“Language packs a punch in culture,” says a column by Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter John Przybys about the debate over Tropic Thunder.
Przybys and I had a long talk about this subject and he quoted me in the column:
Nell Minow, who writes “Movie Mom,” a column on Beliefnet.com in which she evaluates movies from a parent’s perspective, argues that protesters’ ire is misdirected.
“Tropic Thunder” doesn’t lampoon the disabled, Minow said during a recent phone interview, but, rather, the self-absorption of Hollywood and actors who offer one-dimensional portrayals of the disabled and then congratulate themselves for it.
“As a person with disabled family members and whose first job was working with what we then called the ‘retarded,’ I’ve been appalled at movies that get all kinds of critical praise, like ‘I Am Sam’ and ‘Forrest Gump,’ because I think they’re terrible portrayals of disabled characters,” Minow said.
“Too often in movies, the disabled aspect is the character’s defining trait,” Minow continued, and disabled characters exist only to “inspire people and/or give (other characters) an important lesson about compassion. That’s about it, and this is wrong. Disabled people are interesting human beings who’ve got really interesting stories to tell.”
In “Tropic Thunder,” the word “retard” is used to “show something about the person who said it,” Minow said, and the film makes “a very trenchant and powerful argument in favor of the disabled being treated well by showing that the person who didn’t understand was a nincompoop.”
Similarly, even as Downey plays a white actor who darkens his skin to play a black character, the film is “very intelligent in giving the actual black character the power and moral weight in the movie,” Minow said.