here and here.

Peter V. Berns, executive director of The Arc of the United States, said yesterday that the organization would reach out to the studio in an effort to screen the film. The 140,000-member organization represents people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country, and its mission includes promoting and protecting their civil rights.

“What we are seeing already is a cause of great concern,” he said. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had a lot of pejorative labels assigned to them over the years. I’d like to think that we as a society are getting past that, but we are seeing one after the other examples that this is not the case.”

Let’s hear from you, readers. Is this a tease to get us all into the seats? Should we lighten up? And have I played into the studio’s publicity strategy by devoting so much attention to the movie here?  (You’ll notice: the words on the image above are written in small type, so any website that wants to draw attention to them must run the image very large. Coincidence? Marketing ploy?)

Let the comments begin.

Note: The film is rated R for “pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.”

See also:

(Graphic from Dreamworks Pictures)

149 Responses to “Tropic Thunder: ‘Once upon a time … There was a retard’”

  1. al Says:

    Should we never have a serious or comedic portrayal of a person of color or nationality or religion, etc. etc. ever again? Didn’t Cheech and Chong give us entertainment with their portrayals of Mexicans, biker-types, and pot-smokers? Didn’t the Wayans do the same with portrayals of life in “the ‘hood” with movies like “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” almost 20 years ago, which not only used racial stereotypes, but also spoofed gangster movies? “Blazing Saddles” almost 30 years ago and it’s jokes using the “N word?” How many of you laughed at so many scenes in “Airplane?” However, (of course!)I would never go up to a real biker, person of color, etc. and make the same fun because it would probably land me in a hospital. Hollywood does not exist as an ‘example-setter’ for the world. It exists as a form of entertainment (serious or not)plain and simple. The important part is that parents do THEIR JOB in talking to their children (challenged or not) and make it clear to them what is real and what is fantasy/entertainment, that the world is not perfect and that we are all going to come across ignorance, prejudice, carelessness if not just outright stupidity of one kind or another sometime in our lives, it’s unavoidable. The real test of courage, strength, self-preservation, dignity and righteousness is how you as an individual are going to deal with that adversity, and how deeply you’re willing to let it affect you. There are some, of their own ability to think for themselves, who will shrug it off; and there are those who won’t/can’t make their own decisions. Is that Hollywood’s or the public-at-large’s fault? No. The plain fact is there are weak, and there are strong; the strong will sometimes help the weak, the weak may teach the strong something. And all of it goes to varying degrees. There are some truly ignorant people who wouldn’t hurt a flea; then there are very intelligent people who do extremely stupid things…It would be wrong for me to assume that a mentally-challenged person couldn’t stand up for themselves in any regard…There are some people I’ve worked with whom I’d call retarded to their face, just for the fact they have no sense, and there are mentally challenged people for whom I have more respect, to do the right things, and maybe even have more courage…I found the characterizations funny as hell at some points, and they DID make fun of different Hollywood movie characters, and yet, I still know right from wrong: to not assume lack of intelligence, usefullness, and not to harm based purely and solely on someone’s difference such as skin-color or mental capacity.

  2. Mike Says:

    This movie, according to it’s makers “is an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses, makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations.”

    Your children are not the intended audience, so don’t let them watch ANYWAY. Why would you let your children watch R rated movies even if they didn’t offend you personally?

    Also, maybe you should view the movie then form an opinion of it? That would seem to be the only way to make an objective decision unless, of course, you are told what your opinions are instead of thinking for yourself. I actually have not seen the film yet, so I’ll save my judgment until I have. I myself am curious of the context in which these terms are used.

    As a person with a minor disability I am grateful to live in a country where I can speak freely and advocate for myself. I do understand though, that that right sometimes means I have to hear things I don’t want to hear. When I do hear something I don’t like, I remember that it is a GOOD thing. My rights are still intact.

  3. Michelle Says:

    I am the mother of a eight year old son who is moderately mentally retarded. I will not be watching this movie. I will not spend my money to hear even in a movie someone being called retarded. My child is young but knowing the way kids are my child will be called this word eventually. You can go see the movie if you want to but as the mother of a child who is mentally retarded I will not.

  4. SimpleJack Says:

    So many pure people in here. Aren’t there better things to worry about? No? Thought as much since you have time to get angry about a movie.

  5. Dan Says:

    Everyone of you who says that this movie is a slap in the face to people with disabilities needs to realize that part of being treated equally is being expected to tolerate offensive jokes. Or are you implying that the disabled lack the capacity for humor?

  6. Neasa Says:

    I saw the movie tonight and as a relitave of someone with special needs I didn’t think they were making fun of those people. Rather the Hollywood industry who try to make a buck off these people. How come there was no outcry over Forrest Gump? Is it just the word retard? But isn’t/wasn’t that the term for a certain disability? Maybe next year we won’t be allowed to say “intellectually challenged” or “visually impared” or heaven forbid, “special needs”. We’re going to have to use sign language soon because these days you can’t say anything without offending someone.

  7. Greg Says:

    “Retard” French for “slow.” The fact that a word can be deemed “offensive” is laughable. Words are what you make them to be.

    Simple solution to the situation: Don’t get riled up and write a blog/demand retribution when the word is used commonly. You are giving those who are making the joke more fuel to keep using the word that you see as offensive.

  8. Choader Says:

    Thanks for the pic! I’ve been looking for stuff on simple jack but people keep pulling it. I’m glad someone’s not afraid to publicize humorous material online! Kudos!

  9. David Says:

    This whole discussion is retarded.

  10. Tamir Says:

    Whoever made this article really needs to get some sort of life. The only people who make these articles are people who couldn’t take a joke in high school and where probably an outcast. You have to take a joke every once in a while or else no one will like you for being serious all the time.
    It’s the same with people who get disgusted with video game violence,blood,gore etc. It’s just a video. It’s no one else’s problem but the parents of the child. FOX news ribbed on Geoff Keighley on the Mass Effect game because it had “loads of sexual content in it”. In reality it had next to none and FOX said kids shouldn’t play it. Well thats why it was rated M for Mature. Same goes for movies. If you can’t take a movie or a video game with a “grain of salt” then you my sir are a retard…

  11. G. Lyons Says:

    The word retard is grossly offensive, to families, to individuals.. and what’s even more offensive than the word itself is the small minded, immature crowds who howl and cheer at the very thought of someone who is classed as retarded.

    It’s such a shame that the American people of all walks of life have let this word creep into their vocabulary, and use it freely to describe something stupid or without sense.

    I am from Scotland and my time in the US has been riddled with the sound of this word. Young people mostly and some older folks have been caught using this and I am ashamed of their lack of compassion and even intellect when they chose to let this word roll out of their mouths.

    I wish they would grow up and realize that this is not a word to be used lightly.. if ever.. Hollywood should also take a good hard look at themselves and if they still need to rely on such trash as comedy material.. then find some new script writers.. because comedy is not about making fun of people.. it’s about finding fun in our everyday expierence.

    I have yet to meet someone with such disabilities who I then in turn just had to laugh at.. also.. if I recall correctly .. the Nazis wanted to eradicate retarded people. Maybe if you look through the early reels of nazi propoganda you might find jokes and slander of these people.. before they decided to execute them.

    Yes, my last comment was extreme but so.. its true. So in closing, I might see the film at one point but I won’t be laughing when I hear the word retard. I will be sad..

  12. Roman Says:

    It’s not Hollywood’s responsibility, or any of the other actors within the movies, to set an example for everyone. These are just other people. In reality, the deification of ‘stars’ is stupid. People need to get a life. So there’s a movie that uses the word ‘retard’ a lot. There’s nothing illegal about that. Maybe you find it offensive. Don’t watch it. There are people, obviously, who still want to watch it wether or not they find it offensive. I don’t freak out when people say ‘cracker.’ I’m white. This is not a personal attack on every person with a mental disabillity. That’s a very narcissitic take. Who is anyone to think that a movie was aimed at them? I’ve seen Tropic Thunder, and I found it very funny and entertaining. People need to stop trying to make movies into real life. There isn’t really a Speed Tuggman, and the plot of the movie isn’t based on actual events. It’s not real. I promise.

  13. Lighten Up Says:

    Let’s all go protest a movie because we have no lives and can’t take a joke. What is a protest going to accomplish? The people that protest these kind of things (movies, books, video games) probably would never see the movie regardless of the R-word or not. I will watch the movie and laugh my A$$ off, not because he is making fun of a mentally challenged person but because he is making fun of Hollywood portrayals. I would never go up to a mentally challenged person and call him that name because that is wrong but a comedic actor portraying one in a comedy is usually funny.

    What is wrong with people today, learn to laugh more and enjoy your own life instead of protesting things that are out of your control. These people look for every little thing that does not agree with them and assumes we all feel the same way. Hope you have fun wasting your time protesting and getting mad and angry because in a few weeks nobody will remember anything you have done.

  14. McDevin Says:

    Every one whos mad about the movie saying the “R” word listen to this symple qoute:

    Hate the game, Not the player

  15. Anna Says:

    The movie isn’t making fun of mentally disabled people, it’s making fun of Hollywood and the fact that a sure way to win an Oscar is to play such a role. I understand that we live in a politically over-correct society, but there are many much more deserving things to get fired up about.
    That said, I don’t think I’ll be seeing the movie anyway. Not my brand of comedy.

  16. blah Says:

    It’s the life of brian all over again! They are not understanding the satire involved. This film is not poking fun at the handicapped, but at actors who are so greedy that they play the handicapped to win an Oscar. People who are disgusted by it also say that they haven’t seen the film, so they are taking the opinion of someone who clearly has no sense of irony and does not understand what this film is satirising; not the handicapped, black people and the Vietnam war, but actors and the film industry.

  17. Jackie Says:

    My family will not be going to this movie. I have a parent, 2 brothers with disabilities, and my step father had a physical disability. I was raised that the “R” word was a swear word. My children were also raised this way. This movie is a slap in the face. Those of us that work in the field work hard to teach the public that people with disabilities have the same rights, and respect as the next person. This movie will have people talking about it in the schools that will be starting just after its release, and I am sure some of those student will be joking with there friends unaware to those around them who just might be someone with a development disability who will find there comments hurtful! Not to mention those individuals with family members with disabilities.

  18. Jared Says:

    If it offends, don’t pay attention to it. By giving this extra attention and protesting it, it just makes it more visible, and that’s what they want.

    Since I’m a strong advocate of free speech, I don’t get offended by things, because I have this uncanny ability to ignore it!

