About That “R****d” Thing in Tropic Thunder

simple jackI finally got around to seeing Tropic Thunder. I didn’t laugh as much as I was hoping to. Perhaps I read way too much about it beforehand. That’s one of the downsides to living in the information age. It’s difficult to be surprised. There is also the small problem of me being incapable of liking anything that Tom Cruise does. I don’t find him funny or charming. I find that his every performance and appearance seethes smugness and I just want to punch him square in his smug jaw (after kicking him in the smugnuts).

But one thing I knew I would LOVE was the “r****d” bit. Not because I think making fun of the mentally challenged is funny, but because I think actors playing mentally challenged characters for Oscar bait is horrible and someone needs to call it out. Mr. Show did a good job of it with their Dewey Awards/Bob Lamonta sketch but it wasn’t mainstream enough to make an impact. Ben Stiller, on the other hand, brought people to the theaters in droves to expose this disturbing Hollywood truth. Of course, there were a lot of people who still didn’t get it.

the other sisterBen Stiller and co. aren’t “making fun of r****ds”. They are making fun of the Hollywood construct of the mentally challenged. Characters like Sam, Radio, the sister that rode the bus and The Other Sister. There is actually no such thing as a “r*****d”. They are as real as the Unicorn, invented by Hollywood to teach us “valuable life lessons” and “the true meaning of love”. They are caricatures of real mentally challenged people with real problems. They don’t say the darnedest things. They aren’t God’s Little Angels. They attempt to live normal lives. They have jobs and relationships. They get angry and depressed and yes, they also laugh and have fun, but not ALL THE TIME. Why? Because they are human beings. You know which film actor’s portrayal of a mentally challenged character was the most realistic? Billy Bob Thornton’s in Sling Blade. That is pretty pathetic.

radioI’m not saying someone NEEDS to make a reasonable movie about a mentally challenged character to rectify this. I’m just saying that the ones we have warrant dissection and ridicule. Even the “half-r****d” movies like Forest Gump (a film with several offensive characters besides the protagonist) and Rain Man.

I’d also really like it if audiences would maybe think about the context of a scene, especially one in a satirical movie, and not just get all reactionary about a single word. People can be so r******d sometimes.



  1. I actually think Leonardo DiCaprio in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was the most honest portrayal of a retarded person that I’ve ever seen, warts and all. It was like he had studied my own brother, except my brother can’t talk. Even a year or two later, well before “Titanic” of course, my friend Bob actually believed that DiCaprio was genuinely disabled!

  2. Ah yes. With all the crap that’s come out since, I’d actually forgotten about that movie. I agree that DiCaprio did a very good job.

  3. Hee hee, Smugnuts. Sounds like something you get our of the snack machine

  4. Eric – I thought the same thing.

    Or perhaps a vendor at a baseball game carrying around Tom Cruise and shouting, “Smugnuts! Kick his Smugnuts here!”

  5. You guys make them sound so delicious.

  6. Ah, yes, Leonardo DiCaprio’s ONE good performance. I don’t understand how he is thrown so much Oscar bait. Can you think of one role he has played that wouldn’t have been better served by almost any other actor in his age group? And objectively, he’s not even that good looking! Why is he so squinty?

    I quite enjoyed Tropic Thunder, but found the Tom Cruise scenes a little uncomfortable. I kept thinking he was going to kill Mathew McConaghey. With his bare, hair-covered hands.

    Re: retards, I thought Robert Downey Jr’s speech in TT about how “you never go full retard” was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

  7. I thought he did a good job in The Basketball Diaries, but that was a long time ago. He might have gotten lazy, as actors do, once he realized he could have any job he wanted. (Lookin at you, Pacino. And countless other heavyweights). Also, I was young and hadn’t seen that many movies. I truly believed that The Crow was cinematic genius.

    Robert Downey Jr was hands down the best part of the movie. A movie with a terrific concept that kind got carried away and fell apart at the end.

    However, I never tire of comedic Lance Bass cameos.

  8. Oh, Lance Bass. You know, I used to love him when I was 19. OF COURSE he turns out to be the gay one.

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