Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Just the facts … about ‘Tropic Thunder’

August 8th, 2008

Here’s some data about the film, gleaned from an advance screening of “Tropic Thunder” arranged for me this afternoon by DreamWorks/Paramount.

This post attempts to assemble information that may help readers and advocates frame their own opinions about questions that have been raised about the language used in the film and its marketing, and the portrayal of the character of Simple Jack.

– The Background –

“Tropic Thunder” is a big-budget, R-rated summer comedy made by DreamWorks/Paramount and directed and co-written by Ben Stiller, who also stars. The movie plot centers around a group of pampered actors who are lost in the jungle while making a war movie. Stiller’s character, Tugg Speedman, is presented as a fading action hero who earlier failed in his bid for Oscar glory while portraying Simple Jack, a character with an intellectual disability. Speedman’s portrayal of Simple Jack is featured as a movie within the movie.

A national coalition of disability advocacy groups has objected to the frequent use of the word “retard” in “Tropic Thunder” and its promotional materials. Early promotion of the film described Simple Jack as a “retard” and an elaborate DreamWorks marketing website that was taken down this week in response to complaints carried the tagline “Once upon a time … There was a retard.”

One scene that has been much discussed on the internet is the one in which Robert Downey Jr.’s character advises Stiller’s character to “Never go full retard.”

The term “retard” has been characterized by disability rights advocates as hate speech that heaps insult and possible harm on a group that has a long history of being stigmatized and vulnerable. They compare it with racial, ethnic and sexual epithets and stereotypes that have historically been used by majority groups to target and humiliate minority groups.

Studio executives have said the film is a comic satire intended to josh actors and the entertainment industry, not people with disabilities. They say the film plays broadly for laughs, offers equal offense to all groups, and is intended only as entertainment without a deeper subtext.

Stiller’s performance as Simple Jack is visible in the film from beginning to end, and provides a critical plot point needed to advance the film to its conclusion. The plot involving Simple Jack, and Stiller’s portrayal of the character, occupy close to 30 minutes of screen time. In character, Stiller speaks in a stilted, stuttering, adenoidal fashion, and wears overalls, bad false teeth and a classic institutional bowl haircut.

The film premieres Monday and is scheduled for nationwide release on Wednesday. As of this writing, promised screenings of the film for disability rights advocates have been postponed until Monday, the day the film premieres.

– The Tally (all approximate) —

Number of repetitions of the word “retard” or its variations: At least 16 in the “full retard” scene, not counting the uses of words like “idiot,” “moron,” “moronical,” “imbecile,” “stupid,” “dumb” and “the dumbest M*****F***** that ever lived.” All are used to describe the character of Simple Jack, who is described in an introductory segment as a “mentally impaired farm hand who can talk to animals.”

Number of repetitions of the word “nigger”: Once, said by a black character criticizing a character pretending to be black.

Number of uses of other racial/ethnic/sexual epithets: None observed.

Also observed:

  • Mocking references to gay people and fat people;
  • One character portrayed as a white man who has darkened his skin to play a black man. A black character criticizes him several times for impersonating a black man.
  • Extensive use of vulgar humor and profanity. (For example, number of variations of the word “F***”: Far too many to count accurately. Fart jokes are prominently featured.)
  • Many jokes about the shallowness, self-involvement and ignorance of actors and Hollywood executives in general.

– The Scenes –

In a filmed “television report” on Speedman’s portrayal of Simple Jack, Stiller stutters in a stereotypical fashion through lines like “I’ve got a G-G-G-G-G-good brain” and “You M-m-m-m-m make me happy.” The television interviewer (Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos) responds in a mocking tone, saying, “Can Speedman M-m-m-m-make audiences happy?”

In a conversation with his agent, played by Mathew McConaughey, Stiller’s Speedman talks about his plans to adopt a child. “At least you get to choose yours,” says the agent, looking sadly at a photograph of himself with a slack-faced teenaged boy who appears to have an intellectual disability. “I’m stuck with mine.” (The teenaged boy turns up with his father on an airplane later in the movie, staring vacantly out the window.)

The “full retard” scene between Stiller’s Speedman and Robert Downey Jr.’s Kirk Lazarus is more extensive than the clip distributed on the internet. Among the lines not included in the Internet version:

Stiller: You know, it was an intense experience, you know? I just did the work. I watched a lot of retarded people, spent time with them, observed them, watched all the retarded stuff they did …..

… In a weird way, I had to free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.

(Exchange with Downey Jr.) To be a moron. to be moronical. To be a moron. To be an imbecile. To be the dumbest M**** F***** that ever lived … Stupid ass Jack.

Stiller: By the end of it I was like, wait a minute. I’ve flushed so much out … how am I going to jump start it up again?

Downey: Yeah, you was farting in the bathtub, laughing your ass off …

In a motorized poster in his agent’s office, Simple Jack is seen hitting butterflies with a sledgehammer.

Stiller is made to re-enact Simple Jack to entertain his captors, and dons a coconut wig, improvised overalls and borrowed dentures to act the part. When he doesn’t perform the way they like, they hit him and say “more stupid.”

Stiller (at bedside of dying mother): Good night mama. Now you can have ice cream in heaven. I see you tonight when I go to bed in my head movies. But this head movie makes my eyes rain. (Copious weeping)

See also:

99 Responses to “Just the facts … about ‘Tropic Thunder’”

  1. Bo Says:

    Good god you people are annoying. If ‘nigger’ isn’t hate speech then retard certainly isn’t. Who cares that people said retard, they aren’t calling your personal family retards. People need to pick their battles. I think you are all looking for a fight.

    As a physically disabled person who spends much time around the mentally handicapped I see clearly that society has changed. Retard is no longer a malicious term rather a social euphamism. Actually when talking about the MH I see most people use more subtle terms.

    Bottom line lighten up, I don’t freak out every time I hear the word cripple because my life is too damn good to sweat the small stuff. Your kids are a blessing not a cause so start acting like it.

  2. Wendy Says:

    I think that we have taken things way too far in our society today. We are a nation that is very easily offended. However, we are also a nation that doesn’t stop and think before we speak. I thank whoever put the information together regarding the content of this movie and I will be sure not to watch it.

    I have the privilege to work with people with developmental disabilities and mental retardation and they are among the most caring, real, and loving people in my life. Why would anyone who knows anyone with these disabilities ever say anything that would hurt them? What people need to do is to stop and get to know one another and use words that are encouraging and uplifting and not hateful in any way. Thank you

  3. threeboys Says:

    First let me start by saying that I have not seen the movie. Our third son is five years old with Down Syndrome and he is the love of our lives. And by that I don’t only mean our families lives but everyone that knows him. I have never thought of him as a ‘retard’. Does he have different needs? Yes, but don’t we all sometimes?

    A good friend of mine once, soon after he was born, apologized to me for saying her dog was retarded in front of me. She was so upset about it and soon after apologized all over the place to me. The funny thing is is that I didn’t even remember her saying it. As she was apologizing and crying, I explained to her that I never thought of him that way so it went right over my head.

    I am not offended by the words ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’. I do however pity those who use it as a means to insult someone. Is that someone my son? Absolutely not!!!! He brings out the best in everyone that knows him and is a complete joy. That is something not many of us can say about ourselves.

  4. Really Says:

    Sheree…..For someone who is all about standing up for people, not saying things that might hurt someone elses feelings, etc. Telling someone that they need a psychologist for voicing their own opinion in a free country is just as bad. And as for this whole protest, I think you all just want to be noticed! I really don’t think that any of this has to do with the word “retard” as you all claim. It’s just an excuse for you all to annoy the rest of us who didn’t find this movie offensive in any way!

  5. Sheree Says:

    What an uneducated statement! Yes, you can absolutely consider the “R” word a hate word. It absolutely CAN be catergorized with the word “nigger”!
    Let me explain something to you, a little educational guidence.. Years ago when black people were slaves (Not all slaves came from Africa)and even after these people were freed from slavery, the US government refered to these individuals, in census reports as Negro’s. The word “Nigger” was derived from there. Fortuately the government has taken the word negro out of the catergories listed.
    The Social Security Administration, has recently taken the words mental retardation out of the governmental terminology and categories. Mental retardation has been replaced with developemental disorders or cognitive deficits. So yes, the government recognizes the negative impact that both of these words have inflicted upon other people, both of race and abilities.
    If you feel so strongly and oppose the word Nigger to the extent that you have indicated, by all means start your own campaign and rally against the use of this word! You state that this particular word is intended to “hurt and discredit black people” I agree with you in that aspect and I do not say that word or teach my children to be racists! If you have a spanish dictionary, why don’t you take a look at how the spanish speeking population pronounce the color black… I have no issues with people of different cultures, races or religion. However, I do find your “double standard” state of mind to be of interest and concern. You may want to look under the “P’s” in the yellow pages for a psychologist that may be able to help you with your issues! Good Luck!