  19. Mike in Seattle Says:

    It is very sad that major actors and a movie studio (as well as some readers of this blog) are not getting the point. Comedy is about making fun of oneself and others, but what should be unacceptable for comedians is using certain words and belittling people who-for the most part-cannot defend themselves.

    People of color, lesbian and gay people, even straight white republican men, and all the other groups that are made fun of in “equal opportunity” comedy can themselves protest, boycott and chastise or educate offenders. People with intellectual disabilities, particularly children, are generally not able to defend themselves, and that is why using “retard” or other offending words for this group should be intolerable.

    The added danger is that people who are (at best) uninformed or ignorant or (at worst) use offensive words as hate speech hear people they may respect or admire using these words and think it is acceptable, even admirable or cool to repeat hurtful words.

    I cringe every time I hear the word “retard” on TV, in movies or in public, but it is usually used only once….not that even once is acceptable. However, as Tim Shriver, chairman of disability group Special Olympics, said in an article for the BBC, “We feel that the use of the word ‘retard’ throughout the film, 15 or more times, is done without any regard for the dignity of people with intellectual disabilities.”

    Aren’t the majority of human beings and groups outrageous enough to provide countless opportunities for comedy writers? Don’t actors such as Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. have enough script material for the rest of their careers without stooping to belittling people who can’t defend themselves? It seems like lazy comedy writing, and frankly indefensible. It’s time to take words like “retard” out of the humor playbook.

  20. mike Says:

    I have an idea that most of the posters here have not seen the film and are making a very stupid error in critiquing the film despite this fact.

    Go see the film before attacking it. You will see that this is satire. If you are not intelligent enough to see this, I feel sorry for you. I have worked with mentally disabled people. They themselves can see the satire here.

    The filmmakers are ridiculing Hollywood’s portrayal of mentally disabled people. They are not ridiculing mentally handicapped people.

    I am opposed to the banning of any words for many reasons. But when I see people going crazy over something they don’t understand, I have to scratch my head. This kind of thing just takes political correctness to out-of-control heights.

  21. Michael Says:

    I would like to address this one more time.

    LA Disability Advocate, I did not say the use of the ‘r-word’ is not an issue. I am not saying , as some others are, that you are all over reacting. I am not saying that you don’t have the right to be offended.

    I am saying that you don’t have the right to NOT be offended. Be angry. Protest. Just don’t tell anyone that they can’t say what they want to because you or someone close you is offended. Strike that. You can even tell them not to say those things, you just should not expect them to actually listen.

    Someone said they used the word retard themselves until it affected them personally. Isn’t that the issue here? Everything is fair game until it affects you, and then suddenly its not funny anymore. Interesting how no one here has protested the Downey Jr’s portrayal of a fake black man. Or the stereo type of the guerrilla troops. Huh. Guess that doesn’t affect anyone on this message board.

    That’s all. I’m out. Everyone go on with your lives.

  22. Kocho Says:

    Freedom of speech is fundamental. It allows people to speak against the mainstream and even what some people see as “common sense”, and sometimes it helps to win important battle, such as obtaining equal rights for men and women, or fighting bigotry.

    But freedom of speech is only efficient when everyone can says his mind, so there can’t be limitation at your convenience. Anyone has the right to use offensive word (including the “n” word that you can find in numerous movies, series and novels nowadays without raising boycott threats or ask for censorship). Of course, people have the right to say they are offended, even if the context justifies it (by portraying a biggot by exemple). People even have the right to say they will boycott whatever they want.

    But the freedom of speech can’t be use as an excuse to censor a writer or a filmmaker. As proven by Amyarta Sen you can put on the same level the freedom of someone to read (or write) a book, and the freedom of someone to censor or forbid : one is plain and simple freedom, the other is in fact infringement of freedom. Dreamworks did the ethical choice by refusing to recut the movie before its release.

    Now, I can understand why some parents feel angry just when the read the word “retard” (I have worked and lived with people having mental disabities), regardless of its context. They even can be angry at it. But actually, here, they have no reason to be. It is displaced anger. I can’t say about the movie itself, since it is not released yet, but about the promo and the incriminated poster : as said by a lot of people, it is obvious that the poster or what the movie is not using the word “retard” to make fun of “simple Jack” but to make fun of the Hollywood way to pull off so-called “heartbreaking stories” and humanitarian tales, in the sake of winning awards, and ending to be so filled with cliché that they are more offensive and harmful than anything else. That doesn’t mean that I would recommand the movie, or show the poster, to my friends with mental disabilities since I don’t want them to be hurt if they don’t get the joke (except one of them who has a knack for this kind of humor).

    I believe that people who want to boycott this movie should rethink their position (even if they are entitled to have it, you have the right – of course – to act unwisely). They will harm their cause by fighting this wrong fight. If they win, they will harm any attempt to treat the subject of mental disabilities with honesty in the future (since honesty seldom goes with political correctness), and if they loose, they will ridicule any future and more justified protests against offensive treatment of mental disabities in fictions…

  23. ddinpsl Says:

    Can someone enlighten me on what the producers of this film were thinking about when they wrote, then produced it?

    All involved in its making need to take a deep breath and then explain themselves clearly without hyperbole.

  24. Dave Says:

    Get over yourselves. You must be the same people who champion zero tolerance and political correctness, both of which soften and weaken us as a people (and not in a macho bang down your door I’ve got the biggest gun kind of way). Again, it’s a comedy, calm down.

    It’s supposed to be tasteless and irrelevant. And with that, it’s just that – a comedy. This isn’t a serious film mocking retarded people. A lot of you simply see a comedy mentioning retards and get up in arms because it just has to be demeaning.

    There, I said it. Retarded. Did I mean it with malicious intent? No. Instead of attacking anything in sight saying a simple word, how about you find the people who use it as a weapon instead of a plain description? Those are the people who you need to speak out against.

    This movie is making fun of the Forrest Gumps, the Rain Mans, the I Am Sams. You should be more outraged at that; those are the people who use the people you are trying to protect for fame and success.

  25. Diana Says:

    We won’t be going to see this film. I thought we were past the point of finding humor in people who are different in any way. I couldn’t find contact info for Steven Speilberg, the executive at DreamWorks to let him know how disturbing my son Max would be to hear and see the scenes described to me in the press releases I received. His disability should never be the source of someone else’s laughter–and yes–source of income!

  26. Jim Says:

    As someone who frowns on using the word “retard” as a pejorative, I’m not sure why people are so up in arms about this film. The film’s use of the word may be better understood in context:

    (1) as a slogan on a poster (“Once upon a time…there was a retard”). Which honestly works perfectly as a satire of the way Hollywood tends to ignore the mentally challenged except when it caters to their fantasies of easily-told fables about savants who hold the secrets to a happy life. In essence, “We haven’t been teaching Radio…HE’s been teaching US.”

    (2) in a conversation between two actors about the problems of playing the mentally challenged in film. Namely, that such portrayals are rarely accurate, since going “full retard” means you won’t win an award. Crude, but very true, and the caustic use of the word “retard” underlines the hypocrisy of arrogant buffoons presuming their movies about such people are profound artistic statements (instead of pandering Oscar-bait).

    It seems that all the vitriol directed at this movie is misdirected, although I sympathize with those concerned that the dumber viewers will adopt its retard comments de facto. But that’s the dumb viewer’s fault.

  27. Andrea Says:

    This is outrageous. I’m so disappointed. I liked Robert Downey Jr, and Jack Black. I refuse to see this, and will send this to all families I know so they do the same. I wish people would recognize this is a civil rights issue and a struggle for equality. It’s clear and unfortunate that Ben Stiller et al refuse to value life with disability as they value life without it. Most of us acquire disabilities throughout life. Instead of acknowledging this with grace and respect, Hollywood has chosen to perpetuate harmful and degrading stereotypes. My daughter with Down syndrome deserves more than this, as do the 650 million other people on the planet with disabilities. I won’t stand for it. Wake up Hollywood. This is pathetic. For a crash film course on how people with disabilities should appear in films, I suggest Stiller study the following… http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/ThDnPity.htm

  28. Matt Adamczyk Says:

    The thread of these comments seems to weave a path among those who are offended, those who don’t think anything in a movie should ever offend anyone, those who apparently are never confused by what is fictional and what is real, and those who have never read a real news story about a crime that imitated something that was portrayed in a movie or television show. All written by people, who, like me, cannot have seen the movie because it has not yet been released!

    Amazing in many ways.

    Movie scenes can teach and have taught people how to be cruel. In this case, to a very innocent, vulnerable, trusting, population of mentally disabled folks.

    We all need to worry about the examples we give and the examples we receive, even in a story. It’s not enough for me not to see it. You should be careful not to see it.

  29. Jessica Says:

    Patricia had an earlier post about Connor Gifford’s book “America According to Connor Gifford”. Connor is a young man with Down syndrome and his book received praise from none other than Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, the parents of Ben Stiller. Maybe it’s time for Ben’s mother and father to have a discussion with him on how to be a richer man from valuing all humans and not from ticket sales.

  30. Diana Says:

    Wow- you get censored if you say anything against the majority, but they can say whatever they want about the people who really don’t find this offensive– pretty self serving website….

  31. Diana Says:

    I have a niece who’s autistic, my brother was adhd, and I’m bipolar. I still want to see the movie, because they’re funny actors. If you get offended, then it must hit a nerve and maybe you don’t have enough confidence in your children to think they can’t take that hit that many of us have taken and lived through. Get off your soapbox and pick on a topic that deserves picking on —

  32. Jerry Says:

    I see it as less an attack on disabled people and more a satire on the ego-maniacal Hollywood acting community. You’ve got one guy who surgically changes himself to appear black for a movie part and another who played a mentally retarded man extrapolated to the extreme of the stereotype of a retarded person. You’ve also got Robert Downey, Jr. speaking with a raspy black-American accent, and at one point reciting the theme song from the Jeffersons. From the clips I’ve seen it’s funny. Ultimately, that’s all that matters in a comedy.

    Boycotting this film just shows that many people (a)don’t get the satire, (b) get it, but genuinely don’t think it’s funny, or (c) are retarded. Only time will tell.

  33. Katy Murray Says:

    To those of you who claim we shouldn’t protest this movie because of “free speech,” please realize that same “free speech” gives us the right to speak our minds. We all realize that the movie is not making fun of mentally disabled children, but adults with disabilities are someone’s children too. My son is non-verbal, mentally a toddler, and he has no idea if someone is making fun of him…laugh at him and he’s likely to laugh right along with you. This movie won’t hurt his feelings…instead it hurts the heart of his parents and siblings.

