I was going to stay out of the whole 'Tropic Thunder' debate, but then I came across an article by Tim Shriver on Mr. Shriver goes to great lengths to criticize the makers of the movie 'Tropic Thunder', but never once mentions that he has seen the movie himself. In fact, most of his vitriol seems to come from some of the marketing done for the movie.

In another article, representing the other side of the debate, a critic watched the movie to understand where the debated points of the movie fit into the larger context of the movie as a whole. This critic presented a much more informed viewpoint and stated that the film actually lambasted people who exploit the mentally challenged by portraying them in films in order to win awards.

While the article in favor of 'Tropic Thunder' is informative and brings up good points about the effectiveness (in some cases) of the MPAA rating system, it is actually Mr. Shriver's article that is the most interesting and sometimes enlightening on the debate.

For those of you who don't know, Mr. Shriver is the brother of Maria Shriver, who is the wife of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has also been the chairman of the Special Olympics for the past 11 years. This last fact is particularly interesting in light of the debate. Like it or not, Mr. Shriver has made a living off of mentally handicapped people for the past 11 years.

If you think about it logically, Mr. Shriver actually benefits from the mentally challenged not being a part of the greater society. If everyone treated the mentally handicapped like they were just like everyone else, then they would no longer be special. Their would be no Special Olympics because there would be no"special" people to compete in them.

Another interesting little fact that can be found on is how Tim Shriver executive produced the 2005 movie 'The Ringer' which starred Johnny Knoxville as a normal person pretending to be mentally handicapped so that he could compete in the Special Olympics. Apparently Mr. Shriver had no problems with people poking fun at the mentally handicapped as long as he was getting a percentage of the profits.

Furthermore, Mr. Shriver says in his article:

The degrading use of the word "retard" together with the broader humiliation of people with intellectual disabilities in the film goes way too far. When the R-word is casually bandied about and when bumbling, clueless caricatures designed to mimic the behavior of people with intellectual disabilities are on screen, they have an unmistakable outcome: They mock, directly or indirectly, people with intellectual disabilities. They perpetuate the worst stereotypes. They further exclusion and isolation. They are simply mean.
As I have already shown, this position is actually antithetical to Mr. Shrivers benefit, but he must keep up the appearance of being offended at the plight of the mentally challenged. Of particular note is the next to last line where he says that "They [stereotypes] further exclusion and isolation." If you look back at the last 20 major blockbuster movie releases, not one of them even remotely mentions or has an actor who is mentally challenged. Where is Mr. Shriver's outrage at the apparent exclusion of these "special" people by Hollywood?

When a movie finally comes along that actually brings up the issue, Mr. Shriver comes out with guns blazing, wanting us to "ban the r-word." Instead of taking it for what it actually is, the inclusion of people addressing the issue (even in parody form) of mentally challenged people, he wants people to belive that it is actually excluding them.

Furthermore, Mr. Shriver wants to curtail your free speech. I say that this is completely and totally unacceptable. Don't let one man's quest for keeping his job stand in the way of you enjoying yourself at movie that does more for bringing the issue of mental handicaps to the forefront of discussion than Mr. Shriver himself does.

UPDATE 08/25/2008:

I went and saw Tropic Thunder last night. It was great. I'm not normally a Ben Stiller fan, but the movie was very funny. The scene where they say retard lasted only about 2 minutes out of the entire film and they said the word maybe 5 times. Mr. Shriver needs to actually see the movie before he criticizes it.

Posted byJ. R. Guinness at 8:51 PM  


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