  6. S Says:

    I honestly think this is a huge over-reaction. A couple of points,

    *Retard* isn’t hate speech, *Nigger* is.
    Ben Stiller doesn’t hate people with disabilities because he uses it in the movie.

    People use the word *nigger* when they want to hurt or discredit black people. (I don’t use the term African-American on purpose, it offends my friends from Jamaica who are black and aren’t African)

    This is the definition of “retard”, and why it was used for disabled people
    Retard (re tard)
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.

    The reason “retard” is now a bad connotation for people with disabilities is because it was associated with disabled people in the first place. When it was no longer acceptable to refer to someone as retarded, the proper term then became handicapped, which now is no longer acceptable either. In 5 years, disabled will no longer be accepted and a new term will come into play and all the people who are using disabled will be looked down on as ignorant and uncaring.

    Let’s just call everyone with disabilities “super awesome cool people”, it will make everyone happy for about a year, until nobody wants to be called awesome anymore and it becomes a derogatory word that nobody uses.

    I don’t think most of the people here really care about disabled people, if they did they would just ignore the movie. The movie would sell a couple tickets leave the theater in two weeks and disappear on the blockbuster comedy shelf next to “Ghost Dad”. Instead, you’ve all dedicated a huge amount of time tooting your self-righteous horn and look at how right I am. In the process you’ve given a mediocre movie tons of publicity and increased ticket sales.

    At the end of the day all of you are forgetting about free speech. Sorry, but free speech includes things that you’re not always going to agree with.

    At the end of the day, it’s just a movie, a very mediocre movie with bad jokes that’s meant to be funny. All of you would realize that if you weren’t retarded.

  7. Jeanette Says:

    By the way,

    “. . . [A]rt is valid for the warmth and love it carries within it, even if it be the lightest entertainment, or the bitterest satire, or the most shattering tragedy.” – Leonard Bernstein

  8. Jeanette Says:

    The first time in recent history that I heard the r-word in the media was Matt Dillon’s character in “Something About Mary”. It was obvious, when he was callous toward Mary’s brother and his friends, we are supposed to be appalled with him – to see him as a clueless, selfish jerk.

    Stiller should have been sophistacted enough to understand the character development when he appeared in that film.

    The words we speak and the ideas we put forth define who we are. Character development doesn’t just happen in the movies, but in real life.

    Eveidently, those who are responsible for this film want us to see them as cluless, selfish jerks – otherwise, they can’t be any good at what they do.

  9. Yaremi P. Says:

    Put me on the list for boycotting ‘Tropic Thunder’
    thanks, Yaremi

  10. TVDSA President Says:

    After reading several of the comments here and elsewhere on this topic, I think the single biggest problem is that a lot of people are completely missing the point… Yes it is “just a movie” and yes the movie has wide ranging offensive commentary on a variety of areas. That is not really the primary concern.
    I consider myself to be fairly “thick-skinned”, having been in the military and able to “cuss like a sailor” with the best of them. My point here is that I am not easily offended, However as a father of a 7 year old with Down syndrome this really hits home for me – and THAT is the point. If this, or anything else for that matter, is offensive to even ONE person, no one has the right to tell them to “get a life” or “give it a rest”. I submit that this IS my life and I choose to support change regarding the use of this and other hate speech as I see first hand how it affects me and my family as well as so many others around us every day. Some will say that it was not directed at anyone in particular or that they are “just acting”. Well, acting and movies do mirror our society and can affect changes for both good and bad – so given the opportunity, what would you choose? And in the end, that is really all this movie is – an opportunity. It does not matter if you like the movie, hate it or never see it – it simply gives us an opportunity to say no to words like “retard”, “retarded” and other similar hate speech, regardless of it’s origin, target or meaning – however benign.
    The fact that some do not find it offensive at all gives me pause – How or when has the word “retard” or “retarded” ever been considered positive?
    I hope that people will see the big picture here and regardless of the catalyst, seize the opportunity to say NO to this type of speech and support others in that cause.

  11. Joe C Says:

    It’s just a movie. It is rated R wich means only adults should watch it and they can also use their adult discretion. As far as children watching the movie, they shuld have been stopped by their parents and if their parents raised them right they would know that it is not a word you are supposed to use. I am gay and I have no rights at all! You don’t see me trying to boycott every movie that says fag. I think that mentally and physically challenged individuals should be happy that they have rights and the state even recognizes they exist

  12. m-dogg Says:

    You know, it’s customary to warn your readers if there are SPOILERS in your article. I feel like I’ve practically seen the whole damn movie, but with none of Stiller’s or Downey’s humor …

  13. Raquel Says:

    Like many, I have not seen this movie; but have heard much about the issues at hand. I understand that the rating of this movie is R-rated and as everyone else knows that should be for adult viewing only…unfortunately, children of all ages will still view this movie and the terrible language will continue to be funny to them as well as their “should know better” parents.

    They (parents and children) may not know this now; but in thier lives, they will know some individual who may be “different” then they are and it may be someone who could possibly donate an organ to them or someone that they care about or may have their own life saved from a special needs individual.

    Just my opinion; but maybe as parents, we need to spend a little more time explaining to our wonderful children the miracles and blessings that we are given each and every day. Everyone is special in their own unique way, so why not concentrate on that instead of pointing fingers and blowing whistles at someone who is different then oneself…

    We are individuals, all of us. Lets try to treat each other with more respect and teach little ones how to be respectful of others…you will never know what you will be handed in life and wouldn’t it be better to know that you were caring and maybe made a difference in someones life for the better?!

    With all of this said, parents, God-parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles…if you do view this type of movie and your thoughts are clear on letting your children, God-children, nieces, nephews see it as well, that is up to you; but then maybe as elders and adults, may want to speak with your children after the viewing and have a conversation with them about it.

    Maybe it would be a good learning experience and life lesson that they may one day have with their own children. Could be an important part of their lives.

  14. S Says:

    Sadly, this movie reflects society. Unfortunately, there is a greater and far more institutionalized problem than Dream Works. The use of the r-word has become common and a part of a general vocabulary. It is far too comfortable and natural for individuals to use this word in a derogatory nature. This movie has called our attention to the abuse. I have been greatly troubled by Tropic Thunder and for awhile I was content to just rant about those involved making the movie. Now I think it is time for us to use the movie as a turning point in the frontier for educating the general public. Tropic Thunder has demonstrated the extreme prejudices those with disabilities face, and now it is our turn to change these incorrect beliefs and hurtful actions. Before Tropic Thunder I cringed whenever I heard someone say the r-word, but I stayed silent. Now,because of this movie I will tell people to not to use the r-word and explain why it is offensive. Let us rise to action and finally put an end to the derogatory use of the r-word and false stereotypes.

  15. Aaron S. Says:

    Look people, it’s just a freakin movie! They’re making fun of actors and the choices they make to earn that stupid little golden trophy!

    I had a cousin, who passed away at the age of 16. He was born with water in the brain and he became mentally challenged. I just recently saw this movie with my aunt (his mother) and we both loved the movie and weren’t even at the slightest offended by the movie. It’s just a movie and none of you who have mentally challenged family members should take it seriously.

    Now, takin’ the movie waaaayyy too seriously on scenes with the term “retard” is just RETARDED!!!

  16. GetALife Says:

    I saw this movie and enjoyed it thoroughly. Many people who are commenting on this movie obviously haven’t seen it; it is not the purpose of the movie to mock special needs people. It was however satirizing the idea of a bad movie idea with horrible acting. Many of the instances that people on here are complaining about are taken out of context and being redirected towards people they were not meant for. The WHOLE movie is making fun of ACTORS! Pay attention and you will see. Also I am not a person who is insensitive to the defacing of special needs people. I have an autistic family member and I have worked with the Special Olympics organization and donated my time as a volunteer swim coach for 5 years of my life, and I love every second of it. I hope that you will not let the views of a few radical people who have taken this movie WAY out of context change your mind about this movie.

  17. Reality Says:

    I always supported people with intellectual disabilities. We kept for more than 12 years someone with this problem and who had been abandoned by his own family. I always respect them and their fighting spirit to make their place in this world, but I must confess my disagreement with the opinion of Mr. Peter Wheeler against the movie ”Tropic Thunder”. This movie wants to reflect the profiteers who use by trickery a handicap or illness which they do not suffer to promote their own interest in life; just by pure profit or for more opportunity. I think in that way Mr.Peter Wheeler does not protect the interests of this population, but rather to hide the people who abuse the system to obtain some favor, and it is wrong to not admit this fact. There are profiteers everywhere, so why keep silent?

  18. come on people Says:

    Let me say that I have worked with people with disabilities for over 10 years. My work in that field has changed my life. I am a better person because of it. Some of those people I work(ed) with mean the world to me. But, come on people. This movie is rated R for a reason. I saw it, and it didn’t offend me.