    Anyone who feels the need to defend their right to use the R word is simply showing their ignorance. When someone says “You hurt me with that behavior…” you should immediately apologize and consider changing that behavior in the future. I remember being a child and using the R word myself because mental retardation had not personally touched my life. Now I ask others to refrain from using the word and try to teach tolerance through education. Whoever said Developmental Psychologists use “retard” as a medical term…are you serious? Name one educated person in that field who would stoop so low!

    My disabled son was a newborn when “Something About Mary” was released. It’s been 10 years now and I still cringe when I see Ben Stiller because of that movie. I understand that the film used Mary’s brother’s antics to show how Stiller’s character was more kind-hearted and tolerant than the other teen-agers…really, I do “get it!” That doesn’t change how badly it hurt to look down at my sleeping infant and see what sort of behavior he might have to deal with in the future. I believe that same point could have been made in a modified way that wouldn’t have been so hurtful. Every time Hollywood actors endorse something hateful, it breeds acceptance. And to those of you that claim the actors are not responsible for the lines they are saying…since when did Hollywood FORCE anyone to play a character they were not comfortable playing? Actors can choose their roles just like you and I can choose our careers and employers…especially successful actors like Stiller, Downey, and Black.

    I am so glad it was brought to my attention what I would see if I purchased a ticket to this movie. If all viewers were educated and tolerant enough to watch the movie without being influenced in a negative way, then it wouldn’t be such a dangerous film. However, if that were the case, it would have never been produced because nobody would see any “humor” in degrading people with mental disabilities.

    I, too, am anxious to hear what these actors have to say. My next stop will be to search out their own responses and see if they are actually sensitive to our concerns, or if they discount them entirely. I can only hope that all of them feel some sort of remorse for hurting anyone, whether it is under the guise of comedy or not.

  34. Erin Says:

    It’s not the joke that I find offensive, simply the word. They could have made the same point about normal people getting awards for playing someone who is mentally challenged without using the word retard.

    Almost any dictionary website you go to will tell you that the word is “offensive slang” but it’s offensive to the disabled — not the person being called that by a friend for a laugh.

    My brother has Down’s Syndrome, he is not stupid or “slow” (retard comes from the latin word for slow.) He is incredibly smart and knows a lot of things that a lot of kids don’t. The word doesn’t make sense in this day and age as anything but an offensive and demeaning word.

    As someone previously mentioned it’s like using the n word. If a white person walked around using that word derogatorily towards another white person it would dredge up a whole bunch of trouble. The joke that is being represented by Robert Downey’s character by itself is not offensive, it’s making a point just as the Simple Jack movie is, but if he had a poster for his movie that said “Once upon a time, there was a ‘n word’” there’d be a huge uproar.

    My point is that they could have said “Once upon a time, there was a mentally challenged boy” and it wouldn’t be such a huge deal. It just wasn’t necessary to find the most offensive word for the mentally challenged and put that into the joke, it would have made it’s point perfectly well and remained funny without it.

  35. Maureen Says:

    “Don’t get me wrong, the fact that disabled children are out there suffering breaks my heart, believe me.”


    Disabled people, like my sister with Down Syndrome, are not constantly suffering. Most are trying to live normal and fulfilling lives despite conditions they have. This includes going to movies.

    My sister works and pays to go see movies that more often than you would think include the term “retarded” and other terms for those with cognitive impairments that the public has deemed acceptable and even humorous but that literally bring my sister to tears.

    How can we develop tolerance and understanding in the face of mainstream entertainment that promotes such ridicule and ignorance?

  36. R. Parson Says:

    Jenny: The fact that you think that his donations to Generation Rescue and Autism Speaks count as helping people with disabilities shows how little you and he both know about those organizations and how they affect the lives of those of us with autism. We benefit from their agendas about as much as people with Down Syndrome benefit from amniocentesis.

    I’m glad that he cares enough to try to help, but it would help much more if he would listen to what disabled people are actually saying rather than just paying attention to those who exclude our voices while claiming to speak on our behalf.

    Amanda: I cannot thank you enough for your comment.
    The ableism shown by some of the parents speaking here is just as disturbing as the ableism which seems to be in the film itself, if not more so.

    Parents and other allies are a valuable and important part of the disability rights movement, but they should not eclipse the importance of self-advocates. Saying that people with cognitive disabilities can’t possibly understand the situation or speak up in their own defense is less outwardly hateful than throwing around words like ‘retard’ but it comes from the same kind of dehumanizing, self-superior belief.

  37. Kathy Says:

    I am so glad someone is finally talking about this. For a long time, I have been the only one I know of, who has been speaking out about the word “retard” being used. Thanks to all of you for the articulate posts.
    I’m ready to protest!

  38. Charlotte Hoaks Says:

    I am the parent of a mentally disabled son of 35. He is everything a mother could ask of a son. He is kind, compassionate, considerate, hard wording and dedicated to the job he holds, he helps around the house without complaint.
    I have taught my son that no word defines him, and retarded is not a word to cause pain. That said, now my view of a movie that demeaning and using the disabled as a basis for slapstick and jokes is disgusting.
    Forest Gump was a character of below normal IQ, yet his character was sympathetic and endearing. Can these people say that about Simple Jack and the way he is presented?

    If not, have they gone beyond the boundaries of human compassion and good taste? Well, I’m sure, but when has being compassionate and considerate of the feelings of the disabled more important than a good laugh at someone else’s expense. It’s so sad Stiller didn’t consider how Simple Jack would be perceived in the disabled community.

  39. Keith Says:

    For all of you who don’t understand how hurtful the word RETARD can be; I would like you to reread your posts, except this time imagine that whenever the word RETARD is used, think of a word that starts with N and refers to a person of color. 30 years ago people didn’t understand why the N-word was so offensive; it was derived from the Latin word for black. Why would someone be so offended by such an innocent evolution of a word?

    Being mentally retarded is not a choice any more than being African American is; it is the way you are, and you cannot change it. Degrading someone for something that they can do nothing about should be beneath a civilized society such as ours, and using plight of others to ridicule our friends is just plane bad taste. The fact that a word is hurtful to someone should be enough for us to remove it from our vocabulary.

  40. Ann Says:

    The term “retard” appears to have been adopted by the majority as a term to be used when describing someone who is foolish or unacceptable. It strikes me odd that a society that would advocate for human rights and diversity would allow such negative connotations about the most vulnerable of all people. The fact that this movie was even an idea says a lot about us as a society and the values we hold.

    It saddens me deeply that the entertainment world would use the developmentally challenged community as a source of ridicule. Rather, we should be promoting dignity, treating them with respect and allowing them to build self-esteem and self-worth. We should be providing an environment where they can build confidence and allowing them to see the special and unique qualities they has to offer others in the person they have become.

    Whenever I hear someone use this term with the intent of demeaning another, I immediately discredit the remark! My son is the most loving person I know. He is intelligent, fun to be with and he allows me to see the joy in the simple things in life. I can be fat, I can be thin, I can be ugly, I can be beautiful, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter to him. What matters is the smile I give to him, the love and acceptance that we share, seeing the world together as God intended us to see it. Quite frankly, if anyone calls me ‘retard’ I see it as a compliment, for it means I have succeeded in overlooking outwardly appearances and material wealth for what truly matters in this world…loving, caring relationships!

  41. Jenny Says:

    This article makes me sick. All the people who keep saying that Tropic Thunder is trying to make fun of the disabled make me sick.

    You guys are taking everything way too seriously. It’s a movie! Since when did Hollywood use entertainment to degrade other people?

    Don’t get me wrong, the fact that disabled children are out there suffering breaks my heart, believe me.

    But this is starting to get so out of hand that I have to say something.

    First of all, I am so mad at everyone who is targeting Ben Stiller in all of this. Don’t start blaming and accusing someone for something that they did not do. Most of you seem to have no idea who Ben Stiller is like, do you? That makes me so sad because he is seriously one of the most generous, kind, and giving actors out in Hollywood today. He is a person like no other.

    And for those of you who are blaming him, I would recommend meeting him in person and then thinking about what you just said here. Then you might start to feel like a ‘retard.’ Ben did not say that line, his character did. And last I checked, characters are fictional.

    Do you all just think that Ben has no heart and that he would stoop as low as to make fun of people through something that is used as entertainment?

    Then let me tell you about what he has done because most of you here seem to have no idea who he really is.

    Ben has given so much to the disabled through charities and through events that he wanted to do.

    He has been on several TV specials to fight autism. (Most recently, “Night of Too Many Stars” and “WWE”) And he has donated a massive amount of money.

    He has also one of the biggest supporters, if not the biggest, of Project ALS. In fact, he lost a close friend to ALS. Let me tell you, that probably was not too easy for him to deal with. He still supports ALS in a huge way and as a matter of fact, they honored him at a special event to thank him for everything that he has done.

    He also appeared on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to raise money for ALS and you could clearly tell he wanted to help.

    So before you keep accusing Ben for all of this, think again, please.

    And if you still think that this movie should be boycotted just because of the word, ‘retard,’ give me hard evidence of how this movie makes fun of the disabled.

  42. Laura Says:

    Thank you for having this blog. I read about it in the New York Times and then was linked to it by The Arc. My daughter has Down Syndrome and loves to go to movies. We have both been hurt/offended many times by cruel statements in movies. The most recent example was Cameron Diaz in the Los Vegas movie in which she referred to someone as “short bus”. My other children told me it was a reference to people (such as my daughter)who ride the small special ed buses. That was the final straw and I vowed to find a way to communicate my dismay about the abuse of these innocent people. I don’t know how a decent person/actor could use such terminology.

    We must boycott such movies and express our outrage to the producers. Thanks for your efforts.

  43. Cathy Wilde Says:

    Phillipa – Yes, we KNOW it’s a satire. We get it. But just because something is a satire doesn’t mean it isn’t also offensive. They’re not mutally exclusive concepts. Yes, it’s making fun of the actors, but denigrates an entire class of people while doing so. I don’t need my beautiful daughter being “collatoral damage” to this so-called humor when the kids in her school pick up the oh-so-funny catchphrase “full retard” — like you have obviously already done, before the movie has even opened! Open you eyes and see the ramifications of this movie and your own words!

  44. hj Says:

    The term “Mental Retardation” is used as a diagnostic category and and a school placement category in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I daresay the students who receive that label and have it strewn across their records are not seeing it as a “goofy light-hearted word”. It’s word that promotes bigotry and, in reality, withholds proper education.

  45. Phillipa Says:

    It’s a satire! Not a trashing of the mentally challenged but the “mentally challenged” narcissistic actors who are in the film. You are in danger of “going full retard” on this subject.

