According to the NY Times, Ben Stiller's upcoming Hollywood satire/action comedy, Tropic Thunder is going to be boycotted–but not by Larry The Cable Guy fans angry that the movie bears too close a resemblance to Delta Farce. Instead, a coalition of disability groups plans to boycott Tropic Thunder because a joke movie within that movie is offensive, and they don't understand satire. Or something.
From the NY Times:
"Not only might it happen, it will happen," Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, said of the expected push for a boycott. Speaking by phone, Mr. Shriver said he planned to be in Los Angeles with representatives of his group and others to picket the movie's premiere on Monday evening in this city's Westwood district.
A particular sore point has been the film's repeated use of the term "retard" in referring to a character, Simple Jack, who is played by Mr. Stiller in a subplot about an actor who chases an Oscar by portraying a mindless dolt.
Mr. Shriver said that he had also begun to ask members of Congress for a resolution condemning what he called the movie's "hate speech" and calling for stronger federal support of the intellectually disabled…
In a statement on Sunday, Chip Sullivan, a DreamWorks spokesman, said the movie was "an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations." Mr. Sullivan, in the statement, added that the film was not meant to disparage or harm people with disabilities and that DreamWorks expected to work closely with disability groups in the future. But, he said, "No changes or cuts to the film will be made."
DreamWorks may not change the movie, but they did take down Simplejackmovie.com, the website for the fake offensive movie about a developmentally disabled character within the movie that is making fun of how offensive Hollywood's movies featuring developmentally disabled characters are.
Still, it's easy to see how this satirical point could be lost on someone who hasn't seen Tropic Thunder–and Mr. Shriver, the man calling for a boycott of Tropic Thunder and spearheading a campaign for a congressional resolution decrying how hateful Tropic Thunder is, has not yet seen the movie. From his op-ed in The Washington Post:
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.
Shriver then goes on to quote a few lines from the Tropic Thunder script that make fun of the idiocy and cynicism of Hollywood actors more than anything else.
But considering that the people most offended by Tropic Thunder haven't even seen the movie yet, this whole boycott thing probably could have been avoided if Ben Stiller & Co. were a little sharper with the satire in their promotional materials. This poster for Simple Jack, the movie-within-the-movie, was undoubtedly the catalyst for the outrage.
The picture is funny and over-the-top. The title, especially with that backwards 'e,' is as well. But the tagline ("Once upon a time, there was a retard.") just goes for shock value at the expense of satire. A real Hollywood movie with a mentally retarded character would never use the word "retard" on the poster. Instead, Hollywood dances around it with euphemisms, and there's a lot of humor to be mined from those dances. For example, the tagline for The Other Sister was "A Love Story For The Romantically Challenged." No boycott there. And the tagline for I Am Sam was "Love is all you need."
So, why not: "Sometimes it takes a special person to make life special."? Or: "Once upon a time, a challenged boy challenged us all to love."? Really, anything would be better than just lazily slapping "retard" on the poster. The picture is exaggerated enough. Putting "retard" on top of it is beating the satirical point like Simple Jack's dead horse.