Tag Archives: criticism

Salon takes on the “r-word”

In a Salon.com editorial, author Lynn Harris examines resurgence of the word “retard” as used in Tropic Thunder and concludes,

Ultimately, anti-”retard” activists are trying to do what I didn’t do while that fellow fixed our ceiling fan: Say something. Or at least to get people, perhaps especially people like me — who found the Simple Jack business hilarious precisely because we’re so offended by “respectful” films like “Rain Man,” and who are deeply aware of the power of words both to pinpoint and to prick — to at least think twice about the insult’s real-life impact.

In my view, the artificially-created controversy by certain individuals in the disabilities rights community sparks of opportunism and mistargeting. Where were the activists when satirical comedies like Southpark and The Family Guy used similar “hate speech?” Maybe it’s more obviously intended to be satire when done in a cartoon. The failed boycott against Tropic Thunder has made the US activists look like humorless, overly-PC word censors. In the UK, a country known for its biting and satirical wit, the movie just premiered with nary a protester in sight– which may be an indication of how much more humor-advanced the Brits are.

Even at Salon.com, there’s not a single opinion on “retard” — last month, a review of the movie by Stephanie Zacharek notes,

A coalition of disability-advocate groups is organizing a boycott of “Tropic Thunder” based on what they see as the offensiveness of the “Simple Jack” gags. Stiller has defended the “Simple Jack” gags as a satire of prestige-seeking actors, not of people with disabilities, and his argument holds water. You could say the gags are offensive, to the extent that they use language we’ve sought to abolish in everyday speech. But comedy needs the right to be offensive, and Stiller at least has the courage of his convictions: When he uses the word “retard,” it’s deliberate, not casual. The “Simple Jack” jokes would be more offensive if Stiller had substituted tasteful, half-assed synonyms for the word we all know we’re not supposed to use.

See: The “retarded” renaissance – Salon.com