  46. Christina Says:

    “To me, it’s a goofy, light-hearted word, devoid of malice.”

    I wouldn’t mind totally agreeing with your sentiments… now can you kindly have the words “mental retardation” removed from the therapy evaluation I just received for my baby with Down syndrome?

    Clearly “retard” has taken off from its original intent. In an ideal world the medical community would stop using the term “mental retardation” and start using something a little less easily flung across the playground (“Hey you! You intellectually disabled person!!”) … until that ideal world comes along, is it too hard to find a bit of compassion within ourselves and figure out a new way to poke fun at your friends, yourself, and things that don’t work correctly?

    I guess for some, it really is. And to those people, you have my deepest sympathies and my greatest hope that one day you will experience a moment, an event, a life that changes everything and suddenly makes compassion as easily accessible as your cell.

  47. Mahoney Says:

    The thing is, words evolve over time. And the word ‘retard’ has been evolving for decades. It started as the preferred medical term, as ‘retard’ means ‘slow’. (It makes me wonder, are you people going to someday go through centuries worth of classical sheet music removing every instance of the word ‘retard’ because it offends you?)

    From there it went on to become a slur for the mentally handicapped. And it went on to present day to be a word that non-mentally handicapped people use to insinuate stupidity on other non-mentally handicapped people.

    I’m 33 years old, and I can’t remember the last time I ever used the word ‘retard’ in reference to a mentally handicapped person. I do however, use the word on a regular basis in a joking manner with my peers, as do most people I know. To me, it’s a goofy, light-hearted word, devoid of malice. Between non-mentally challenged people, the word is ironically the *least* offensive way of ribbing someone for doing something dumb. If someone calls you ‘stupid’ you kind of wonder if they’re serious, there’s a hint of insult with the word, but if they call you ‘retard’ the word implies friendly ribbing.

    Now I’m sure this appalls you, but it’s just the way it is. Different people have different experiences and words carry completely different meanings and emotions. I’m sorry it offends you, I’m sure I’d hate the word too if I had a mentally handicapped child, because then I would have negative experiences associated with it instead of positive.

    But my concluding point is, how is your experience any more valid than mine? You don’t like the word, I like it. It’s a hatefull word for you, it’s a light-hearted one to be used between friends for me. Your offended by it, I’m not. Maybe there are words that you use that offend me. I know the very act of these groups in trying to remove a word from a movie offends me greatly, it’s an assault on free speech which some people hold very dear.

    So there we have it, I offend you, and you offend me. What’s to be done, I can’t change you on this issue anymore than you can change me. Neither of us is right or wrong, because it’s a matter of perspective, it’s completely subjective. So why don’t we all just shut up about it and stop trying to force each other to adhere to our standards?

  48. Shirley Dove Says:

    Shame on DreamWorks and all the others who have participated in this “Disgrace”. Not only will I not see this movie, I will not see anything else these actors are in.

    Shame on all of you. Accidents can happen at any age. What will you do if something should happen to one of your children and they become “One of Those”? Are you in fact tempting the Gods?

  49. Kim Butler Says:

    My family will not be seeing this film.I have the pleasure of working with individuals that have different types of disabilities.I think this is one of the worst forms of prejudice towards a people that I have seen in along time!!! For a Jewish man not to see this as prejudice, is very ironic. What if his child was picked on and called horrable degrading names?

  50. Naomi Says:

    Well now Hollywood has flexed that big muscle of bad taste again and in doing so they bring up constraversy,public awareness and attention with a the film and more $ money will be made!They acheived their goal! Won’t be me or mine’s $! I personally live with and take care of 2 beautiful people who are intellectually disabled. They are not offended by words so much as attitudes toward their right to exist and lead interesting/social lives without being singled out because they are in a wheel chair or don’t look like Hannah Montana. Each of them have acceptted their disability and live every moment with it. Angela Sadler had a right perspective on this! So people get a grip! Let’s just love our neighbor as ourselves.

  51. Donna Saul Says:

    DarkRider13. That is a total cop out. We are not ready to laugh yet. We are still on the “learning curve” educating the public about how our children are not objects to be pitied, parodies, and patronized.

  52. Donna Saul Says:

    Here is why I am not laughing:

    a) It is assumed that we are to believe that running gags about “retards” were not intended to be funny “funny” as in making fun of our children.

    b) It is assumed that we are expected to believe that the appropriate context for the Simple Jack characterization is the movie, “Tropic Thunder,” because it’s making a political statement about the industry standard.

    c) It is assumed that we will laugh at the “industry standard” and the people on the big screen who are pretending to act like “retards” but not laugh at the reason why this condition exists for so many of our family and friends.

    d) It is assumed by DreamWorks that Tropic Thunder, a movie marketed to the general public is the best way to address this “industry standard.”

  53. Mark Says:

    When I read an article such as this, it is always the commentary section that makes me cringe. This column is no exception. I only had to read down a couple of comments to find someone who starts his comments with “You completely miss the point” to know that what I am reading is an opinion from someone who does not get it.

    “How about trying to raise money or at least awareness of the plight of mentally disabled persons in developing countries. Individuals who don’t have the same rights as their fellow citizens. Individuals who are treated horrifically and even in many cases exterminated because they are different”

    Of course this solution illustrates Andy’s inability to empathize with the plight of the mentally disabled and their families. Andy does not realize that very few places in America spend enough money to educate and provide for its citizens in need, let alone the mentally disabled. He does not realize that 70% of the homeless are people who are suffering from various mental problems. He thinks that they are all drug users, alcoholics and just need to get a job.

    Andy, if we have already thrown the mentally disabled on the streets, do you not think the next step is extermination? I’ll bet there are factions in this country that are pretty close to making that leap. Based on the government’s woeful spending record on these causes, it would seem that the mentally disabled are viewed as a lost cause and that taxpayer money should be spent elsewhere.

    You see the problem Andy is that the “influential” people in our country reside in Hollywood. And since the demographic target of this movie is young people, it has the ability to mold more people with an even worse view than yours. So in reality, Hollywood is the way to influence America, and where the lobbying should take place.

    What you don’t realize Andy is that Hollywood has influenced your thinking also. You incite Patricia to raise money for people in other countries. What about raising money for people in America? You just like Hollywood are obsessed with solving problems in Darfur, and Tibet and the Middle East. Is that because you think the problems in America are solved? Then look under a bridge, or look in a soup kitchen. Better yet, read about some typical middle class Americans who are forced to move around the US looking for a suitable education for their mentally disabled child. You are sadly mistaken if you think everything is dandy here.

    Yes I am the parent of an autistic child so this does hit a bit close to home. But the reality is Andy, I have dealt with the uniformed, uneducated and plain ignorant for a long time. No, I will not go to see the movie and yes I will still always cringe at the “R” word just as I would the “N” word or any other inflammatory term. Typically when someone rails against political correctness, they want to be able to discriminate or ridicule someone and have it accepted (e.g. Mississippi and most of the country in 1958). I hope Andy that you are never the subject of someone who thinks the first amendment is an excuse to ridicule you for circumstances beyond your control.

  54. LA Disability Advocate Says:

    To Michael and all those who think using the R-word is a non-issue.

    There is an ugly horrid history behind the word “retard” that more than justifies censoring its use. Just as there is behind the n-word.

    People with disabilities have been unjustly imprisioned because of their disabilities. They have been used as guinea pigs in scientific and medical experiments simply because they had disabilities and were not valued as human beings. They have been institutionalized, abused, neglected, ridiculed, segregated, and discriminated against. All because of their disabilities, because they may walk, talk, look, or think differently. And the word “retard” is symbolic of all the cruel, hurtful, abusive mistreament they have endured to this day.

    Just as the n-word is symbolic of slavery, “retard” is symbolic of the horrid mistreatment and discrimination people with disabilities have endured far too long. Its use must be stopped, NOW.

  55. Elisabeth's Mom Says:

    If Ben Stiller has an issue against actors who portray a person with a mental retardation label, then this is something he needed to address in a different format and certainly without using the characterization he deplores so much.

  56. LA Disability Advocate Says:

    I personally will start an e-mail campaign in protest of this movie and asking all to boycott it an all who are associated with it’s production!

    Only ignorant people are insensitive to different cultures and abilities.

  57. Andy Says:

    You completely miss the point of the fake movie and the character. Perhaps if you actually went to go see the movie first, you’d understand it parodies Hollywood actors and producers who exploit mental illness in order to get Oscars and critical praise. Go after those people. Not this.

    I’m more offended of people like you who waste time forcing your “Politically Correct” views on everyone else.
    PC views which are slowly but surely stripping away the 1st amendment. Freedom of Speech ensures that everyone has the right to speak their mind no matter how different or offensive it may be to other people. If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention to it. Simple as that.

    How about instead of trying to get a Hollywood studio to meet your personal demands over a harmless movie, try doing something really meaningful. How about trying to raise money or at least awareness of the plight of mentally disabled persons in developing countries. Individuals who don’t have the same rights as their fellow citizens. Individuals who are treated horrifically and even in many cases exterminated because they are different

    No.. clearly, this movie is more important to you because so many lives are at risk.

    Let’s be honest, It’s more important to you because it grabs headlines and brings attention to your website. Hey, I bought into it. Congrats. You got the 15 minutes of fame that you wanted.

  58. becky Says:

    As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, it is disappointing to continually hear demeaning comments toward the disabled population. If anyone could walk in our shoes or their shoes, they would understand how hurtful it is to hear anyone referred to as a “retard”.

    The disabled population knows they are different, but they don’t need to hear it in the movies.(they’re made fun of enough elsewhere). Ben Stiller may be mocking the movie industry in general, but couldn’t it have been done without degrading our children?

    Try walking in our shoes or our children’s, and see how hurtful it is. I’m very disappointed in all of these actors that they were not more sensitive to a group of individuals who often are made fun of.

    I’m sure this movie will be very funny to most people. Couldn’t it have been just as funny without using the work retard and once again degrading our children?

  59. hammie Says:

    whatever you say about the dialogue, the poster is unforgivable. I can imagine that vilification laws would deal with such trespass in real life. In Ireland the the travelling community are known as “Knackers” and I can imagine being prosecuted for producing a similar poster: “Once upon a time, there was a knacker” (Pavee Lackeen) even though as a colloquialism, the itinerant community should not be identifying with the word, they do.
    Whereas in the case of the Farrelly brothers movies, the offending words are spoken by characters who are clearly unlikeable. A poster cannot portray that.

  60. Vickie Says:

    I work for an ARC. We provide services to individuals with disabilities. Our individuals have feelings, they cry and get hurt and they know when people are making fun of them.

