There has been controversy surrounding Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr, over the repeated use of the word ‘retard’, as well as depictions of those with mental disabilities as the objects of humor.
At the center of the storm is Ben Stiller’s character in the movie, Tugg Speedman. Speedman is an actor who, in an effort to be taken more seriously, plays a mentally retarded character in a film called Simple Jack. The studio maintains that neither Stiller nor the movie is pointing and laughing at those with mental disabilities, but rather at a Hollywood system that cruelly seems to crave and reward such performances from its biggest stars.
Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, producer of the Special Olympics comedy The Ringer, and brother-in-law of Arnold Schwarzenegger, says he and his representatives are encouraging citizens to picket the film at its Monday night premiere in Westwood. One reason he’s planning to picket is DreamWorks’ refusal to alter the film in any way. The R-rated comedy will remain in tact, according to company spokesman Chip Sullivan. What has happened, as we speculated this past week, is the removal of Simple Jack references from the film’s marketing.
The only group that gain from this sort of controversy is the movie studios. In most cases controversy means bigger profits as people want to see what all the fuss is about. Ben Stiller must be a clever man. Not does he offend mental disability groups, there is a good chance some people will have a few things to say about Robert Downey Jr playing a black man.
Do people need to lighten up or do movies like Tropic Thunder cross the line?