    No one said anything when “Something about Mary” was making millions at the box office. The r-word was used in that movie.

    No one said anything when MTV star Johnny Knoxville made the movie “The Ringer” and pretended to have disabilities to win the Special Olympics. The r-word was used in that movie.

    Why now?

    First of all, this is a free country. There have been plenty of movies over the years that were offensive to me or to you or to other people. You know what? We didn’t have to watch them. I’m glad I live in a country where people have the freedom to make a movie about whatever they want. If someone made a movie that was specifically about me, and its soul purpose was to degrade and insult me….I sure wouldn’t like it or want to see it. I would be offended by it. But that doesn’t mean I would want other people to boycott it or protest the artist’s right to make it.

    Half of you people on here complaining probably have not even seen this movie. If this movie offends you, do not see it. But, be proud that you live in a country that has freedom of press and freedom of speech. Not everyone does.

  19. Really? Says:

    I just find it funny that this movie is (according to the news yesterday) the #1 movie in the nation, and on top of that, no one can stop talking about it, including all of you! So even if you didn’t want to contribute to this movie, by making such a big deal of it you are!

  20. Kelly Says:

    As the mother of a mentally retarded 5-year-old daughter who is also autistic, I am very offended and hurt by this movie. You would never make fund of cancer patients or any other medical ailments but yet it is okay to make fun of the mentally challenged. Mr. Stiller and Mr. Black and all of these other actors should be thankful that they have never had this word spoken by a medical professional regarding their own children, because I am sure that if they had they would not think this was OK.

    Society is cruel enough already without giving people more verbal ammunition to use against special needs children and adults. I think they owe the mentally retarded community and all of their family and friends a huge apology and find a way to make something good out of a huge mistake on their part.

    If they (as Caucasian actors) had used the N word 16 times in a movie they would never work again. What is the difference? To me, there is none.

  21. Sara MacDonald Says:

    This move is just disgusting. We all know it, even if some people don’t want to admit it. I advise people to stay away from this film – its disgusting and degrading and is going to only hurt those with special needs.

    As for the actors in this movie – shame, shame!

  22. Sheree Says:

    Yes, THIS MOVIE is rated R (for adults only), I believe everyone relizes your ingenious analysis of this fact..
    there is a CAPITAL R beside the movie title!
    The problem that is at hand, is the population of insensitive and arrogant parents who will watch this movie and then go home to tell their children about how hillarious this movie is! In my oppinion, that within itself is teaching a new generation of children to become arrogant, hate filled individuals. Is it O.K. to degrade, and humiliate others (especially the most vulnerable) as a means to gradify ones self? Pretty poor parenting and VERY NARCISSISTIC!!
    I WILL reiterize my original statement, YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE WILL BE BORN OR BECOME DISABLED, THIS IS A STATISTICAL FACT! Learn to be more compassionate before that happens. What comes around goes around, or so they say. When that day happens, you will either feel the pain that these hate filled words have caused others, and become an advocate for the person that you love, who has to endure not only the pain that their disability has caused. But, they will also feel the very real mental anguish that society (peole like Mr. Stiller and every one eles who tolerates and endorses hate filled speech against these very vulnerable individuals)inflicting such negative stigma against them.
    For those of you who endorse this movie and the use of words that really do inflict pain on others, you should hope and pray, that the Narcassistic personality traits that are obvious, do not come back to haunt you! It would really be tragic and ironic, if one of you had a stroke and couldn’t speek, feed yourselves or take care of your on toileting needs! just think what if everyone that you have offeneded and hurt, “just doesn’t care what happens to you?!” That will be the little eye opener and wake up call. But unfortuately, it may be to late to have someone who cares, and is compassionate enough speek up for you!
    If you find humor at the expense of others livelyhood and pain that you inflict by the words that you have chosen is NARCASSISTIC! Until you hear the words come out of a Doctors mouth that your child has a disableling condition, or you, yourself wake up in a hospital with brain damage from a car accident it will not be a reality that you have to live with.

  23. Kellie Adamson Says:

    To Ben Stiller- You idiot (def; noun 1. A foolish or stupid person). I have a child who has developmental disabilities. He was not born like this. He was injured when he was 2 years old by being abused by another idiot. People like you continue the abuse. If you’re REALLY lucky, none of your loved ones will ever be injured enough to be persecuted for who and how they are by anyone trying to get a laugh. Are you so insecure with yourself that you have to make fun of our most vulnerable population to make yourself feel better. Your target audience, my 15 tear old son, who has no disabilities, not only refuses to contribute any money to you by going to see your movie, but he is spreading the word in his school not to go see your movie. He is VERY popular and has many friends, and they have friends, who have friends, who have friends, who have friends…… YOU’RE A LOSER BEN STILLER!!!!!!!!!

  24. Dr. Nelson Says:

    Words are like bullets…and i let them pass right through me.

  25. Really? Says:

    If this movies offends you, Do NOT watch it! Simple as that. I watched it and was not offended. The movie targets several groups, the main one being actors, and in case you forgot, the people in this movie were actors, and the person who co-wrote the movie also was an actor, but you don’t hear any of them complaining! And why this movie and now? Several movies before this one also use the word retard and nobody has said anything before!

  26. Erin Says:

    To Simpler Jack and Mike:

    Here’s an idea for you two wizards: why don’t you come to New York and perform at the Apollo with a litany of “n-word” jokes? Or to Chinatown with Asian jokes? Or Chelsea with gay jokes? It will be an experiment to measure the immediate consequences of hate speech. You know, when you don’t have the luxury of anonymity or distance.

    For the record, I like both South Park and The Ringer. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with humanizing disabled people, and both of those portray them with normal emotions and aspirations – girls, popularity, ambition, etc. But the standard “retard joke” diminishes them to a one-dimensional punchline with physical abnormalities, speech impediments and bad clothing. Bravo. They’re different than you! You really got ‘em there! Hilarious!

    And as far as I know, no one is petitioning the government to ban the word ‘retard’ from the English language. They are, however, raising awareness about an often un-cited slur and invoking their rights as citizens and consumers to speak out against something that contradicts their beliefs. Their right to do so is as solid as others’ right to free speech.

    Anyway, hope to see you in Harlem soon, my darlings!

  27. Jim Says:

    You know, I have a disability myself, and personally I know I’m not a retard. And for the record what is sooo wrong about the word retard? Everyone is trying to equate this with a word like nigger, or whatever worse word you can think of. Get a grip. If it offends you, don’t go see it. After all it’s rated R. Not something that I would let my kids go see. It’s rated so that you know that IT’S NOT A KIDS FILM.

  28. Sheree Says:

    Freedom of speech? YES.. that is one of our American rights.

    But when a movie is released by someone with substantial, “star power” that is demeaning, demoralizing and full of hate filled rhetoric, that is aimed directly at the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, it is just d*** wrong!

    Mr. Stiller’s movie is degrading to the people we love, who have disabilities. My son has Fragile X Syndrome and Autism.

    He struggles on a daily basis for the simple fact that the general population lack understanding and empathy. Films like this disgusting one, are doing nothing but adding more confusion to those who are not understanding about the differences that others have! One day Mr. Stiller will have a person close to him that has been diagnosed with a devastating condition. No this is not a hypothesis, it’s reality. He himself may be the one who suffers from a disabling condition. It may be a car accident, stroke, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. He may have a child who will be diagnosed with something he’s never even heard of. It will be at that critical point in his life that he finally realizes the harm,hurt and pain that this movie has caused children young and old alike who struggle for acceptance.

    Mr. Stiller, from what I understand you are from a Jewish lineage, how would you feel if the vast majority still had strong beliefs that the Jews are less than the non-Jews? How would you feel if there were a movie made glorifying concentration camps and their experimental and tortuous procedures used to inflict suffering among these “less than human” people? What about a movie that glorifies slavery and advocates that “Black people” are less human than the Caucasians, so it’s OK to have slaves and beat or rape them? These movie scenarios would never actually become a motion picture would they?

    So freedom of speech.. yes we as Americans do have that privilege. But when there is an audience that listens more closely to the free speech of certain individuals that happen to have “star power,: those with an audience should choose their words wisely.

    Mr. Stiller, you have made not only my son’s life even more difficult, but also the lives of my family as a whole. It’s hard to be an 8 year old younger sister to a brother with Fragile X and Autism, my daughter has to sacrifice a lot because of her brother’s difficulties. It’s hard for her to have to explain to her friends that her brother has Fragile X Syndrome and autism; your film has made it even more difficult for her to try to explain to her friends about her brother.

    There is always a stigma associated with children who have siblings with differences. Your film has made it more difficult for my husband and I also; it’s going to be even more difficult explaining to individuals about the reason’s behind meltdown he may have. You and Mr. Savage really are a*******! I bet the two of you together implemented the thoughts of this disgusting film a “group” effort negotiated between two a*******! I would suggest that you volunteer your precious time at a school in a classroom that accomodates special needs children.Maybe then you would learn to be at least a little compassionate.

