Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tropic Thunder

I haven't posted anything about this whole Tropic Thunder boycott business, mainly because I have a soft spot for Howard Stern and Sarah Silverman (not to mention Ben Stiller, who my wife can't stand) and (thus) tend to find the question of offensive humor to be much more complex than either those who are outraged by that humor or those who are outraged at "political correctness" seem to think. Also, I don't particularly like boycotts of expression, and I don't think it's possible to debate the merits of a movie I haven't seen. But I find this defense, from one of the co-writers of the film, quite outrageous myself:

"Some people have taken this as making fun of handicapped people, but we're really trying to make fun of the actors who use this material as fodder for acclaim," co-writer Etan Cohen echoed to MTV. "The last thing you want is for people to think you're making fun of the victims in this who are having their lives turned into fodder for people to win Oscars."

The joke, then, is really on people like Dustin Hoffman ("Rain Man"), Sean Penn, ("I Am Sam") and Tom Hanks ("Forrest Gump"), actors who do more harm than good by denying the painful realities of the illness and instead paint their characters as too sunny or bright, Cohen said.

"Movies about the mentally retarded is something we talked about for a long time. My grandfather was adopted by a mentally retarded man, a man who shouldn't have been allowed to adopt a kid," Cohen revealed. "When he saw 'Forrest Gump,' you ever saw a guy angrier than him. It was not such a picnic to be raised by that guy."

I mean, sheesh! This certainly seems to suggest that the motivation is just pure bias. I'm sorry about Mr. Cohen's great-grandfather, but seriously, do you think it was political correctness, or too many Tom Hanks movies, that led the authorities to let him adopt Mr. Cohen's grandfather? Was Tom Hanks even born yet? There are good adoptive parents and there are crappy adoptive parents, and that's true of people with and without disabilities. Basically, Mr. Cohen seems to be saying that he used this film as a chance to get back at his great-grandfather and all of those other people with disabilities who were unjustly portrayed so positively by Messrs. Hoffman, Penn, and Hanks, when really, you know, they should have been institutionalized. Or, more charitably, he wanted to show the "other side" -- that it really sucks to have a disability, though Hollywood tries to paper it over. I guess he never saw Million Dollar Baby.



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