I was laying on the couch last week watching the news (I won’t say the channel, but it was a certain Cable News Network), and a story came on about the “controversy” surrounding the then-impending release of Ben Stiller’s new movie, a rated-R comedy entitled “Tropic Thunder.” Dozens of people were protesting the film’s “liberal use of the ‘R’ word” (‘R’ word = retard) during one particular scene of the movie. Here are a few snippets of things seen and overheard at the protest:
“Tropic Blunder” – t-shirts worn by protesters featuring one of the few words that rhyme with ‘thunder’
“When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside.” “We have feelings. We don’t like the word retard. We are people. We’re just like any other people out there. We want to be ourselves and not be discriminated against.” – Dustin Plunkett, Special Olympics global messenger
“I just think Ben Stiller and the people involved in this movie just didn’t think it was going to be offensive.” – Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities
“If you want to pick on people, as the old playground saying goes, pick on people your own size. This population struggles too much with the basics to have to struggle against Hollywood. We’re sending a message that this hate speech is no longer acceptable.” – Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics
“Using the ‘R’ word brings our people down,” – an anonymous protester interviewed by the news reporter
Call me insensitive, but this all seems a little ridiculous to me. It’s a comedy – rated R, no less. My first comment is, if you don’t enjoy this type of off-color humor or are offended by the ‘R’ word, don’t go see it. If you’ve seen or read anything about the movie, you would know that the movie is making fun of actors and how seriously they take themselves. Yes, it’s edgy. Yes, they make fun of stereotypes. But did Ben Stiller and friends intend to hurt the community of the mentally disabled? No way. The use of the ‘R’ word was taken out of context, and that can’t be construed as discrimination against an entire community. I suggest that most of the people protesting have not seen the movie (and probably shouldn’t), and that this is merely political correctness gone too far.
I think I’m more surprised that people aren’t up in arms over Robert Downey Jr. playing a black man, but that’s another story entirely.
I’d like to think that I’m a good person, with good morals. There’s always room for improvement, but overall I think I’m a pretty good guy. I would never call a mentally disabled person retarded. My brother David is a retard though, and I’ve told him that countless times. I think Grey’s Anatomy is retarded, and I won’t watch it no matter how many times Girlfriend asks me to. John Edwards is retarded for continuing to lie – you got busted John, you might as well come completely clean.
My point is (and I could be naive in my thinking) that the use of the word “retard” is generic, and I don’t think I’m alone in that attitude. I would call my brother a retard much like I would call him a dork or a dweeb. What I’m essentially doing is calling him dumb, not mentally disabled, and in doing so I am not referring TO the mentally disabled. On the other hand, I can respect someone who comes from a different place and isn’t comfortable with the word (someone like my uncle who works with children). Ben Stiller has every right to make a movie like this, the protesters have every right to protest it, and I have every right to write this retarded blog.
I’m not here because the movie upset me or because I liked it (I haven’t even seen it yet actually, but I plan to). I’m not trying to get you to agree with my opinion one way or the other. I’m here today because I need to apologize.
There was one guy in particular who was protesting during that news piece and told the reporter, “Using the ‘R’ word brings our people down.” He opened my eyes – I had no idea that every time I’ve called my brother a retard that I was actually hurting this guy on TV, and others like him, whom I have never met. Using that logic, I decided to take this opportunity to apologize to a few others that I may have unknowingly hurt:
Albert Einstein – Einstein was a physicist best known for his Theory of Relativity. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, and Time Magazine named him “Person of the Century” in 1999. So I’m not really sure why, if my aforementioned brother made a bad decision or did something stupid, I would say “way to go, Einstein.” I can assure you, Mr. Einstein, that I never called him by your name in a complimentary manner, and for this I apologize.
Girlfriend – This is a fairly new one, but I might as well sneak it in here. Girlfriend and I play tennis with some of my relatives every week, and we’re not very good (but we are less bad every week). Girlfriend likes to swing and miss at easy ones. It’s happened enough that I have noticed it, and when anyone else with whom we’re playing does the same thing, I proclaim that they “Girlfriend’d it.” Sorry, Girlfriend. (On a side note, I hit the ball into the net, a lot. Long story short, I’m also owed an apology.)
Prostitutes – I’ve had many different relationships over the years. Some have ended badly, others not so badly. I have to admit that a few ex-girlfriends became known to my guy friends in conversation as “stupid whores” rather than their actual names. Most were deserved. What isn’t deserved is my careless use of the word “whore.” Just because a couple of ex-girlfriends put me through hell doesn’t mean I should do the same to prostitutes. I know you’re only trying to put yourself through college, you fell on bad times, or your boyfriend is a pimp and you have no choice. You don’t deserve the negative connotation attached to the slang I threw around like a frisbee. I’m really sorry, prostitutes.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Today, if someone said something to me that was a painfully obvious fact, such as “it’s hot outside” or “you’re awesome,” I may respond with “thanks, Captain Obvious.” When I was younger though, the response would have been “no shit, Sherlock.” Why? Who knows? Sherlock Holmes was a fictional detective known for using his intellectual prowess and deductive reasoning to solve difficult cases. Like Einstein, using Sherlock’s name as an insult in this manner didn’t make a whole lot of sense. That didn’t stop me from doing it over and over and over, though. For that, I offer my apologies to the creator of the great Sherlock Holmes. It’s quite obvious (no shit) that I was a jerk.
Homosexuals – I have nothing against homosexuals, nor am I afraid of them. So, why I would call my brother a fag when he would squat over my head and fart while I was laying on the floor trying to watch TV, I don’t know. I don’t think this is typical homosexual behavior, but you never know what goes on behind closed doors. Regardless, I owe you all an apology. So, from the bottom of my fabulously gay-friendly heart, I’m sorry.
Lead singers of bands – I was in a rock band for six years. It was definitely fun, but mostly it was hard work. It’s very difficult to find four people who get along, have things in common, agree artistically, and are willing to put in the work required. In my band, the lead singer was a lazy retard jerk who’s antics ultimately led to our band’s demise. Any time he missed a practice, canceled a show, or was late showing up so he didn’t have to help load equipment, we told everyone that he had “Lead Singer Syndrome.” Axl Rose had it – it does exist. However, it should be called something else, like “Scott Stapp Syndrome.” The hard working lead singers of the world far outweigh the lazy ones. So, to all of the musicians out there busting their asses, I sincerely apologize. To the rest of you, you should get your S.S.S. checked out.
My brother David – I’m really sorry. You’ve obviously taken a beating.