    Stiller should spend time at his local ARC, he might think differently about making fun of them. Better yet, maybe Jenny McCarthy and her son who has a developmental disability should speak out against him and his ilk.

    Keep it up Ms. Bauer, don’t give up we need you to be our champion.

  61. Evan Grimes Says:

    Say what you will about Stiller’s “real motives”, and that he’s really “making fun of Hollywood”. Stiller panders to the demographic that feeds off movie quotes and peppers their conversations amongst themselves with these quotes as a substitute for original humor. And now we get to hear “Never go full retard” become part of the frat-party lexicon. Great.

  62. Elisabeth's Mom Says:

    Why do comedians, writers, and people who take liberty at creating characterizations of our children focus on their disability like it’s so damn funny? That’s not who they are. They are not their disability.

    If Ben Stiller truly wanted to convey this point through comedy, why is he relying on “retard” as a gag for laughs? Now he’s trying to cover it up by saying the ends somehow justify the means?

  63. Michael Says:

    I retract the ‘boo hoo’. I reacted to the ‘ha ha’ comment Donna threw in which just seemed snide, and I did not intend to go there. All I’m saying is that life is full of things we don’t like and you absolutely have the right to be offended but you can’t expect anyone to change what they are doing protect your feelings.

    The old saying is “I may disagree with what you have to say but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” These days we seemed to have added on ‘unless of course it pertains to me’.

  64. Michael Says:


    I’m not going to be too argumentative with you here. I’m not sure what “Ben Stiller’s gag about an actor playing a “retard” to win Oscar backfired on his plot line.” means exactly, but I’m quite sure the site didn’t come down until someone pitched a fit over it. If something is not funny, people will stop looking and it will go away on its own eventually.

    As for laughing my head off, at no point did I say I think the movie is funny or that the website is funny. I have not seen either. They may not be funny at all or they may be hilarious, in which case I will laugh my head off. Thank you for your permission to do so.

    I just wish I had the opportunity to see the site and decide for myself before people had it pulled because their feelings were hurt.

    Boo hoo

  65. Cara Says:

    This bothers me to the deepest levels. I’m disappointed in many of the comments thinking that this is no big deal.

  66. Donna Says:

    Michael, I think DreamWorks took down the website because Ben Stiller’s gag about an actor playing a “retard” to win Oscar backfired on his plot line.

    However, if you think it’s still funny even if it’s at the expense of a population of people who don’t find it funny that the only time they are visible is when their disability is an issue or a joke, go right ahead laugh your head off. Nobody is stopping you. Laugh all you want.


  67. Matt Says:

    You people are too serious.

    It’s a comedy movie…don’t like it…don’t go.

    And guess what…I do have a mentally disabled family member…we don’t care.

    The word “retarded” is not offensive…watch…in 10 years, the words “mentally disabled” will be considered offensive…get over it and get over yourselves.

  68. Lidija Says:

    Come on, people. First of all, they don’t make fun of children with disabilities, but those ignorant and insensitive actors who only play these kind of rules to get an award. And why do you estimate an actor by it’s role in a movie? It wasn’t Downey Jr. who said those lines to Ben Stiller, it was a conversation between two fictional characters. And for God’s sake, why do you take a comedy so seriously? It’s a parody of Hollywood and actors, not people with disabilities, or black people or whatever you come up with next time (fat people maybe?).

    And FYI, ‘retard’ is a lingo used in Developmental Psyhology, and is not necessarily an offensive word.

    You guys seriously need to get a life.

  69. Michael Says:

    You have every right to be offended. Every right in the world. But no right to expect someone to change what they say or do as a result. You don’t like it, don’t see it. Stop trying to modify everyone’s behavior so that you don’t get your feelings hurt. Grow up.

    And before anyone jumps on that, crude humor is adult, and not “just for stupid adults”. The whole point is we laugh because it is inappropriate. We laugh at what makes us uncomfortable if it done correctly which, to me, this was.

    For the person who said they will never see a movie in any establishment that shows this film, what a joy you must be to live with.

    Everyone has something in their life that is sensitive. Some can laugh about it, some can’t. That’s fine. But we can’t go about sterilizing all speech and every form of entertainment because we don’t like it. We are becoming a society of crybabies. The fact that the Simple Jack website was taken down is appalling. Who the hell gives you the right to decide what I can and can’t see? If you don’t like it, close your eyes, walk away, call me a jerk. You have that right. Then leave me alone.

  70. Hawk Says:

    You people really need to chill out. It’s a movie that doesn’t even use that as its focus. If you’re so offended, don’t watch it. And they aren’t even ridiculing anyone. If anything the movie is making fun of how actors portray people with disabilities. So talk to me once you guys have seen the movie!

  71. John Says:

    Matt- Also, it seems that we are not the only ones on a “high horse.”

    I do not consider this funny at all. It is not about being “politically correct” as you call it. You also seem to be telling people not to think about things and to remain ignorant. You are certainly allowed to remain ignorant, but let’s call a spade a spade.

    Your example of BET is completely inappropriate. Those are black people referring to themselves in a way that they choose. Also, the term “black” has nowhere near the connotation or history of a more parallel term- the n-word. You would not go around saying that word now, would you? Would you ridicule someone for being PC if they heard you saying that word and were confronted?

    I have yet to hear people with developmental disabilities refer to themselves as “retards” or “retarded,” but if they do, that would not make it acceptable for you or I to call them that.

    This movie actually looks incredibly unfunny and I will not see any move at any establishment that shows it.

  72. Matt Says:

    All of you people overreacting to these retard comments are the problem. By avoiding an issue or making it socially unacceptable you further push the boundaries of segregation.

    If you can’t even speak the word retard for its English usage in your home then you’re teaching your kids that it’s okay to treat people differently because of a characteristic. You can’t describe that black man as black, you need to use more politically correct terms.

    Well Black Entertainment Television seems to be okay with describing black people as black, and using the term retard should be just as acceptable as racial descriptions.

    I think it looks like a funny movie, and am ashamed to see the population still so withdrawn from society. People are becoming less sensitive and dodgy on subjects like using the word retard and yet you’re all still posting about boycotting the movie and trying to censor something.

    Get off your high horse, go enjoy a good laugh and stop making everything in life such a goddamn politically correct debate. If the director puts in a retard joke don’t think about being offended just laugh and enjoy yourself.

  73. Nancy Iannone Says:

    We understand what satire is, but unless you or your loved ones have been on the receiving end of comments, you won’t understand that “satire” and “context” are not what many will take away from this movie — instead they’ll take away some new funny one-liners to use for target practice, as comment #74 illustrates.

    And “don’t go see it” does not help, as the media/advertising blitz really won’t let us avoid the impact of this movie. And “not for children” and “parents’ responsibility” does not help our children who are mingling with those whose parents see no problem with THEIR children seeing a funny Ben Stiller movie on DVD even if it is rated “R.”

    So, no I won’t go to see this movie. But I and my kids will pay the price anyway. I’ve already had to have a sit-down with my children and niece to prepare them for the new influx of funny “R-word” one-liners, and now have to write letters to the guidance counselors in their various schools, since there is NO WAY those one-liners will stay in the theater.

    I’m glad they took away the Simple Jack website, which of course pushed more R-word one-liners. And checking all promotional materials for content will go a long way in protecting those of us innocent bystanders who wish to avoid being bombarded by offensive material in the advertising blitz.

    I just wish I did not have to worry about this movie and its real-life impact on my kids at all.

  74. madcows Says:

    Oh, come on, this is a joke…

    This movie doesn’t skits retarded people, just the actors who play retarded people for an Oscar. But you … but you make the scandal here, just for popularity. Better you look at the meaning of a movie, then after that you can write anything…

  75. Kyle Says:

    Wow, most of you really don’t understand it at all.

    Stiller isn’t making fun of the mentally challenged. He’s making fun of the actors that played those roles!

    This censorship threat is ridiculous. I really hope the movie stays in its current state.

    Don’t see it if you think you’ll have a problem with it. Especially if your opinions are unfounded.

  76. Simple Jack Says:

    Once upon a time…

    There was a retard.

  77. Karen Says:

    just repulsive…will not see this.

  78. Gary Says:

    Claudio hit the nail right on the head. Look back at all the roles actors have played. Most are memorable, and the actors were nominated or won for doing the same thing. Rain Man, Forest Gump, Radio, etc.

    Words don’t hurt . . . I agree with Claudio . . . Isn’t there something else to worry about?

  79. Bart Fuentes Says:

    Censorship is wrong! That is what you will be doing if you manage to get the studio to edit this film. You are totally missing the point of this film.

  80. remi Says:

    I have family members with disabilities and I am 18 so I can be considered the target market for this film. But I really don’t think that the intention of the makers of the film is to promote the word.

    I don’t think anyone will start to out of the blue call disabled people retarded — in our society the N word is used towards black and any other race. Its considered wrong for a non-black to call a black person by the N word (even when it’s without bad intentions) but black call each other by this term and that’s considered okay.

    The R word is used to describe someone with a mental retardation. The N word is used to offend Black people. The action that I think the organization and lots of you are having is that of a black person toward a white person calling then N….. Using the R words towards someone who is not mental retarded is like calling a short person a “midget”. The terms R and M are not offensive in their nature.

    The fact that now people think that being R or M means something horrible is why people used it in an offensive way. In my opinion none of it its correct but the film’s intentions are not to promote the term or offend anyone. Its a reflection of who we are as a society (the term in the film I mean).

    Taking it out is not gonna change anything or a PSA on why its wrong or offensive to call someone that(the R word). I suggest a PSA on the truth behind the term… that it’s not offensive because there is nothing wrong with being mentally retarded. And the PSA should not be the solution to the film’s use of the term, but to our society. When films used the word Homo in the same way as a gay man I am not offended. Fact is most us are ignorant to what things mean, and the same way I’m not offended to be called a homo because I am.

    I won’t boycott. I will see it. The issues with the term need to be addressed towards the nation not towards a Film that like many others has used a common (but no doubt bad) expression in their script.

    The film is meant to be offensive. Its a look on the F***ed up things in our society, like many well done comedies have done before. The film’s showing how people laugh at this things even though they are wrong. And anyways it’s not a film for kids, and to the parents; don’t judge a book by it cover.

    and PS. The R word is not a slur, it’s a descriptive term.

  81. Amanda Says:

    I am not surprised that the movie exists.

    I am somewhat surprised at some of the comments.

    The idea that people with developmental disabilities “can’t defend ourselves.”

