Disability Rights Coalition Issues Demands of ‘Tropic Thunder’

Tropic Thunder

You may have noticed a bit of controversy being stirred up around the movie Tropic Thunder, mostly regarding Ben Stiller’s portrayal of an actor who at one time portrays a mentally handicapped farmhand in a fake trailer.  So in a way, Stiller is the dude playin’ the dude who plays the dude who’s causin’ the controversy.

The Disability Rights Coalition, a group made up of representatives from across the spectrum of Disabled Rights groups met with Dreamworks over the content of the film recently and on Friday issued a list of demands.  The list in its entirety follows.  Now, I’m not going to bring up things like The First Amendment or Nazi Germany or Censorship or even try to draw some parallel to terrorists and how, in film, they also have lists of demands.  No, I’m not going to bring those up.

What I’m going to do is show you list of demands and ask you to tell us below how you feel about this.  Oh, and one more thing.  Noting that one of the demands is a screener for these groups, it would be safe to assume that most, if not all, of the people preparing to protest, have not seen the film.  And does anyone else find it unexpected that the controversy was supposed to be over Robert Downey Jr. and not a 30 second spot about Ben Stiller?  Anyway, without further ado:

The coalition demands included:

Film Screening: Arrange a film screening of “Tropic Thunder” for disability groups, paid for by the studio, in Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C. before the end of this week.

Public Apology: Make a public apology for the thoughtless use of the “R-word” and derogatory depictions of people with intellectual disability with a summary statement of the studio’s intent to curtail its damaging effect and its commitment to specific next steps (as laid out below).

Film Editing: Completely eliminate all direct mention of or reference to “retard” jokes, disability euphemisms, and disrespectful depictions from the film before it is distributed to theatres and released to DVD.

Film Promotion: Eliminate all trailers, web postings, and ads that focus on “retard” jokes, disability euphemisms, and disrespectful depictions, and reference the “R word.”

Specially Created Trailer: Fund and produce a trailer to air prior to each showing of “Tropic Thunder” that addresses the use of the R-word and the hurtful impact it has, even when people do not mean it that way.  This same trailer would also be included within the DVD packaging for after market sales.

National Campaign: Create and fund a comprehensive national educational and advertising social campaign to eliminate the pejorative use of the word retard from use in everyday language, and more importantly create a world of dignity, acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disability.  The campaign would be developed and vetted by an advisory council of representatives from the coalition. The campaign would also be designed to capitalize on social media and social networking to bring young people together and empower them as agents of change for the R-word campaign and involve appearances of those involved in the film’s creation.

Film Studio Summit: Convene the heads of all the major studios to address the appropriate portrayal of people with intellectual in future films and television programs.  The summit would also help reduce stigma surrounding one of the largest disability populations in the world while also raising the awareness of the extraordinary gifts and talents people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have to offer.

This comes from a memo created by Gail Williamson of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, dated August 8, 2008, and available here: PatriciaBauer.com

What are you thoughts on the character?  The controversy?  The demands?

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