    The differences between Rainman and Forrest Gump compared to your film is simply this.. Those movies were beautiful, the messages that these motion pictures projected to the public, was intended to project was that even people who are different learners and thinkers, endure painful ridicule and challenges,and yet they are able to accomplish extraordinary accomplishments even through diversity.

    I am advocating to every special needs advocacy organization that I am affiliated with, to ban this film! Boycott this film! Love your children!! Stand up and be heard!!

    This movie should be banned and all of the proceeds that have been made from this movie thus far should be donated to these individual organizations, that are aimed to help find treatments and cures to these devastating disorders!

    To all of you who disagree, oneday you will feel differently, this is a statistical fact, like it or not.

  29. Merri Cvetan Says:

    There is much controversy surrounding the movie “Tropic Thunder”. It’s my understanding the premise of the comedy is to make fun of people with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) and to continually insult someone by calling him a “retard”.

    In this era of political correctness, I find it disheartening that a group of Hollywood people think the funniest way to make a buck is to disregard the dignity of our most vulnerable population – the people with mental retardation. It was bound to come to this. If they can’t poke fun at racial, ethnic or religious groups, why not pick on people who cannot defend themselves or fight back.

    There is a movement to ban the “R- word”. I don’t like the word either when it’s used to hurt or insult. Will we stop every teenager from using it? No. But the people who made this movie are not teenagers.

    My son Patrick is a charming, friendly young man who works in the community and goes to school. He loves movies and collects DVD’s. He has Down syndrome and as a result has mental retardation.

    As tasteless and unconscionable as this movie is, I believe in the First Amendment. I was acquainted with a soldier who died in Iraq this spring defending our rights, Patrick’s rights and the rights of the thoughtless and uncaring.

    And the thoughtless and uncaring will continue to make tasteless movies. It doesn’t mean we have to support them. I will find better ways to spend my money. They made this movie for one reason only: to make a big profit. The only way to send a message is to hit them where it hurts at the bottom line. I urge you to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves and stay away too.

    When Pat’s cousin, Matt was in middle school, he had a (parochial school) music teacher who was upset with the class and called them a bunch of retards. Matt stood up and said, “What’s wrong with being retarded?”

    Absolutely nothing!

  30. Donna H. Saul Says:

    Lighten up, you say? LOL! That’s like a fox telling the chicken to relax before it’s eaten.

    Fortunately there are times when we can but this is not the time. You should be grateful that there are the Tim Shrivers, Patricia Bauers & Harriet McBryde Johnson’s ready to speak out for the smallest minority in this country. The individual.

    It’s only a movie you say? We pump how much into this industry and egos and you say I don’t have the right to hold them accountable for their actions from time to time? Let them have their cake and eat it too?

    That’s a total cop out. Apathy. Not acceptable.

    The reality is that advocacy is not a broken machine. It works. Some people will listen. Some people will understand. Some people will change. that’s all we can hope for …

    And others will go on remaining only an avatar, a IM nickname, a void filling up an emptiness in cyberspace, a coward hiding behind their liberties, and a name on check ready to be cashed.

  31. Mindi Graham Says:

    I am a mother of a six year old son with Down Syndrome. Some might think that we as parents might overreact and that we are just a bunch of crybabies. Well, they can think that because that just shows how inconsiderate they are. I have a hard enough time dealing with children making fun of my son. The people who want to say that we are overreacting don’t know the true pain when our children come home crying because they have been picked on. This movie is only going to say that it’s OK to say what you want to people with disabilities. I don’t find it funny or entertainment. As for Ben Stiller and the rest of the crew … I would have thought you were more talented then that and the you all do not deserve the respect and fame that you have.

  32. ProHumor Says:

    I guess most of you find South Park an outrage. It is called humor and entertainment. You folks are really looking for opportunities to be offended. Honestly, aren’t there more important issues in the intellectual disability world to address vs. trying to control the entertainment industry?

    Mike started this comment section off and a few others chimed in, but Laurent summed up my position perfectly. I agree.

    Lighten up. I cannot tell you how many times I have been called retarded by retarded people that I used to work with, and we had the biggest laughs over it. I said to one of them “let me get this straight, the DSM !V classifies you as retarded, and I have to watch you do a dusting job bored out of my mind, and you are calling me retarded?” I really hate to break the news to all of you like this, but we all are retarded at times so just embrace it and laugh over it. Use the R word with love…

    Ponce the retarded policeman sums it up the best in this video response to people offended by his movies … yes he has Downs and is an actor…

  33. BEFM Says:

    Now maybe it’s just me but I work with a lot of people from different races and backgrounds … Most of them will use what would be considered to be a racial slur if it came from me, to get the attention, say hello, or good-bye to the specific person that they are talking to.

    I suppose that it is just perfectly ok for that specific group in humanity to do that. Because Lord knows that if I was to use that kind of language I would end up in jail.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that would you be perfectly ok with this character in this movie saying the word retard, if he was for all intents and purposes actually mentally handicapped.

    I’ll bet that you are just fine with hearing people of different races call each other derogatory terms and don’t raise half as much stink about that.

    Besides if it was okay to use every word in todays dictionary, just based on that fact that it was in a persons vocabulary, people would just be mad at everyone all the time.

    What makes a word un-useable?? Are their laws against words that can and can’t be used?? Does our government strike from the textbooks words that are deemed illegal?? Does the government change the dictionary and all definitions of words that are offensive to even just one person??

    I am pretty sure that the government doesn’t change the dictionary because people get offended by words. Look 40 to 50 yrs ago I’m sure that if your mother or father heard you say the word “Shit”… You would have came into a lot of trouble pretty quick. But nowadays, no one really cares, so all I am saying is get out of your poodle-skirt, take a look around and realize that your 13, 14, 15, 16 year old kids have seen more stuff than you want to know about, are probably having sex, and have I’ll bet already had a beer or two.

    And I will also put to a bet that each and everyone knows that the characters in this movie are just that, characters … I can almost guarantee that your kids will not go up to a handicapped person right after they see this movie and just completely humiliate them in public.

    Have some faith to know that you are teaching your kids well enough that they know the difference between right and wrong. And that they also know when things are fake, and when things are real. Seriously teach your kids well enough and they will always make the right choices.

  34. george Says:

    Maybe Stiller could make a sequel that is the complete opposite: very respectful and helpful to the ID community.

  35. brother rob Says:

    This isn’t new, people. Hello!!!

    Remember that movie “The Ringer”? A lot of people were hateful of that movie too, because it had the use of the word retard in it. But really the movie gave them more voice then any of you guys who are commenting on this blog who are all offended. That movie showed that that most challenged people are as able or if not more able than an average person.

    … Stop writing about this movie and spend time with the mentally challenged because really the best thing we can do for them is make them feel accepted and loved. Its what they really want, not you commenting on websites about movies that are offensive because there is something in every movie that offends people.

  36. SimplerJack Says:

    So why the big fuss? Retarded people won’t even know they’re being made fun of. No harm, no foul.

  37. Mike Says:

    The people crying about this disgust me. You’re all a bunch of whiny crybabies and a shining example of what’s wrong with today’s America. Hate speech is protected by freedom of speech under the constitution, and for good reason. In some places in Europe you can get arrested and imprisoned for the crime of “insulting muslims.” Think about that for a moment before you start calling for words to be banned/not used because they hurt your feelings, and think about the wider implications of things like hate speech laws.

  38. Kaye Says:

    I am a teacher and a mother of a lovely son with Down Syndrome. I try to teach my students every year not to use “retard” and “gay” as insults, explaining in class discussion how these words aren’t appropriate and really don’t express what they are trying to do – which is put someone down. Interesting class discussions always follow. Of course, I always have students who are gay, learning disabled, or have loved ones who are and, often, the siblings will speak up about how these words make them feel. Our society seems increasingly barbaric and rude – especially if we go by the films that are produced. Do I really need to wonder why 7th graders are having sex or beating each other up, or dressing like hookers? This “retard” issue is just part of the whole societal illness that has come upon our society – the culture of shallowness and thoughtlessness. In any case, I will not be spending my money on such an idiotic film and wish more worthwhile films were being made.

  39. Scattered Mom Says:

    Its seems as thought society has to pick on those who quite literally don’t have a voice, because if they go after anyone else (black, gay, etc), there would be hell to pay.

    I’m disgusted and sickened … because they just made my job of working with special needs students in a high school THAT much harder.

    Not to mention that my son lives with the taunts of “retard” often-and he’s not intellectually challenged at all, but has a physical disability.

  40. Leticia Velasquez Says:

    Good point. His silence is deafening … in the law silence means consent.
    Is that the message you want us to get, Mr. Spielberg, that you approve of the hurt caused by this offensive film of yours?