    The idea that they’ll be hearing from our families, our friends, the professionals that make a living off us, but not us of course. Again, we apparently “can’t defend ourselves.”

    The idea that it would be “tragic and exploitative” to use an actor with a developmental disability in a role like this. Because of course, no actor with a developmental disability would even find it possible to understand how offensive it is to be called a retard (never mind that we’ve heard it since childhood for the most part).

    I’ll remember that next time someone shouts that word at me out a car window. Must be nice to be that blissfully ignorant … just like the stereotypes you all are saying you want to overthrow. But at least I don’t have to believe that I can’t possibly defend myself against it.

  82. Monica Says:

    It is amazing to me that in the United States where people have spent so much time fighting for equal rights that DreamWorks/Paramount would use discrimination as a form of entertainment. We have come so far but have so much more work to do when we are fighting against those who continue to use derogatory terms to define people and their experiences. DreamWorks/Paramount are only some of the few who help to keep discrimination a “laughing matter.” How often do we get to watch a movie or a sitcom where someone isn’t being made fun of or being put down for having a disability, being a woman, being overweight, being gay, etc.? It is time that we start being aware of the labels we use to define other people. I don’t see this behavior as being any different than using the “N” word!

  83. Claudio Zamorano Says:

    You people really missed the point of the movie … Stiller’s character is making fun of the way Hollywood actors use these kind of roles to seem deep, and gain quick notoriety as serious actors … It’s not that hard to understand … It’s actually quite positive, since it exposes the insensibility that came before…

    And you complain about a word? Without judging the context in which it is used? I can’t believe you don’t have better things to worry about …

  84. Danielle Says:

    I do not have the words to express how demeaning it is to consistently and condescendingly refer to someone as a “retard.” People with disabilities are people who should be respected as consumers, parents, sons, daughters, and children of God.

    People with disabilities and the people who love them attend and patronize movies and support other forms of entertainment. Why would a writer, editor, producer or anyone involved in the making of a film think it is acceptable to degrade their fellow human beings especially when so many of those fellow human beings would have to support their film for it to be a true success?

    What people fail to realize is that life does imitate art and that popular media influences thinking, especially young minds and future decision makers. Discrimination in any form is completely unacceptable and it lessens the quality of our society and the extent to which we practice respect for our fellow human.

    Many people today seem to think that film, newspaper satire and even commentary on popular news stations is a place for people to express their prejudice without condemnation because hey … it’s just freedom of speech which is an American right.

    But we need to appeal to a higher standard than the bill of rights. And if one has difficulty operating at such a higher standard, one should think about how they would feel if their daughter, son, niece, nephew, sister, brother, or mother was diagnosed with a disability … or what if, God forbid they were diagnosed themselves as a result of a car accident as such accidents occur every day?

    I encourage the writers and producers of the film to meet and interact with some individuals with disabilities. I encourage them to go to a neonatal intensive care unit where the parents of an infant are receiving the news of the extent of their child’s disability … and then I would like to know if they would call that child a retard to their parents face.

    It may be funny in film, but we must think about what it really means before we produce or support such comedy.

    God bless,


  85. Shumina Says:

    The movie is meant as comedy. To focus on an emotionally charged, small aspect of the movie detracts from the intent, which is to entertain. Just because you or others may not see the humor in it does not mean it is not funny, it means that you’ve decided to forgo the intent and instead get yourself upset at a movie that, if anything, adds to your mission to get your concerns addressed and recognized by more of the public.

    Your mission to boycott/have the movie edited amounts to censorship and totally detracts from your higher purpose; for how are we to be mindful of the issues and plight of the mentally challenged if we never get the chance to see them (in any and every media and format)? Your wish to see the movie abridged with the offensive material removed is nothing more than sweeping the dust under the carpet.

  86. Seymour Clearly Says:

    Once upon a time there were many retards. People who are making a big deal out of this film are the real retards.

    This film is not making fun of mentally challenged people. It’s actually making a statement about actors who will do anything to get recognition. There are many comedies who actually poke fun at handicapped people. Where were all of you when those movies premiered? Stop being so sensitive.

    It’s a comedy for Pete’s sake! A rated R comedy!! If you don’t like what it says then simply don’t view it.

  87. Melanie Quesinberry Says:

    I haven’t seen this movie, but if it portrays those with disabilities in a negative way, I wouldn’t see it when it comes out. My nephew has Down syndrome, and I don’t appreciate anyone who portrays him in an inaccurate way!

  88. Ayoca Freeman Says:

    I am also a parent of a child with Down syndrome. We are working so hard to get beyond the name calling and then a movie like this one is planning to air… and what I know will happen next is that people will start saying it again because of it being used in this movie.

    What I’m trying to say is that we have no time to move backwards, but only FORWARD!

  89. Terry Jahelka Says:

    This is wrong. I coach Special Olympics and these individuals are not retarded. Making fun and a mockery of individuals with Down syndrome is wrong. This not only lowers my opinion of DreamWorks, but totally disgusts me that any one would produce a film like this. The stars of this film should be totally ashamed.

  90. Kathy Ratkiewicz Says:

    I never could understand the ‘humor’ in making fun of people with disabilities. It is bad enough when kids do it, but when popular actors (who know full well the effect that they have on kids) make a movie like this, it is completely reprehensible.

    I am extremely disappointed with DreamWorks and the actors who participated in this movie. Any money they make with the movie in its present form comes at the expense of people with disabilities. I can’t understand how they thought that it was an acceptable thing to do. The lack of integrity shown by those making this movie is truly sad.

    It is ironic that my son, who has Down syndrome, and is one of the people that this movie makes a mockery of in the name of “humor”, has an excellent sense of humor .. but *he* is capable of being funny without mocking others. Hollywood has a lot to learn about true humor, as well as integrity and personal accountability.

    If they release the movie in its present form, I will boycott it and will ask others to do the same.

  91. Jim Flanigan Says:

    I am sure the excuse the studios and actors will try to use is that they did not realize they were offending anybody. That is garbage! By the time a major studio release gets to this stage, every detail has been reviewed by hundreds of people.

    They knew their comments were offensive, but they went ahead with them anyway because they thought the controversy would help draw attention to the film. Their next defense will involve pointing at all of us and say we are just trying to be “politically correct”, as if that were terrible.

    I have been fortunate to work for over 30 years with people with disabilities. My life has been much richer for these experiences. It is unfortunate that the studio hacks and third-rate actors responsible for this film have not been similarly blessed.

  92. Ellen Zampello Says:

    DreamWorks and the actors involved have made a very bad moral decision in creating and releasing this movie. It is offensive, insensitive, irresponsible and insulting to our society. My family and friends will not see this movie and I intend to boycott Dream Works movies from now on.

  93. Angela L Says:

    I’m am very bothered that mentally impaired people are going to be ridiculed and used as a comic punching bag by the film Tropic Thunder.

    My son has Down Syndrome and I find this tone of “humor” deeply offending. I had intended on seeing this film because of Stiller and Black’s involvement, but now I will definitely not be seeing the film and will be spreading the word to all my friends to boycott the film. I hope DreamWorks will pull the film and edit it before distribution.

  94. Julie Sharp Says:

    As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome I am highly disappointed that the studio and Ben Stiller have decided to portray individuals with a disability this way. We have worked very hard to give our children back the dignity that society has stripped them of over the years. They deserve respect.

    I hope that they will see that this is in bad taste and apologize to individuals with disabilities and their families. I am sure if they had a loved one that was affected by this the film would not have been made in this way.

  95. Jackie T Says:

    Intellectually, I understand that the word “retard” has a place when it is used to describe a particular type of deficit in a clinical setting, but NOT when used to describe a person in a non-clinical or social setting.

    As the parent of a child with a cognitive disability (as well as physical developmental delays), I struggle EVERY DAY watching my child fight to learn things that come easy to other children, and all the while he remains a happy, friendly child who wants to be accepted by other children.

    Children can be mean and say things that as an adult I feel is inappropriate, but they are children and so it is expected to some extent … but when adults perpetuate this negative social attitude that many fight so hard to eliminate, it is inexcusable.

    It has nothing to do with having “thick skin” or being “politically correct;” it has to do with how we treat each other as fellow human beings.

  96. Vickie Smith Says:

    As a proud mother of a child who is developmentally delayed, I take offense to this.

    Children with disabilities have to work extra hard in life at just about everything they accomplish. Society should be applauding them, not making fun of them.

  97. Elda Crews Says:

    As a proud mom of a child with cerebral palsy, I cannot believe that people use children with special needs to get a laugh. I am ashamed that a company would go to such lengths to make money. As many have said, if they had a child with disabilities they would understand. They obviously need some education.

  98. Reda Fricks Says:

    My son, who is diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder that leaves him trapped inside a little body that can’t move properly, is a blessing to all. He is a very happy individual who accepts who he is and life with joy and kindness.

    With all that he can’t do, he does more for the people around him than words can explain. I am proud and thankful that I am his mother and feel deep pity for those like DreamWorks and Paramount who would try to profit this type of challenge. You, DreamWorks and Paramount, are a DISGRACE to our society.

  99. Beth Ulrich Says:

    I believe if these actors had a child with a disability they might feel differently. It’s a shame that innocent children with special needs have to be made fun of to get a laugh. Shame on you all. A few more actors to cross off my list.

    Mom of a special needs son.

  100. Glenda Cooper Says:

    As a proud parent of two children with Autism Spectrum Disorder from Georgia, I am sick and tired of children with disabilities being subjected to such ridicule. Children with disabilities are much more capable than they are made out to be.

    DreamWorks and its parent company Paramount, need to be more educated on this matter. Do you ever consider this could be your child they are talking about, are you that heartless to allow a movie to be using such offensive language?

    I just pray that they will listen to us and retract this hideous film and the language it uses!

  101. Kristina Rice Says:

    Sounds pretty stupid — like the kind of movie I would walk out on, so I probably won’t go. We’ve seen quite a few gross and offensive films promoted as comedy come out in the last few years — such as Borat, Austin Powers movies, and others; no wonder Americans are hated when this sort of trash is foisted on the world; it’s an embarrassment that anyone would think that this low-brow so-called humor is typical of Americans. Clearly Tropic Thunder is just one more example of this kind of garbage; I once believed that it couldn’t get any worse than Leslie Nielsen flicks; I was so wrong.

    I am the proud parent of an eleven year old with a significant cognitive disability; she clearly has a better sense of humor than these jokers — only when she is joking, the joke is usually on us! Those who are familiar with the sad history of how individuals with disabilities have been mocked, ridiculed, tortured and mis-used for the cruel amusement of others tend to find this kind of display much more than harmless fun.

