Protesters Speak Out Against “Tropic Thunder”

Photo by WTIC's Lisa BuciorBy Melissa Pionzio

HARTFORD (RUSHPRNEWS)August 14, 2008–I tagged along with Courant reporter Jodie Mozdzer today, to a protest of the newly released film “Tropic Thunder” which is showing at the Destinta Theater in Middletown and theaters across the country.The protesters – people with disabilities, their families and several advocacy groups who work with and for people with disabilities – say they came to express their disapproval of the use of the word retarded by the film’s characters as a means to garner laughs. Similar protests have been held at theater venues across the country, said Arc of Connecticut’s executive director Lynn C. Warner.
Tropic Thunder , as described on the movie’s web site, “is about a group of self-absorbed actors set out to make the most expensive war film. But after ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys.”

The movie features actor Ben Stiller, who plays a character, playing character who has a mental disability (confusing I know) while Robert Downey Jr. plays a character who plays and character who is African-American. Downey’s character gets so into his role that he darkens the pigment of his skin so he looks more like an African American.

But that’s not what offends the protesters, it’s Ben Stiller’s character’s description of how at times he feels “retarded” playing a person with disabilities and Downey’s character’s reaction to that portrayal during which he says “you went full retard, man, never go full retard.” The film’s debut is allegedly accompanied by movie trinkets including T-Shirts that say “Never Go Full Retard.”

“My son doesn’t need to be walking down the hallway at school and see a shirt that says ‘Never Go Full Retarded,” said Kim Guile of East Haven, whose son Jake was born with Down Syndrome – that’s her husband Scott in the photo below, who at times just couldn’t express his frustration with the film. “I just wanted to be an advocate for him and get out there that it is not funny, it’s offensive. Just as the N–word is offensive to African Americans and the F-word is offensive to homosexuals. It’s hurtful” Kim said.

Carrying signs that read “Discrimination is not funny,” “Think before you Speak,” and “Shame on Ben Stiller,” the protesters included members of the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress, who posted news and comments about the planned protest on its blog at www.ctdownsyndrome.org.

“Many people have feelings about this movie,” said Nick Glomb of Ellington, who was born with Down Syndrome and is so angry with the film’s use of the R word, that he said he wants to sue the movie company. “We don’t like this movie because they use the R word way to much. The R word is not good language.”

“Young adults have enough challenges without getting reinforced by negative images,” said Nick’s mom Laura Glomb.”Things like this don’t help.”

That’s Nick pictured below, with Nick’s mom Laura and Burlington resident Matt Couch and his wife Teri in the background, who attended the protest with and on behalf of their 8-year-old son Cameron.
I have not seen the whole film – only a few clips and the one in which Stiller’s character desribes how he feels while portraying a person with a disability is no longer available on YouTube.

This film is supposed to be a comedy, meant to make people laugh. But is using out-dated, clearly offensive terminology in a satirical way to garner laughs funny?

Check out Jodie Mozdzer’s full story on the protest in Thursday’s Hartford Courant or online at www.courant.com

NEWS SOURCE COURANT .