  41. ??? Says:

    I hope Mr. Stiller feels horrible about this and can somehow fix this.

  42. Paul Panek Says:

    The following statement below is not accurate as it only portrays European Americans as the only ones capable of using Hate speech and only minorities as the only ones capable of being offended. Which is totally ridiculous as I have been called racial hate filled names many times by a number of minorities. These names were used as a prop for intimidation and to cause fear for myself and my family. I guess Patricia partially lives in a glass bubble as she never had to experience what I and many, many others have by ignoring my story. Too bad you didn’t live on my city block. You are trying to help but your ignorance in that statement also causes hurt.

    The term “retard” has been characterized by disability rights advocates as hate speech that heaps insult and possible harm on a group that has a long history of being stigmatized and vulnerable. They compare it with racial, ethnic and sexual epithets and stereotypes that have historically been used by majority groups to target and humiliate minority groups.

  43. Donna H. Saul Says:

    To Dan Wilkins. Thank you for your words of consolation. I can only imagine what Harriet McBryde Johnson would be saying right now about Cohen’s quote or the rationale he used for Simple Jack.

    I think you described perfectly why we all feel an assault was made on our children, family, and friends. If we let this movie go without questioning the content, then we have failed our children and we have failed as advocates.

    I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised that this movie or predation of character is an issue? What kind of world are we living in? A world that no longer values or protects the individual rights of human being?

    I hope not. That’s not the kind of world I want to leave to my children.

  44. V.Martin Says:

    I have a cognitively disabled adult daughter. I have NEVER liked the word retarded and still do not like it, even in
    ARC=Association for Retarded Citizens
    MHMR=Mental Health Mental Retardation

    I personally think WE should take the “retard” OUT of all organizations and affiliations that help our disabled citizens. Maybe this would help others FORGET the word and any derivatives of it. Why can’t WE use CHALLENGED, SPECIAL, whatever; anything but retarded!

    I WILL boycott this movie and I WILL forward to all family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and encourage them to do the same. To spoof the wonderful simple minds of many is an atrocity and just another statement as to the deterioration of our society.

    Thanks to ALL who are sensitive and trying to rectify this!

  45. Dave Says:

    Let’s not go to the movies for a year. We deserve better movies. Let’s hit the movie production companies where it hurts … in the pocket book. We can all spend our money on other forms of entertainment. We can read more , go on a hike and pack a lunch. Just stay away from movies like this that devalue people. Invest in our time doing something productive and not by paying companies to produce such junk.

  46. Louise Says:

    “I won’t back down”
    In the words of Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers

    Advocates, “Take Action be Encouraged”
    get fed at Barriers, Bridges and Books blog spot
    (search it since we cannot post links).

  47. Jennifer Wrzyszczynski Says:

    Thank you for putting this on your website.
    As a mom to a seven year old boy with DS, AND a former sp. education teacher, hurling the word “retard” around is ignorant as many of the posters here have acknowledged.
    One of the previous posters wrote “take care of you and yours”. That’s exactly the attitude that causes people to become indifferent regarding social issues. Sometimes there is no gray area-there is a black and white-right and wrong. Crafting a character to be the “retard” is wrong.

  48. Chris H. Says:

    The trouble with Hollywood and people like Ben Stiller is their reliance on cheap, profane and demeaning words to elicit a laugh at the expense of others. There is nothing new about movie-making or scriptwriting. Studios need to fill the movie stadiums and doll out mindless films for cheap laughs and loads of money. Thus, they need a a worthless, narcissistic, no-talent like Stiller in order to cash-in.
    Why doesn’t Spielberg stand up and say something? With the more serious social commentary works that he has directed and produced over the last 20 years, the seriousness and profoundness of the subject matter left you to question, accept and appreciate historical subjects and occurences. What impression are we supposed to have from his company’s latest product? That it is ok to ridicule the mentally and physically challenged? That to use the r-word is not as demeaning as the n-word, the k-word?
    Forget the movies, pick up a good book.

  49. Jona Says:

    As a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, I find the word “retard” extremely offensive. Honestly, I’m so busy I’ve never even heard of this movie, but I have seen other movies that use the word to be “funny”, and I have been totally outraged. To me, it seems as bad as the “n” word, which definitely is not okay. To say, “retard” is derogatory in nature and is demeaning. People who say we need to lighten up, need to get a clue. Jenny, your little speech about Ben Stiller was very nice, but you shouldn’t tell other people to do their homework when you are obviously so uneducated about the subject yourself.

  50. Gary Says:

    I work for a non-profit organization that works to enrich the lives of people with an intellectually disablity and I am offended that anyone would find humor in insults. I would like to know how Dreamworks would come through if they made a movie insulting African-Americans? It’s easy to focus on persons who are much more caring and forgiving to those who put them down.

  51. Gill Says:

    Many people repeat the funny lines in tv shows and movies. And often these repeated phrases become accepted as common language. Using the word “retard” or “retarded” in a derogatory way should not become accepted as common language because it sterotypes convincingly and negatively. Once someone is called a “retard”, it is a hard stigma to shake.

    Why is this term “retard” so offensive to so many people? It is because we know, first hand, that those people who get labled “retarded” are capable in many areas of life and are not given the chance to succed because of the label “retard”. We know that many opportunities are not considered to be an option for those called “retarded”. We know that impatient people use the term “retard” when they do not understand the issues or challenges that a person faces regardless of their intelligence and abilities. Those who use the label to describe someone do not know the power of their words; and the level of their ownignorance.

    I chose not see this movie.

  52. Sandy Says:

    This is the type of media that makes one who is not fully developed in their own thinking, values and norms believe that this type of language, insensitivity and making fun of others who can’t defend themselves, is okay by desensitizing people to it. If anyone in your family attends this movie please take the time to talk about hate speech. I don’t believe that Dreamworks or Ben Stiller puposefully intended to insult this segment of society who is so vulnerable, however they have all in the interest of making a buck. Historically hate speech has been used by majority groups to target and humiliate minority groups. Personally I don’t find that funny and I won’t be going to the movie.

  53. Zoe Blaize Says:

    This is as plain as I can make it.

    1) When people are getting up in arms about this, all they’re doing is giving the movie free publicity.

    2) It’s *supposed* to be offensive, or did you somehow miss that? It’s making fun of (and throwing a spotlight on) actors who take themselves too seriously and/or are complete idiots. You aren’t supposed to like Stiller’s character (or any of the other mains). You’re supposed to think, “Wow, he’s really a huge asshole, isn’t he?” So, if you could see past the surface and get to what Stiller’s trying to do with the movie, I’d think you’d actually applaud his efforts.

  54. Mary Says:

    I agree that this movie was probably not made with intentional malice, however, it DOES matter that the r-word was used throughout the movie. Words can hurt. Movies are made for one reason, to make money. If you care about this issue, hit them where it hurts, boycott the movie!

    To Michael Moore, It isn’t going on a “moral tirade” to have an opinion. I highly doubt that people who care about this issue will see the movie just because of this “free publicity,” and if you don’t care about this issue, the publicity won’t change your mind either way.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

  55. Reina Says:

    It is very important to defend the respect for the families too. Who is to say that in your family there never could be special persons, Mr. Speilberg, Ben Stiller? Do you know people with intellectual disabilities mean progress for medical science because nobody planned a singular pathology for the newborn child?

    Please recognize they are not simple people. They are persons who have a proper space in this society.

  56. Nick Says:

    Ben Stiller’s character in this funny movie is not someone you laugh at not with. So using the r-word shows you that he’s only the r-word not related to a mentally challenged from physical problems at birth.

    I associate the r-word with non-r-word people. Mentally challenged people are more focused anyhow even though certain things they can’t accomplish cause they actually don’t have (missing at birth development) the physical part of the brain to do so.

    My cousin is severely challenged easily seen from his appearance. One time at a family party, I asked him to play ping-pong with me. He said he could try. Guess what? He beat me twice out of 5 games and was really great to volley with. I first played him easy, after all he never played it, then I had to go all out even with a 15 year age difference in my favor.

    Is this a slow person? He more focused as certain things he can’t do. He’s above average at this and some other things he likes. He’s not even completely mentally challenged, just on certain things. He almost a ringer as he looks soft.