    Be a discerning consumer — we have the right to boycott this movie, and to influence our friends and families to do the same. Hurt ‘em in the pocket-book; it’s probably the most effective way to change the tune of these folks who go lower than low to get a laugh at the expense of the dignity of other human beings. Some things just aren’t funny…

    P.S. How does Adam Sandler get away with the same nonsense?

  102. Johanna Mattern Allen Says:

    This link no longer seems to work (thankfully). Do we think DreamWorks removed it?

    There’s still a reference to “Simple Jack” here: http://www.tuggspeedman.com/

    Yet another site created to promote the actor who played the lead in the “movie within the movie.”

    Has someone heard reason? Could this be a teeny step in the right direction?

  103. Kathryn Mesward Says:

    I can hardly believe that DreamWorks and its parent company, Paramount, can wield such insensitivity toward those with intellectual disabilities as to use the word r#tard to get laughs. My daughter, Abigail, who has Down syndrome, has more love for others than these so-called creative writers and their executives who don’t mind exploiting weakness to boost their box office. I will be spreading the word about this offensive film, its actors and its company.

  104. Grow Up Says:

    Get a life. Can’t you find anything more comical than someone else’s handicap? Sad to think that in the year 2008 some people are still so small-minded that they find humor in other people’s humiliation.

  105. jamie ogiba Says:

    This unreal that in this day something like this is able to go on. I had at one time respect for the films that DreamWorks put out. I will let everybody know why not to watch this.

  106. C. Kramlich Says:

    As a parent of two children with disabilities and the teacher of countless other students with disabilities, I find it unacceptable that a movie would advertise itself with such language.

    The word “retard” is not a word that anyone should be promoting in any way. It does not and should not define a person. It is, without a doubt, one of the worst pejoratives that is still being used today.

    The audience that is likely to enjoy this movie is exactly the audience that is most likely to be easily influenced by the language and message in the movie.

    I truly wish Hollywood would use their “gift” of influencing for good rather than evil.

  107. Heidi J. Moore Says:

    As a proud parent of a child with Down syndrome and an advocate for individuals with disabilities in Georgia, I am completely sick with disappointment that a large studio could not have more of a heart! This continues to show us that we must advocate for change and understanding of how hurtful these things can be.

    Education is the key to helping those that are not impacted by disabilities understand how hurtful words can be. Obviously, DreamWorks Pictures needs some help in this area.

    I just pray that they listen to the public and retract this hideous film and the language it uses!

    How are we ever going to be able to build acceptance in society when large studios continue to be irresponsible for the language they use and the people it hurts?

  108. Mary Jo Says:

    As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I work with many children diagnosed as having a developmental disability, or as cognitively impaired, or mentally challenged.

    I frequently help these children learn how to interact in their environment and with people in socially appropriate ways. We work hard on building up the courage to interact with peers and interacting appropriately, playing with peers, asking adults for help when needed, etc. All the things that come naturally to “typically developing” children.

    Imagine what happens if the rest of the world continues to think the word “retard” is acceptable (and funny at that). A child who has been working very hard on developing social skills gets the courage to ask another child to play on the playground, and then gets called a “retard” and laughed at because that child saw a movie such as this one by Mr. Stiller.

    As children we were all made fun of at one time or another in our lives. Can you think back to how hurtful that was for you? But what if it is a child with special needs… a child who can’t fully understand what happened or why the child was mean? A child who can’t fully understand the explanation, “sometimes people are just mean and we have to ignore them”.

    The word “retard” is not okay in the context being used by Stiller in this movie, and he, as well as DreamWorks, needs to know that.

  109. M Pachorek Says:

    As a parent of two children with special needs, I find this very offensive. Not only is it disrespectful, it is sending a message to young adults, children and others who are easily influenced that it is okay to belittle and make fun of those with special needs.

    Movies have such a high profile and reach a vast audience. Is this the type of message that we want to send? I think not!! I for one will not support anything that perpetuates the use of such language and I hope that others will follow our lead and not lend their support to this offensive material.

  110. Fernando Gomez Says:

    The best way to get the studios attention is to boycott the film. Do not buy tickets. Spread the word to family and friends. The fewer tickets they sell, the better the lesson.

    In addition, this is a great opportunity to connect with the studios and help educate on the harmful effect their ignorance causes. Their insensitivity to a very dynamic and beautiful group needs to be exposed and standards set so this doesn’t happen again. I hope the studio execs are reading this blog and taking it to heart. We are a family of movie goers but are now considering not only, not seeing this insensitive film but any future films of Mr. Stiller.


  111. Leticia Velasquez Says:

    It’s time that those of us who love people with intellectual disabilities stood up for them, and drew the line at the “R” word. When they used it in “Napoleon Dynamite” gear, advocates complained, and it was removed.

    Sounds like a another time when swift action is needed.

    My child has intellectual challenges which are no joke, and I am deeply offended by the tag line and the story line of this film.

  112. m wagner Says:

    My family and I enjoy comedy and enjoy watching Ben Stiller on the big screen. However, this movie concerns me both in the type of language that is being used and in the picture that it presents to depict a person with special needs.

    Being a mother of a four, one with special needs, I personally find it offensive. We are trying to weave our special needs children into society and have them be accepted and tolerated. Forrest Gump and Rain Man did not have a boy who has bucked teeth as a promo for the movie. Does Ben Stiller have any children? I bet if he had a special needs child he wouldn’t be doing a movie like this. We will boycott this movie, and he will lose loyal fans!

  113. Sallie Says:

    I am completely and totally HORRIFIED that a movie like this could be released in this day and age. I hope that the studio and all of the actors involved are deeply embarrassed.

    I will boycott this movie. I have forwarded an email to more than 100 people, asking that they, their family and friends also boycott this atrocious movie.

    The studio ought to do more than apologize — they ought to donate any proceeds to causes that benefit individuals with special needs. And to some internal education classes for their staff and writers! FOR SHAME!!

  114. Catherine Says:

    Mental retardation is nothing to be made fun of. I am shocked and disgusted that such a movie would be made by such a large production company. It’s unfortunate that the “r” word is still socially acceptable.

    I’ll definitely be boycotting and sending this link to everyone I know.

  115. Edward Says:

    I think that is offensive and know that there is some other subject that could be used in this place in the movie. I happen to like the actors in this film; however, this dialogue, especially the word “retard,” needs to be removed from the film.

  116. Lauren Says:

    How pathetic that Hollywood victimizes the mentally disabled through the demeaning use of the “R” word. Vote with your feet, don’t see the movie. All that matters in Hollywood is the money generated from a movie. If it doesn’t make a good box office showing it will be pulled.

    Disgusting. And I thought Downey, Black and Stiller were comedians, not bullies making fun of the handicapped. Cheap trick.

  117. Lynn Says:

    I am appalled at the release of this film. I have a child who is developmentally delayed and physically handicapped. We struggle daily for his acceptance into society and do not need an inaccurate portrayal of a “retard” in theaters to further give audiences a reason to make fun of children who cannot defend themselves. I will not support this movie or others that use these actors.

  118. Diane Saliceti Says:

    As a parent of a son with Down syndrome, I can honestly say that I have not normally been offended by casual slang remarks using the word “retard”. I assume that the person saying it does not intentionally intend on hurting me or my son and obviously has little knowledge and experience involving children with disabilities.

    However, I can find no excuse for defending its use or the grossly inaccurate stereotype portrayed in Tropic Thunder. It is cruel to make fun of people who are unable to defend themselves, even if the intent is not to hurt or offend. I won’t be seeing the movie. I’m afraid I would be the only one in the theater with tears in my eyes … and it wouldn’t be from laughter.

  119. Joe Says:

    I am extremely disappointed. As talented as Jack Black and Ben Stiller are, I am surprised they felt the need to stoop to something like this for a movie. I understand they might be making fun of the movie industry but they should keep in mind the people that they are hurting.

  120. Nancy Says:

    This more than just about disabilities. When is the American public going to quit being dumbed down to by the junk the majority of the movie industry produces? You are what you think about. The producers must not be much.

  121. Andrea Dorn Says:

    VERY disappointing. What Hollywood, the writers and actors don’t understand is that they are saying it’s ‘okay’ to mock people with special needs.

    The demographics that they are reaching out to are the very people that my son will be integrated with as he becomes an adult. This is the very thing that breaks my heart for his future and what people would view as ‘acceptable’ behavior toward him as well as the words that they use which are, in fact, hurtful and offensive.

  122. Laurent Dugois Says:

    Dear Ms. Bauer,

    It is hard to believe that DreamWorks did not assess the potential consequences of using the word “retard”.

    No matter what they say, please let them know how much it is hurtful for parents with children with disabilities.

    You may find it funny when your life is not touched by it. But please tell them that for a lot of us, it is not only not funny, it is worse: it is insulting, saddening and cheap.

    Good luck

  123. M. Says:

    Why would a movie like this even be made? What on earth are they trying to prove? How very sad! Never would I go to a movie like this. I try to protect my children from cruel people such as everyone connected to this movie. Shame on you all.

  124. Greg Hillegas Says:

    Life is too short to take things so seriously.

    Ben Stiller is a good man who takes risks comedically to show us all how silly we can be. If you’ve seen his entire body of work and read interviews with him you can glean this.

    Humor is subjective, as is beauty and many other things in this world. From where I am sitting, I see Ben Stiller as a smart and witty guy, trying to make some money doing what he loves. Making movies. Sometimes he hits a hits a home run, sometimes he goes down swinging, but At least he’s trying to bring joy into the world making silly funny, thought provoking films.

    The term retarded was once an acceptable term to use both in medicine and in conversation. I have many books from the 1960′s that use that word all the time, and no one was offended back then it seems.

    Is “developmentally disabled” the correct term this month?
    Do I need to say Handi-capable?

    What word has been created by this or that organization to spin their cause a different way?

    All I know is Ben’s heart is in the right place, people take things that really don’t matter too seriously, while ignoring horrific injustices across the globe that really should be receiving much of our attention (if we pretend to really care about being good Christians, good atheists, or just caring people in general, and grammar on the internet is atrocious these days…what with run on sentences and fragments like this everywhere.

    Viva la Satire and pointed wit!

