I 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 “retard” 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.
Ben Stiller and co. aren’t “making fun of retards”. They are making fun of the Hollywood construct of the “retard”. Characters like Sam, Radio, the sister that rode the bus and The Other Sister. There is actually no such thing as a “retard”. 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 have 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.
I’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-retard” 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 retarded sometimes.