  57. Diane Says:

    Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I for one, am totally offended and will NOT go see this movie. If you don’t feel the same, that’s okay. If you feel the same and want to help, check out this site: http://www.thearc.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=183&srcid=1803

  58. Laurent Says:

    This is so moronic, so absolutely representative of puritan, hypocritical, politically correct America! I am Executive Director of a mental health organization, mental health consellor, and I have cases of mental disabilities in my immediate surroundings. Yet, I am not a bit offeded by this movie. Why? Because I have a sense of humour! I happen to be from France, when we are the masters of second-degree humour and our value is that you can make fun of absolutely anything: race, homosexuals, death, suicide, illness, pedophilia, anything, as long it is actually meant to be funny and not hateful. It is clear that M. Stiller’s intention is not to mock the mentally disabled, Come on people! Besides, why was there not any backlash on ”there’s something about Mary” where Matt Dilon uses the word Retard and goes on to suggest that mentally handicapped kids are kept in cages? How about Borat, who mistakes the word retired and retard? It,s not new, people, and Americans have to just get a sense of humour and lighten up, no one is out to get you! If anything, focus on getting decent money from your government for special care and mental health, the way organizations such as mine that work with the mentally disabled are systematically underfunded, now that is an insult!

  59. Jon Kwiatkowski Says:

    “cindy Says:

    I have a son with Down Syndrome, big deal. My life is wonderful and we all have a sense of humor. I do not believe anything in Tropic Thunder was done with malice. Life is funny and strange and people need to relax and not define themselves by what others say. The word Retarded means to slow down. It hardly seems like a bad word. Words, kind or not, only have meaning if one gives them meaning. Self worth and self esteem come from within. There are true atrocities in the world but this is not one of them!”

    Cindy, I am truly happy that you and your son live in a place where life is wonderful. May all of our children be similarly blessed.

    My son, who also has Down Syndrome, and I live in a place where life is less wonderful. As a parent I constantly struggle to help my son be recognized as an equal member of our community. As a 17 year old, my son works hard to be a part of his high school social and academic community, but is routinely rebuffed because of his differences. Granted, high school can be a tough place for all young adults; that does not mean that we need to have our children exposed to additional challenges because of their genetic makeup.

    I partially agree with you that words only have as much power over us as we grant them. Self esteem does come from within, but it can be nurtured or stunted by the words and actions of others. When groups of people use derogatory words, they create negative social climates and perpetuate and validate biases and cruelty. The artists of the film believe strongly in the power of words as evidenced by their concern for how they used the “N” word.

    One of my favorite quotes from my hippie days is “the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference”. Whether or not malice was intended is not important to me. What is important to me is the level of indifference displayed by the film makers choosing a stereotypical portrayal of an intellectually challenged person. I worry that viewers will walk out of the movie feeling validated in their biases and not feeling challenged to move beyond their biases.

    As the thread of this discussion becomes more nuanced, I have a horrible suspicion I may need to see the movie so that I can better understand how it uses Simple Jack as a plot device.

  60. Michael Moore Says:

    Not a movie I plan on seeing, but really, people need to learn that when you go on moral tirades like this, all you’re doing is giving the movie free publicity, and ensuring that another few thousand tickets will be sold.

  61. PAULA Says:

    My son has mental retardation. The name does not offend me. A tree can have retarded growth; what offends me is the new word intellectual disability. Most people are confused about what it means.

    I think its silly to change a name when society still continues to use the retard word in a negative manner. Educate people to “not” use the word in a negative manner; just like society educated people to stop using the word black, hispanic, etc. in a negative manner. We didn’t change the name, we changed peoples attitudes.

  62. Loreena Says:

    I am so upset by this movie for a very important reason: Dreamworks provided test screenings and focus groups for African Americans and Veterans groups because of the nature of the humor that involves making fun of African Americans and Soldiers. However, the population of people who have intellectual disabilities was not given such an opportunity for feedback on the issue.

    What does that suggest to you? To me, it suggests that the basic human dignity of people with intellectual disabilities didn’t matter enough to the creator’s of this movie, and with out a second thought as to the impact of such verbage on humor on roughly 3% of the population, they created a movie that so categorically offended the humanity of so many individuals.

    Perhaps they over looked this population because they do not have the full force and historical power to the civil rights movement, but hopefully if other people are strong enough to stand up to them, they will have their voice.

  63. Kari Says:

    This is not the first movie to offend many types of people and it will not be the last. It’s a big deal because you people make it a big deal. You think you guys are the first to be offfened? It’s not going to ruin the actors careers. And as for Ibby who writes “but yet gave no thought whatsoever to offending the only group who would be unable to defend themselves” – are you kidding me! I find that more offensive then the “R-word”. I thought they were just like everyone else! I thought they should be treated like everyone else! People with disabilites are not helpless! They do not need people to think for them! They have their own thoughts and voices. There’s an article on CNN where Special Olympics global messenger Dustin Plunkett wrote “I cannot believe a writer could write something like that. It’s the not the way that we want to be portrayed. We have feelings. We don’t like the word retard. We are people. We’re just like any other people out there. We want to be ourselves and not be discriminated against.” Later on in the article Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics writes “If you want to pick on people, as the old playground saying goes, pick on people your own size”. I thought people with disabilities were “just like any other people out there”! Again, they are not helpless! Like I said, it’s a big deal because you people make it a big deal. If it’s offensive to you, then don’t go and see it. Simple as that. It doesn’t mean they won. I’m sure every person involved in making the movie cares just as much as everyone else. People need to stop getting offended at every single that they don’t like. If you are offended, don’t support it. You should concentrate on you and yours. The movies will still be made regardless. People with disabilities are not the first to be offended and will not be the last. You don’t personally know the people involved in making the movie. It doesn’t make them bad people for being involved! People need to work to live right? Like you have all said, people with disabilities are people just like everyone else. I’m sure they can take a joke just like everyone else. Everyone person on this planet has been poked fun at. Everyone. No one is even going to remember the film or that the word was used in 10 years from now. I think you people, not the actual people with the disabilities but you people, are more upset than anyone else and that’s because you think people with disabilities can’t take a joke and/or defend themselves. You are just disabling them even more. You think they cannot deffend themselves. You cannot shelter them forever! You cannot keep them from the world and everything in it. You cannot keep them from getting their feelings hurt at every minute of the day. If you say they are just like everyone else then let them be just like everyone else. Let them get there feelings hurt and get offended! It’s a part of life and life will still going on afterwards. I find all of you more offensive than anything I will ever see in a movie, TV show or read in the paper or a magizine. You act as if people with disabilites don’t have minds of their owns. You sounds as if you think they are helpless. This is the real world and these things happen. It doesn’t mean it’s right by any means but that’s what the real world is like. Like you all said, people with disabilities are just like everyone else. If you don’t like the movie and think it’s offensive, then don’t go see it. People with disabilities are still going to be born, loved and will live long happy lives long after this movie is gone. Spend you time with you family and try to educate the world in a way that will matter. Boycotting this movie isn’t going to do anything. It’s already been made and people will be lining up to see it. Work on the future and what you can prevent in the future. Work towards what you can do so it doesn’t get this far in the future. If you believe in Karma, then let it take care of it’s self.

  64. cindy Says:

    I have a son with Down Syndrome, big deal. My life is wonderful and we all have a sense of humor. I do not believe anything in Tropic Thunder was done with malice. Life is funny and strange and people need to relax and not define themselves by what others say. The word Retarded means to slow down. It hardly seems like a bad word. Words, kind or not, only have meaning if one gives them meaning. Self worth and self esteem come from within. There are true atrocities in the world but this is not one of them!

  65. Jon Kwiatkowski Says:

    For me, the hardest part about this issue is how can I express my concern with enough legitimacy to be heard by members of my community. Given the details provided in this blog, I cannot imagine sitting through a viewing of this movie. How can I watch it without feeling the incredible pain of seeing my son being so shamefully represented by a major media outlet.

    Social controversy has surrounded other movies and calls for boycotts invariably get mired down by two common bully tactics. The first claims that I cannot express outrage over something that I have not seen. The second claims that just because I am outraged does not mean that others can’t enjoy their right to see what they want to see.

    To add irony to the situation, I would have to give my money to the people that I hope others would not.

  66. Rick Raschke Says:

    to: Steven at DreamWorks . . .
    -keep in mind they did NOT post my first blog submitted-

    pickin’ on a 7M+ population gets ya a holocaust museum,
    its really got very little use in movie making.
    (unless you go full Schindler, did you see Schindler’s list?)

    . . . maybe this one will make it to the blog site?

  67. robert martin Says:

    “Stiller (at bedside of dying mother): Good night mama. Now you can have ice cream in heaven. I see you tonight when I go to bed in my head movies. But this head movie makes my eyes rain. (Copious weeping)”

    It’s pretty cleat in this instance that the butt of the joke is the Hollywood screenwriter who can’t write a fully dimensional person, not the developmentally disabled person being portrayed — he is a poorly-conceived fiction.

    The language that the characters use to refer to disabled people in the film is just as clearly meant to illustrate their characters, not the character of “Simple Jack,” the poorly-wrought fiction based on the writers’ equally poor conception of the disabled.

