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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Real Offensive Language in ‘The Change-Up’

posted by Nell Minow

Ellen Seldman, the mother of a special needs child, has written a heartfelt post for Parents.com about the offensive language in The Change-Up.  It isn’t the (constant) four-letter words or graphic sexual references she objects to.  It is the crude references to Down Syndrome.  “It contains a scene in which a character asks a dad whether his twins are ‘retarded’ because they’re not yet speaking, then adds ‘I don’t know, this one looks a little Downsy.'”

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I agree with her that the language is very offensive (I noted the use of the “r-word” in my review).  I think it is important to point out, however, that the movie is not making fun of special needs kids.  It is making fun of the “normal” idiot who uses that language.

The Change-Up is a very raunchy, graphic, intentionally provocative comedy.  But it is no more on the side of the use of that language than it is of the other irresponsible and disgusting behavior by the character, including exposing the babies to very dangerous items and advising the older child to beat up a bully.   I was more offended by the use of the r-word by characters portrayed more approvingly in other recent movies I have seen, most recently “Our Idiot Brother.”

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I appreciate Seldman’s support for the very important “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.  My first job was at a school for developmentally disabled children that had the r-word in its name.  That was a long time ago, and as with other words we now understand to be unacceptable, this one should be recognized as offensive and inaccurate.  Parents should make sure they never use the word, even jokingly, and make clear to their children that they will not tolerate it.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/stopdisabilityslurs Gretchen mather

    Thanks for this post. There is a movement happening, a grass roots group dedicated to Stopping Disability Slurs. Will you join us? Stand up. Do you have the courage? http://www.facebook.com/stopdisabilityslurs

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rowena Beatty

    I am a mother with an adult daughter with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. I object to the use of the word retard and downsy and the context they are used in. I vote with my wallet by not patronizing films that propogate an uninformed view of persons with disailities. I also object to the routine use of Retard in Chelsea Lately’s show, Californication and by comedians who routinely take the easy way out and make fun of those w/Intellectual Disabilities. I appreciate your backgrund. Perhaps until you have been a parent or relative and in my case lived through 28 years of discrimination you can not really feel the impact of societies lack of sensitivity. I encourage you to visit: http://www.r-word.org/r-word-dialog-1.aspx

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you for your comment, Ms. Beatty. I have been clear in my objections to those words; the point I am trying to make here is that there is a distinction between having those words said by a character we are supposed to approve of or identify with and one we don’t. The fact that Archie Bunker used inappropriate language was Norman Lear’s way of making the point that the rest of us should refrain from using that language or be associated with a bigot. The same is true here. I am in no way encouraging you to buy a ticket for this mediocre movie. I am encouraging you to devote your efforts to oppose the use of those terms where it is most meaningful and effective.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeffrey L. Wiseman

    I just rented The Change Up over the weekend and the first thing I said to myself after watching it was “Let’s see how many sapps I can find on-line crticizing the language.” You ladies have put a smile on my face. Getting worked up over nothing. It is a movie.

    • Nell Minow

      If the post got worked up over nothing, Jeffrey, isn’t searching out and responding to it — without reading it very carefully, clearly — getting worked up over less than nothing? Thanks for putting a smile on my face, Jeffrey — your comment made me laugh.

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