From the Right Side of Campus

Tropic Thunder, offensive or hillarious?

There is some controversy swirling around the first movie that was able to unseat The Dark Knight. That movie is, of course, Tropic Thunder. Now I went to see Tropic Thunder Friday night after having read about the problems some groups had with the movie.

Considering I went back a second time the next night you might be able to figure out which side of the debate I came down on. But you might be wondering why.

Well… the accusations being leveled at Tropic Thunder are that it harshly insults the mentally disabled and specifically intends to do so. Some have even gone so far as to organize protests and boycotts against the film.

Now it is true that the word “retard” is used several times throughout the movie to describe a character Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) played in a failed attempt to be taken seriously as an actor. So if you consider the mention of that word to be offensive, and some do, then Tropic Thunder is going to bother you. Personally I don’t consider it offensive because of the context of how it is used in the movie.

You see the protesters seem to think that the movie wants to get some cheap laughs by having Ben stiller jump around like an idiot and degrade the mentally handicapped. But this is an extremely shallow interpretation of what exactly the movie is getting at.

In fact, the real target of Tropic Thunder is Hollywood itself. That’s true in many different ways but in relation to the controversy Tropic Thunder is lampooning Hollywood award shows, specifically the Oscars. And, honestly, it makes an extremely valid point.

That point is this, Hollywood is incredibly shallow and easily manipulated when it comes to the mentally handicapped. This is apparent in that anytime someone plays a character with a mental disability they are instantly nominated and nearly always win an Oscar.

In the movie Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is well aware of this phenomenon and sets out to take advantage of it in “Simple Jack” but he fails to secure any awards. In the scene cited most often as offensive Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr) explains that Tugg didn’t win because he played a character who was too retarded. According to Kirk, Hollywood only gives awards to actors who play slow or slightly retarded characters like Forest Gump and Rain-man but for actors who play characters with more mental problems, like I am Sam, they go home empty handed.

For me I thought this attack on Hollywood was fairly accurate and reasonably funny.

As for my take on the movie… despite the massive amount of pointless cursing it was absolutely hilarious and I would even see it a third time.


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