By now, you’ve heard of the controversy surrounding the new film Tropic Thunder, opening today in theaters nationwide. And it’s true. It’s an offensive film.
I’m talking about the fake trailers that are shown at the head of the film to introduce you to the prima donna actors. The one that cut me closest to the bone was the Eddie Murphy-esque vehicle for Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) called The Fatties: Fart 2.
What the fat?
I understand that a good joke is fun, but this fake trailer is terribly insensitive. Obesity is a serious problem in the country today, and Ben Stiller is reducing the daily struggle of overweight Americans to a sick laugh at their expense.
This particular fake trailer sends the wrong message that it’s okay to not just laugh at obese Americans, but to ridicule their entire families.
Even more insulting is the blatant depiction of overweight people having awful gas issues. This suggestion is juvenile and, while occasionally correct due to dietary intake, can be embarrassing for the afflicted. Please. Show some sensitivity.
The sad fact is that obesity runs in families, whether its due to genetic dispositions or the environment in which children are raised. Children of obese parents do not start on the same playing field, and they are often overweight before they even reach school age.
As someone who has struggled with weight my entire life, I know what it’s like to be called a variety of names on a playground. And those names may be considered rude to some but are perfectly acceptable to others.
Think of what happens when young children see Tropic Thunder… or even the trailer that features this sequence. The message is delivered to them that it’s okay to ridicule anyone who does not fit the appropriate body image set forth by people like Ben Stiller. How long until kids start chanting “Fatties! Fatties! Fatties!” on the playground?
This isn’t the first time that Stiller has made callous fun of obese Americans. In the film Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he plays the villain who used to be morbidly obese. What’s next? A psychotic killer who is overweight? Think about the last film you saw that had a child molester in it. Save Jackie Earl Haley in Little Children, chances are, he was overweight as well.
It’s one thing for out-of-shape celebrities like Will Ferrell to ridicule body image issues. But people like Stiller (who is ripped in Tropic Thunder) or Jack Black (who has hypocritically slimmed down from his Tenacious D days) who target a sizeable minority like overweight people should be ashamed.
My hope is that Paramount Pictures issues a heartfelt and public apology to obese American everywhere for the thoughtless and derogatory depictions of people with weight issues.
The only other way that I see for them to curtail the damaging effects of this fake trailer is to re-edit the film upon DVD release to remove any references to The Fatties: Fart 2, eliminate the web site www.fatties2.com and have Ben Stiller and Jack Black produce a specially created trailer to show in front of Tropic Thunder that addresses the hurtful impact of this ridicule, even when people do not mean it that way.
Other steps that I feel Paramount Pictures should spearhead include a national campaign to educate people of the dangers of obesity and to host a summit with other studios to address the way overweight people are depicted in film and television.
This won’t stop the damage already done, but it will be a good step towards making amends.