  125. Raul Trujillo Says:

    Why am I not surprised?
    I hope I don’t offend anyone in my comments: It seems to me that R***RD is the new and accepted word that has replaced N***ER. African Americans finally complained enough that Holllywood paid attention. I for one think it is time to stand up an say no more. It is offensive

  126. Joan Says:

    As a parent and a special educator, I am extremely disappointed in both these actors, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. I have followed Robert Downey, Jr.’s career as a distinguished actor, as well as his personal trials with addiction. I would have thought that he would show more sensitivity toward individuals who suffer from illnesses and disabilities over which they have no control. While Ben Stiller’s job has always been to go for the big laugh, I have never observed such crass insensitivity to group of innocent people. Mr. Jerry Stiller and Ms. Anne Meara: you need to speak to your son; I don’t believe you raised him to act this way.

  127. Diane Polito Says:

    What else can we expect from others that have never stood in our shoes. Hollywood and writers will stop at nothing. No matter who they hurt. It’s all about money.

  128. Donna Brinkman Says:

    The Term “Retard” should only be used in medical context and not as a slang word!! Do you refer to people who have cancer as “hey cancer guy” or do you say “hey Ms. Alcoholic”?

  129. Jonathan Miller Says:

    Give ‘em hell, Ms Bauer!

  130. Alexia Says:

    I work with special needs children and their families and I hate the word “retard” as most of you do.

    I just want to say that I find what many of you are saying to be humorous. That is … many of you are saying that you are crossing Ben Stiller off your list of actors. Have you seen other movies he’s been in? Zoolander? Meet the Parents? Anchorman? Dodgeball? He is well-known for being in movies that portray people as “stupid” or “retarded”. When I saw the trailer for Tropic Thunder, it looked like just another one of his movies to me.

    I can understand people not wanting to see this movie … but if you are going to make such a big deal out of a movie having the word “retard” in it, then take a look at some of the other movies you have seen…maybe even some of your favorite movies … where racial and other kinds of slurs are used. Have you ever laughed at a movie that has jokingly thrown around the “N” word?

  131. Luke Says:

    As a college instructor of English, literature, and writing (including screenwriting), I have to admit that I could, almost, buy the idea that this film is trying to poke fun at Hollywood actors’ willingness to exploit the disabled (or anything else) in their race toward an Oscar. I can also imagine that they (the writers) are making mean preadolescent jokes under the fig leaf of “laughing at ourselves.”

    Here’s the simple test: Call Mr. Stiller. Tell him your concerns about possible damage to the disabled community. Let him voice his (comic/literary) reasoning. Be open. If you buy it, give him an opportunity to dedicate a full day of his time to the benefit of disabled persons. If he’s in, take him up on it as a signal that his heart’s in the right place. Then we’ll know if he’s to be included among the insensitive profiteers he claims to be mocking, or not. There’ll be a laughs all around — which we could all use — and it could do some serious good for the differently abled community at the same time.

    One last thought: In The Jerk, Steve Martin used the “N” word. Pretty dangerous. In a very sophisticated fashion, he poked fun at the word itself, which takes away some of its power. Did his movie depict African Americans in a good light or a bad light? (In the end, he returns to his trusted and loving African American family with his bride.) My point: the use of a restricted word is not, in and of itself, proof of insensitivity. If Mr. Stiller were too busy to spend a single day of his life with some nice folks in the disabled community — okay, now that would be proof.

  132. S. Says:

    I WAS a Ben Stiller fan…

    I find it extremely offensive.

  133. Angela Sadler Says:

    Nancy, I am sorry you won’t be able to avoid this type of offense, or shield your children from the over-exposure. My doctor would pose the question to me:
    Won’t or can’t?
    Are you Bipolar or do you have Bipolar? Your entire world is not defined by your disability.

    When the morning shows, Oprah, People magazine, Time, all turn over this big, ugly rock and this word — retard — gets blasted by soooooooooooooooooo much publicity, (and yes, the word will get said), other advocacy groups will outcry.

    The rat’s out of the bag. Our loved ones are safe due to the very fact that we have built the moat long ago. And when we found no bridge, we hopped over the alligators to get home. Let’s stop telling each other what lengths we’ll go protect what’s already well-protected and turn it outward.

    Long before my sisters were born with chromosomal defects, long before my mental illness was diagnosed, I was raised by ordinary people who used the words retard, crazy, foaming at the mouth, a pet cat named nigger, and I had no clue any word or inference was ignorant, hateful, wrong.

    I still know these people. Maybe some of you do, too. Rallying is inspirational and empowering, but frankly …
    we’re preaching to the choir.

    I can’t wait to see Oprah. Bring it on.

  134. Nancy Iannone Says:

    Angela, unfortunately with the way movies are advertised and funny one-liners are added to the vernacular, I won’t be able to avoid this or shield my children by not attending the film.

    A couple of years ago there was a kids’ movie that had an offensive one-liner. I avoided it. But for weeks, whenever I’d go onto to “On Demand” to play a Barney show for my daughter, everyone in the room had to hear that line over and over on the advertisements that run while selecting a show.

    With this movie (I’m sure much more of a blockbuster considering the cast), I’m sure I’ll see clips on every talk show and have to overhear that snappy R-word one-liner over & over on TV and eventually by the public. It’s so disheartening.

  135. Carey Says:

    I’ve read these articles and ads on “Tropic Thunder”. In an ideal world the hurtful and negative semantics and stereotypes portrayed by this film would not be used to describe human beings. Needless to say we do not live as part of the ideal.

    From what I’ve read, this movie does nothing but degrade the human spirit. We should allow and enable people to prosper, to live well in a society that respects them for who they are, and the gifts they have to give others.

    Sadly, this movie will reinforce negative misperceptions about people with disabilities.

  136. Vonda Says:

    I believe if these actors had a child with a disability they may feel differently. It’s a shame that innocent children with special needs have to be made fun of to get a laugh. Shame on you all. A few more actors to cross off my list.

  137. Angela Sadler Says:

    This is certainly an extreme movie, satirizing MANY subjects on MANY levels. Its main goal, I believe, is a great big f*** you to Paramount Studios.

    Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. have all done great movies for all audiences. However, I would like to point out that they all have the disability of bipolar disorder. Most actors do. It’s probably why we have such horrendous entertainment in the summer months.

    I have bipolar. After working and fighting it for 20 years, I now live on SSDI. If you put these guys in a forum of policy-making wearing suits, I wouldn’t want sharper advocates.

    Look, bipolar disability causes huge lapses in judgment and decision making. We’re not known for being kind-hearted or sweet-natured.

    The movies are making fun of the movies, all the way down to the soundtrack. Using a person with real intellectual disabilities would have been tragic and exploitive. It is understood that no animals were harmed in the making of any movie, although it seems damned real at times.

    Part of the responsibility of having a disability of the mind, what ever the spectrum, is advocating one’s rightful place along with everyone else. This means accepting the fact that we’re going to get spoofed in Hollywood along with everyone else.

    Spread the word: don’t see the movie if you can’t hear the “R” word. And it is a good idea not to take your kids, because it is, after all, “R” rated.

    I’m not tough because I’m disabled.
    I’m disabled because I’m tough.


  138. jennifergg Says:

    How disappointing. I’m all for a good laugh, but for a long time now, I’ve been teaching my children that one doesn’t need to make fun of others to find humor. I’m afraid this movie will give people tacit “permission” to slide back to the tired, old stereotypes I had so hoped we’d begun to erase.

  139. Sandy Says:

    I have been a big fan of Robert Downey Jr., and have also enjoyed the silly comedy of Ben Stiller and Jack Black, but this movie crosses the line. I always wonder if these insensitive, thoughtless people would still conduct themselves this way if someone was laughing at the expense of their own children.

    Naively, I thought we might have been making progress to remove the word from our vernacular. Sadly, seeing these popular actors use this type of language will just give others license to do the same. Ben Stiller is dead in our household.

  140. Ibby Says:

    Oh dear…How very disappointing!! And I really liked these actors prior to this! None for me, thanks!! And I won’t forget this either … You’ve messed with the wrong Mama!! We have a dear child who is differently abled. So as much as they might think this is comedy, it is personal!!

  141. Nancy Iannone Says:

    Just as I’m trying to educate friends and family on exactly how harmful that word is, one of my favorite actors is creating memorable quotes throwing it around. UGH. Anybody who thinks it’s “no big deal” should read Dave Hinsburger’s essay here:


  142. John A Smith Says:

    I am organizing everyone I know to boycott this movie as it has this negative stereotype in it. We will also boycott future Stiller movies as he wrote it up. Fox News banned the use of the word “retard” in 2006 as they know it leads to bullying and cruelty to kids and youth with mental disabilities. If someone starts organizing picket lines with signs that say “Retard is Hate Speech” and “Cruel Stereotypes Kill Kids with Intellectual disabilities”, we will be the first on the line…

    – dad of disabled dude

  143. Corinne Adams Says:

    I am incredulous. Bad, bad, bad. Even disgusting. I used to love these two actors; no longer. They should know better. Pat, thanks for bringing this discussion into the light.

  144. Hayley Says:

    It’s complete ignorance that leads people to do and say the things they do. The regrets will come when they begin to see that those who know, love or are people with disabilities will not stand for this. People with Down syndrome are great folks! I’ll wait for the apologies, because I know they will be coming.

  145. Robin Says:

    My family will definitely not be seeing this movie. My children have been raised to not use the word “retard”. Obviously the powers that be in Hollywood were not given the same opportunity to see how wonderful people with Developmental Disabilities truly can be. It’s sad that big name actors would stoop so low to make a buck!

  146. Mary Muller Says:

    A movie based on making fun of disabilities comes across as dated, lazy, and desperate. Ben Stiller is obviously trying to appeal to the 15 – 30 year old demographic but didn’t take the time to write a real comedy. Cynical, profit-driven, shallow. Stiller, Downey, and Black will regret their involvement with this fiasco.

  147. Amy Allison Says:

    It is extremely unfortunate when Hollywood chooses to ridicule people with developmental disabilities to make a quick buck. Tropic Thunder’s taglines “Once Upon a Time There Was A Retard” and “What He Doesn’t Have in His Head He Makes Up For In His Heart” are completely inappropriate, tasteless, and offensive.

    I hope The Arc will continue to pursue the opportunity to screen the film and make recommendations for changes to any derogatory content.

    The studios have likely underestimated the outraged responses they will receive from millions of parents, siblings, extended family members and professionals who all deem the world a better place because of their connection to a person with a developmental disability.

  148. Anne Says:

    This is disgusting, but let’s be honest, people will do ANYTHING for money. My own children certainly won’t be seeing this movie but then, my own children don’t use the word “retard” either.

  149. Lori Says:

    I, for one, will not see the movie. I see no humor in making fun of a group of people who cannot defend themselves. It just encourages people to use the word in a casual and demeaning way. Like it or not, Hollywood sets an example, and in this movie you made a very poor choice.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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