The Samantha Years

Tropic Thunder and the Washington Post

Hi All!

I will post about the week later today….all is well!!! But I have been struggling with the release of Tropic Thunder and how to ‘keep my sense of humor’. I think Timothy Shriver does a good job of relaying my thoughts. šŸ™‚

Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, has an op-ed piece on
“Tropic Thunder” in the Washington Post (read below).

By Timothy Shriver
Monday, August 11, 2008; A15

I’ve been told to keep my sense of humor about the film “Tropic
Thunder,” which opens this week. Despite my requests, I have not been given the
chance to see the movie. But I’ve seen previews, read about it and read
excerpts of the script. By all accounts, it is an unchecked assault on the
humanity of people with intellectual disabilities — an affront to dignity, hope
and respect.

Consider this exchange:

Ben Stiller’s character: “There were times when I was doing Jack when I
actually felt retarded. Like really retarded.”

Robert Downey Jr.’s character: “Oh yeah. Damn.”

Stiller: “In a weird way, I had to sort of just free myself up to
believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.”

Downey: “To be a moron.”

Stiller: “Yeah.”

At another point, about acting like a person with intellectual
disabilities, they say:

Stiller: “It’s what we do, right?”

Downey: “Everybody knows you never do a full retard.”

Stiller: “What do you mean?”

Downey: “Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, ‘Rain Man,’ look retarded, act
retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic,
sure. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, ‘Forrest Gump.’ Slow, yes. Retarded,
maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-
pong competition. That ain’t retarded. You went full retard, man. Never go
full retard.”

I worked with the Farrelly brothers on a film on this topic. I know
about edgy comedy. I’m also told that movies are equal-opportunity offenders.

So here’s an equal-opportunity response to the equal-opportunity

People with intellectual disabilities are routinely abused, neglected,
insulted, institutionalized and even killed around the world. Their
parents are told to give up, that their children are worthless. Schools turn
them away. Doctors refuse to treat them. Employers won’t hire them. None of
this is funny.

For centuries, they have been the exception to the most basic spiritual
principle: that we are each equal in spirit, capable of reflecting the
goodness of the divine, carriers of love. But not people with
intellectual disabilities. What’s a word commonly applied to them? Hopeless.

Let’s consider where we are in 2008. Our politics are about overcoming
division, our social movements are about ending intolerance, our great
philanthropists promote ending poverty and disease among the world’s
poor. Are people with intellectual disabilities included in the mainstream of
these movements? For the most part, no.

Why? Because they’re different. Their joy doesn’t fit on magazine
covers. Their spirituality doesn’t come in self-help television. Their kind of
wealth doesn’t command political attention. (The best of the spirit never

Sadly, they’re such an easy target that many people don’t realize whom
they are making fun of when they use the word “retard.” Most people just
think it’s funny. “Stupid, idiot, moron, retard.” Ha, ha, ha.

I know: I could be too sensitive. But I was taught that mean isn’t
funny. And I’ve been to institutions where people with intellectual disabilities
are tied to beds or lie on concrete floors, forgotten. I’ve heard doctors say
they won’t treat them. I know Gallup found that more than 60 percent of
Americans don’t want a person with an intellectual disability at their child’s

I’ve talked to people with intellectual disabilities who cry over being
insulted on a bus. I’ve received too many e-mails from people who are
devastated not by their child’s disability but by the terror of being
laughed at, excluded and economically devastated.

It wasn’t funny when Hollywood humiliated African Americans for a
generation. It’s never funny when good and decent human beings are humiliated. In
fact, it is dangerous and disgusting.

This film is all that and more. DreamWorks went so far as to create a
mini-version of Simple Jack and posted it online. The studio has since
pulled it down, realizing it had gone too far, even in an age of edgy, R-
rated comedies.

So, enough. Stop the hurtful jokes. Talk to your children about
language that is bullying and mean. Ask your friends, your educators, your religious
leaders to help us to end the stubborn myth that people with intellectual
disabilities are hopeless. Ask Hollywood to get on the right side of dignity.

I hope others will join me in shutting this movie out of our lives and
our pocketbooks. We don’t live in times when labeling and humiliating
others is funny. And we should send that message far and wide.

The writer is chairman of Special Olympics and a columnist for
washingtonpost. com’s On Faith discussion site.

3 thoughts on “Tropic Thunder and the Washington Post”

  1. Tom Cruise is really a piece of work….remember how offended he was with the South Park episode that focused on him, his sexuality and religion??? Thanks for the nice read and hope to see you soon.


  2. I am energetically trying to get the whole of France to boycot the film. It is nothing more than disgusting to make a film of this kind. Law bans the film industry from inciting racism against minorities … so how did this film make it? It is wrong, wrong wrong.


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