Stiller, Downey Jr fail to amuse Special Olympics
Everyone expected a few African-American pressure groups to take offence at the upcoming Tropic Thunder, in which Robert Downey Jr plays a movie star who has his face surgically altered to play a black character. But in fact, disability organisations have raised the biggest stink. In the film, Ben Stiller turns up as a star who has had a big hit playing someone with learning disabilities in a cheesy movie that looks a little like Forrest Gump.
Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, was not chortling. When asked by the New York Times whether he thought a boycott was on the cards, he replied: “Not only might it happen, it will happen.” Protestors are outraged at the promiscuous use of the word “retard”. (Despite the US being the home of political correctness, that term seems be more acceptable there than here.)
“It’s sort of edgy territory,” says Stiller, who also directed the film. “But we felt that, as long as the focus was on the actors who were trying to do something to be taken seriously that’s going too far or wrong, that was where the humour would come from.”
One can understand groups wishing to express their fury at perceived slights, but it is worth noting how singularly ineffective such protests can be. Threeand-a-half decades ago, the Italian-American community got its knickers in a twist about The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola’s film didn’t do badly at the box-office. More recently, Jewish groups took offence at portrayals of their religion in The Passion of the Christ. That film became the most successful R-rated movie of all time.
Now we find Reel News offering more free publicity for Tropic Thunder. Expect the movie to be a smash when it opens here in September.