    The disabled are poorly understood by Hollywood, and are done a disservice in their media representations. That is obviously a part of what Stiller is saying here, but no one will give him credit for that. Nor will anyone consider how likely is it that the pampered and shallow Hollywood types portrayed in the film would use the polite terms we all know to refer to people that a very large part of the US population unhesitatingly call “retarded,”

    It is, in fact, funny, that an easy way to snag an award is to create a hackneyed, sappy, two-dimensional portayal of a disabled person, usually comprised of little more than a handful of vocal and facial tics.

    Is it legitimate for Stiller to go there for laughs?

    Having decided to go there, would this script work if the characters spoke the polite language that all here demand?

    I don’t think so.

    What you are trying to control here is how someone tells a story. That won’t work.

    Better to criticize what a story says. But this story says nothing about disabled people, it only speaks about the way our fiction is created.

  68. Michelle Says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is here. Everyone of you knows you are guilty of making fun of or laughing at some one elses disability, it happens… we are human. Don’t you remember another movie a few years ago about a guy joining the special olympics to get a girl and had to act with a mental illness? I remember people boycotted the princess diaries cause they thought it sent the message that girls with curly hair are ugly. It is a movie… for entertainment don’t see it if you feel you are going to be offended by it, don’t make a huge deal about it and ruin it for everyone else that want to see it.

    get a sense of humor!

  69. ht Says:

    We can’t change anyone else’s behavior or viewpoints, but we can change our own. The only thing to do is not spend money to see the movie, not use the r-word, and not laugh or condone others using it. Show support by your example to your children and those around you. I politely ask that others do not use the r-word. So far, most people have been very respectful about it. I have impacted several individual’s around me. Just need to plant seeds…change doesn’t happen over night.

  70. Jill Says:

    Jenny said, “I’m not stupid. I know he starred in the movie, co-wrote, co-produced, and directed it.”

    If you do/did, apparently you don’t understand the distinction between someone’s written words and their “character’s words”.

    I said, “I would further add that even if he hadn’t written it, when an actor accepts to role to ‘say the lines’ as you say, s/he is allowing themselves to become an active participant.”

    Jenny said, “You twisted my words. Thanks for that.”

    Well, actually, I didn’t twist your words at all. They’re your words. I just pointed out that you don’t seem to know the difference between written speech and spoken dialogue; and I might add, how absolutely NOT FUNNY hate speech truly is.

    You’re obviously just coming back to see the reaction to your incendiary initial comments, which shows that you’re clearly just trying to cause controversy.

    How truly sad.

  71. Lee Says:

    Well, little babies with disabilities are going to be born and will be loved & cherished by their parents regardless. Perhaps Murphy’s Law or the winds of fate will see to it that Ben Stiller’s next child will be one of those with a disability. Then we’ll see how funny he finds it when it is his own sweet baby he’s calling retard. Or pardon me, “full retard”.

  72. Jenny Says:

    I’m not stupid. I know he starred in the movie, co-wrote, co-produced, and directed it.

    “I would further add that even if he hadn’t written it, when an actor accepts to role to “say the lines” as you say, s/he is allowing themselves to become an active participant.”

    You twisted my words. Thanks for that.

    This controversy makes me so pissed because it is even more ridiculous than the blackface controversy.

  73. Anon Says:

    Shutting down some wishful thinkers: this movie will NOT ruin any of the actors careers. It’s being called the funniest movie of the summer, even of the year. It has consistently recieved high ratings, and I’m sure it will do well at the box office.

  74. Nancy Iannone Says:

    If I have to hear Ben Stiller pat himself on the back on more time for using racial humor in just the right way to avoid offense — how he carefully avoided going too far, had an African American “straight man” to counter Downey Jr.’s character — and so on — I’m going to scream! He knows full well that you can do humor on sensitive topics without debasing and demeaning — he just chose to apply his skills to protect African Americans and not my child!

  75. Jason Beasley Says:

    As a parent of a child with a disability, I am truly digusted with the fact this film was ever allowed to hit theaters. As parents of children with disabilities, we struggle daily with societies ignorance due to lack of education. All this movie does is make it look “ok” to poke fun at people with a disability of any type. Well, this could not be any farther from the truth. We work very hard to instill in our child that he is not different than any one else and is just as special. I am shocked and appalled Hollywood would allow such trash on the big screen, just goes to show you, anything for a buck!!!!!!!

  76. Dee Says:

    I can’t believe the people who are actually defending this movie!! If the line had been “don’t go full nigger” you can believe that everyone would have been up in arms…NAACP and Rev’ds Jackson and others would be on TV with plans for a boycott and getting plenty of coverage on the news…

    Hmmm…and Ben Stiller…wonder how upset he would be if everyone started equating going Jewish to being stupid and everything that people don’t want to be…if I started saying “that is so Jewish” would it catch on as a catch phrase for stupidity and uncoolness..because let me tell you…some of the coolest people are disabled…people who face insurmountable odds with a dignity and grace that awes me…and who have more forgiveness and love than anyone deserves

    …and Courage..evidenced everyday by disabled pepole who want to contribute to society…so if anyone calls me a retard or uses it in any context around me …I will tell them that being called retard is such a great compliment since it includes me in a group of people who would put others to shame in all that they accomplish and contribute to those around them…next time you see someone with a handicap of any sort I hope you think “Courage” instead of stupid..

  77. connie mcdonald Says:

    I’m going to miss seeing a movie with so many funny and good actors. But, I will not sit through a movie where every other word is F this and F that, etc. All that is compounded by the constant slur of those disabled. Yes, some of the words, like “retard,” are as old as the hills, and were never meant to be a slur. But, they are now, so . . . .

  78. Brian Says:

    Sorry, Jenny, Stiller has lost is “disability cred”. This movie has undone what he may have done in the past. He wrote and directed the movie. It is his. It’s really a shame because I have been a fan. I also like Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr. However, this is the end for me. This is not “cutting edge” or “pushing the envelope” — it’s ignorant and cruel.

    Anyone involved in the making of this film is equally responsible. Everyone made a choice to make it and many of us will make the choice to not see it or any other projects they are associated with. Frankly, these people contribute nothing to society except propagating ignorance while laughing all the way to the bank.

    The real joke is on all of those who will just eat up anything Hollywood serves them. Those are the people we should really feel sorry for. I’m not angry at people who will see this movie and enjoy it — I’m laughing at them and how ignorant they choose to be. Common sense will tell you that this movie is offensive. You don’t need advocacy groups to tell you that. You just defend it in order to cover your own guilt.

    Come on, they put a guy in blackface, went out of their way to have no further racial slurs, then unloaded on “retards”??? Talk about blind worship…it’s insanity. Do you honestly think they would have used “Brown Jojo – Once upon a time there was a nigger”? Hmm, maybe I’ll start work on that. I wonder how far I’ll get.

    It interesting how Hollywood gets to pick and choose what is “sending a message” and what is “only a movie”. You can’t have it both ways.

  79. Jim Flanigan Says:

    If we really want to send a message, we should do more than just boycott “Tropic Thunder”, which has two major studios in back of it (at a cost of $140 million). Most theatres in my area have multiple screens. We should boycott all the movies at any theatre as long as they are showing “Tropic Thunder”.

    That might push some other marginal films into red ink. It would also do some economic harm to theatres that are struggling with their $10 ticket prices in our current ecomony.

  80. Professional in the field Says:

    I want to point out that this is not the first movie that the use of “retard”, “handicapped”, “disabled” has been used. In fact, if we want to take an issue with this movie, we need to take issue with all media. Most people do not know the proper termonology for people with disabilities and people with intellectual disabilities. Outside of the professionals in the field, first person language has not been a “hot topic”. The use of handicapped and disabled is used all the time. Another movie featuring Johnny Knoxville called “The Ringer” poked fun at the Special Olympics but tried to soften it by having a good message and having people with intellectual disabilities participate in the acting in this movie. And while we are on the topic of offensive movies, “Shallow Hal” featured Gweneth Paltrow in a fat suit and the entire movie proved that being overweight equates to not being able to find love, being overweight is unattrative etc. feeding into the stereotypes that in order to get anywhere, you must be skinny. And for centuries, there have been movies that display racism, sexism and homophobia and there’s less of an out cry on these subjects.
    I am in support of defending the issue that this movie brings, but I would be in greater support of educating the media on proper terms and disability friendly termonology.

  81. ForMyDaughter Says:

    Jenny – “Ben Stiller didn’t say the lines, his character did” Are you serious? Ben Stiller chose to play that character and co-wrote the movie therefore the lines! To excuse him from any accountability of the words spoken in this move is beyond ridiculous. Any person that chose to take part in this movie needs to be accountable for the contents of the movie. No one held a gun at their head and said they had to be in it or say the lines. period! In my mind, no one involved with this film has a free pass out of the fall-out from it.

  82. Justin Says:

    Jenny said:

    “You people need to think about what you say before you say it.
    I see so many people accusing Ben Stiller for all this when he is not to blame. He did not say the lines, his character did.

    I recommend that you look up things before you say something false. Please.”

