So "intellectually disabled" people everywhere are up in arms about Ben Stiller's new movie, Tropic Thunder
I saw the film yesterday. It was incredibly vulgar, gory, awkward, and repulsive in many ways, so much so that even a self-proclaimed desensitized person like myself felt uncomfortable during some scenes. It exploits these moral sensitivities to strengthen its satire and larger moral lesson. Literature of the Restoration period and early 18th century, of which I've read much this summer, uses the same tactics toward the same goals. Jonathan Swift's fantastical satire Gulliver's Travels
, Delarivier Manley's thinly-veiled royal exposÃ© The New Atlantis
, and Daniel Defoe's immoral criminal account Moll Flanders
are just three examples of the long tradition of shocking social commentary. While it's somewhat upsetting that culture still suffers from much of the same obvious flaws of the 17th and 18th centuries, it's equally troubling that certain groups still so frequently miss the point of satire and misinterpret criticisms as the views of the authors.
So when the headline news tells me that disability groups are boycotting and even protesting Ben Stiller's film for demeaning "retards," my Facepalm Advisory System
is heightened to orange: "High Risk of Facepalm Devastation."
There's not much of an argument to make here; Ben Stiller is clearly mocking the notion that taking half-retarded roles will win you an Oscar, not poking fun at retards just to aggravate and alienate a group of people. If you're too intellectually challenged to discern this sort of thing, then of course Tropic Thunder
probably isn't your box of wine. What I find more ridiculous, though, is the idea of making the "R" word taboo.
The "N" word was used to objectify black slaves. The main logical reason why the word is offensive now is because it no longer served a purpose after slavery was abolished; no purpose other than to open old wounds, to objectify black people in a demeaning way, or as an attempt to instill the arbitrary racial hierarchies that were proven incorrect and offensive.
Treating words like "retard" or "midget" in the same way is ludicrous because they are words with a singular, practical meaning. They are words, like any others, with roots and suffixes that invariably describe what they mean. Furthermore, replacing them with words like "handicapped" and "dwarf" solves nothing, because they, like their predecessors, are susceptible to the same negative connotations that the banned words accrued. "Fat" and "obese" mean the same thing; likewise, they share the same risk of developing negative connotations.
Why didn't the anti-intellectualism of the first half of the 20th century lead to the banning of the word "intellectual," or the "I" word? Probably because intelligent people realize that despite their smart-aleckism, they still have good qualities regardless of what anyone says about them. Like midgets and fat people, retarded individuals also possess good qualities (although deductive reasoning
is clearly not their strength). So what's next, douchebags upset over people using the "D" word? Assholes and the "A" word?
Words don't offend people; well, they do, but it's the people's fault. I still want to say "Words don't offend people, people offend people," though.
Then again, a satire that doesn't offend anyone is a failed satire. Tropic Thunder
is, to those who can understand and appreciate the lampoons, a certain achievement of contemporary culture. It proves, along with other recent films like WALL-E
, that it's still possible for non-documentaries to make an argument. Literature can be used for much more than simple entertainment; culture is about more than just enjoyment; and Ben Stiller is the Jonathan Swift of our time.
I don't think actually retarded people generally care about this sort of thing, do they? Isn't it just their relatives and friends and such? As far as I know, at least...
Also... I didn't realize that 'midget' was very offensive... -cough- » randomjunk
on 2008-08-23 03:12:02
It doesn't matter if it's the retards themselves getting offended or not, it's still silly.
Yeah, most midgets get pissed off and want you to call them "little people" or "dwarves." Both of those sound just as or more offensive than "midget" anyway. » le_battement
on 2008-08-23 12:08:42 About "nigger"
Have you heard the arguments that people put up about Mark Twain's books? Just because he used the current terminology, they think that the books should be banned from schools. This is, of course, through other black people saying "So, what?". Some people are just really pig headed. » middaymoon
on 2008-08-23 02:10:13
I hate it when people get offended at the word retarded because that's the name for it. Hell I'd rather be called retarded than handicapped bc I know mentally retarded people who are still intelligent and calling them handicapped would be an insult. » lyndeep
on 2008-08-26 02:11:22
people are always going to get offended by some word or issue that is happening in society. Right now it happens to be the "r" word. Which I have never heard a retarded person say anything against the word.
I am not watching Tropic Thunder because it does not interest me at all, plus Ben Stiller gets on my nerves. » pyrogrrl12
on 2008-08-26 09:22:49 what the heck
This needs more approval. » middaymoon
on 2008-08-26 10:44:37
I never really used the "r" word. It's just not one that got around being used. No matter what people say there's always going to be a party that will be offended.
Oh and when people use "dwarf" I think of the mythical creature rather than a person. For some reason "dwarf" seems much shorter than "midget." » Ajibalaji89
on 2008-08-28 09:01:54
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