    However, Ben Stiller is credited with both directing and writing the movie. He personally chose the words which his character says. This makes him responsible for them.


  83. Jill Says:

    Jenny said: “You people need to think about what you say before you say it. I see so many people accusing Ben Stiller for all this when he is not to blame. He did not say the lines, his character did.”

    Well, you might educate yourself: Ben Stiller wrote this movie.

    And your ancillary point is certainly valid in that he should be more enlightened due to his personal involvement with ALS.

    I would further add that even if he hadn’t written it, when an actor accepts to role to “say the lines” as you say, s/he is allowing themselves to become an active participant.

  84. Jenny Says:

    You people need to think about what you say before you say it.
    I see so many people accusing Ben Stiller for all this when he is not to blame. He did not say the lines, his character did.

    And LucyG, I’m sorry, but you are the reason I had to say something.

    What you said about Ben Stiller is so wrong.

    Here is what you said: “Too bad Ben Stiller hasn’t spent time around people with disabilities in real life.”

    Guess what? He lost a close friend of his to ALS.

    And he has been a huge supporter of Project ALS, even before his friend passed away.

    I recommend that you look up things before you say something false. Please.

  85. Ibby Says:

    This is nothing but pure cowardice!! They were so afraid of offending the black community (and rightfully so!) but yet gave no thought whatsoever to offending the only group who would be unable to defend themselves and also the only group who would never make fun of them in return! For all those actors in this movie, I truly hope this is a fatal career move for each of you…as I chose to have nothing to do with any of you, ever again! The only comfort I find is in picturing the judgment day of Mr Stiller and his co-horts. I picture God seated, with all those pure souls who have been hurt by this movie at His side, asking Mr. Stiller to defend his actions here! Good luck with that!!

  86. Marie Says:

    I am outraged by the insulting refreneces to all individuals
    with intellectual disabilities, by this film. In this day & age, we all should respect & acknowledge all human beings as
    being worthy of kindness and compassion. This film perpetuates misconceptions and cruelty to many wonderful people.

  87. velvet tauras Says:

    Shame on Ben Stiller, Mathew McConaughy, and Robert Downey Jr. Their brains are gone, they cannot see for every difference that makes us unique there is a common thread which connects us all…to mock and make fun of challenged individuals for entertainment…money…certainly not prestige. So I guess we won’t be congratulating these men for any humantarian work. But then again, who says that Hollywood has any love or respect for people…anything goes, and how they get around it is those little ratings PG13, R, you know the attorney stuff. So it seems self-evident that these actors need alot of therapy. I feel sorry for them…

  88. P.A. Says:

    That Dreamworks has chosen to make and release the insulting Tropic Thunder is bad enough; but what makes it worse is that Dreamworks owner Steven Spielberg is married to a former teacher of special education. Spielberg’s wife Kate Capshaw has a Master’s Degree in Special Ed. This does not speak well for the management of Steven’s company.

  89. Jan Fitzgerald Says:

    Paramount, the maker of Tropic Thunder is owned by Viacom.

    From the investment section of their website it states:

    Viacom’s goal is to be the world’s leading, branded entertainment company across television, motion pictures and digital media platforms

    If you go to this link: http://www.viacom.com/contact/Pages/default.aspx

    From there you are able to send an email.

    If it is indeed Viacom’s goal is to be the world’s leading, branded entertainment company across television, motion pictures and digital media platforms, then maybe they should stop investing in Paramount and their poor choice of movies.

  90. LucyG Says:

    If this isn’t hate speech, I don’t know what is. Too bad Ben Stiller hasn’t spent time around people with disabilities in real life.

    Tropic Thunder shows what happens when you have a small group of self-reinforcing, same-background people making movies. Their bewilderment that anyone could think that they had done anything other than make a gross-out summer film speaks volumes about the narrowness of their collective experience.

    They should get out of Hollywood for 15-20 minutes and check out the real world, with all its diversities.

  91. Cathy Wilde Says:

    Very good point, codeman38. “Tropic Thunder” is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week with an interview with the three stars where they discussed how careful they had to be with the issue of Downey playing an African-American. Here is an excerpt and link:

    ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The challenge with that character was to find the right line. You want to make fun of this pompous actor, but if you play it wrong, it verges on being minstrel-like. Your costar Brandon T. Jackson told me there was a scene in the script where Osiris uses the N-word and that he said it went over the line.
    ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: Brandon might have saved the movie that day.
    BEN STILLER: For sure. We were rehearsing in Hawaii and we got to that scene and I said to him, ”What do you think of this?” Brandon said, ”This feels wrong.” It was definitely a constant process of feeling it out.


    By the way, the interview NEVER ONCE brings up the subject of “Simple Jack.” I’m sure the interview was done before this controversy broke, but again it is interesting that they were obviously concerned about being racially sensitive in their “satire” but didn’t care a whit about being sensitive to the disabled community.

  92. Louise Says:

    Obviously Dreamworks knew the film was offensive, that’s why they pulled the trailers.

    They knew they were targeting a part of the population in order to influence the public and make money while doing it.

    I think we have more influence than DreamWorks thinks we do.

  93. codeman38 Says:

    What bugs me most here is that the movie isn’t as much of an equal-opportunity offender as the executives claim.

    I could at least have accepted that claim if the characters had tossed around the N-word quite a bit with regard to Downey’s character playing a black man (and, of course, getting their comeuppance for it). I mean, the characters are supposed to be jerks who don’t care about anyone but themselves, right? That’d be par for the course. Given that this was an R-rated comedy, I was actually expecting them to go as far as, say, Blazing Saddles went.

    Except that they didn’t go there but only once. And that one line was said by a black character.

  94. Sandra McElwee Says:

    Thank you for the blow-by-blow, Patricia. This is so damaging. Perhaps finally we can make a difference using this bigoted film as an example of what not to do and influence the public to join in on banning the R word.

    I look forward to an editorial by you in the major newspapers regarding this movie that is so much more than a farce.

  95. Dave Hingsburger Says:

    Thank you for your description of the film’s content regarding disability. From what you’ve said I found the scenes regarding parental shame of a child with a disability to be even more disturbing than the use of the R word. One only needs to read the responders to this blog to know that many parents, maybe even most parents, come to truly love and value their children with disabilities. They don’t wish them away or wish them different. It would seem that the movie sets out to denigrate those with disabilities and misportray their parents as well. Good job, Stiller, musta done some fine research there.

  96. Terri Says:

    And still we wait and still we call our advocacy efforts ‘helping the this agency, or that agency.’ What if I don’t know that agency, or like that agency, or have that particular diagnosis? It is time to get past our letterheads and do the work that matters. (Editor’s note: this comment may refer to the attached memo, sent in by a reader this morning.)

    The self-advocates I know will not be able to arrange transportation to anything for Wednesday unless they do it by Monday morning at the latest.

    We need to mobilize now and worry way more about building credence with the public – forget about negotiating with Dreamworks (the screening changes, return of Simple Jack on the net and t-shirts already show bad faith) and forget about getting credit for your agency … Nothing we could gain from Dreamworks will be able to make up for what we will lose with the public if we are not strategic and present when this film opens.

    We have an opportunity to unite and get more out of this than we ever have-or lose more than we ever have …. The question is will we get past ourselves and act together or won’t we?

  97. Mary Says:

    Thank you for posting this. The “Tally” is especially important — it shows that the R word is a primary focus of humor in this film. Hate speech is dangerous wherever it is used, even though this is “only a movie”. I will be writing to my local newspapers about this film in hopes that they carry my letter alongside any reviews they may run next week.

  98. Michelle Says:

    Jack Black, who is a main character in this film, will be hosting the 39th anniversary special for PBS Sesame Street Monday. The same Sesame Street that Emily Perl Kingsley made recognize children with developmental disabilities.

    We need to force Jack Black to make a statement disavowing any hatred or hate speech towards those with disabilities. Sesame Street might just as well be his vehicle to redemption. He also hosts the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards…there has to be some way we can put pressure on all of the folks in this movie to stop this madness.

    Can you try to get this info to Mrs. Kingsley, and ask her to put in a word, to ask Sesame Street to address this in some small way, even if it is to have her appear with him, or some kids with Down syndrome appear with him, on this show? Keep up the pressure.

  99. Big Dawg Says:

    After I read this I asked myself a question outloud on my blog. Where is Mr. Spielberg on this issue?

Leave a Reply


Please copy the string UKv5kp to the field below:


About the Site

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.

Join journalist Patricia E. Bauer as she seeks to bring you the best information about what's happening now and what it may mean for you and your loved ones.

Read More »



Read More »


Read More »


Read More »

School Restraints

Read More »

Prenatal Diagnosis

Read More »

Obama Administration

Read More »

My Articles & Essays

Read More »




Read More »


Read More »

Mailing List

Sign up for our mailing list!

RSS Our RSS Feed

  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007