Posted by: Ophelia | August 12, 2008

Oh Tropic Thunder

I’ve been arguing all morning with my father about how comedy and jokes do not exist in a vacuum. They depend on cultural perception of the group being joked about in the first place. These jokes don’t mean nothing, they point to our beliefs and about who we think are fair game for jokes. Comedy either supports or challenges the status quo. Comedians may opt to support the status quo for laughs on the cheap.

In all of the hubub about Robert Downey Jr. in blackface the ableism present in the movie and the advertising for Tropic Thunder didn’t get as much attention. There has been activism and preparation for a boycott.

“Well I mean it seems like an important question. If you’re going to portray a retarded person–how retarded should you act?”–My Father, the man with a five year old daughter with Down’s. But apparently, I’m too riled up about the constant dehumanization that passes for comedy nowadays.

I thought comedy wasn’t comedy if it’s pointing downward. If it’s making people who are already at the bottom of the hierarchy the butt of jokes, it’s cruel–not comedy. Further, how is someone’s existence a joke in any meaningful way?

It seems that the website for the Stiller character’s movie “Simple Jack” is down.  More about the site and the trailer here.

Could I mention again how sick I am of the conflation of mental retardation with stupidity? Okay, good.

More at CripChick

Stiller: There were times when I was doing Jack when I actually felt retarded. Like really retarded.
Downey: Oh yeah. Damn.
Stiller: In a weird way, I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.
Downey: To be a moron.
Stiller: Yeah.
Downey: To be moronical.
Stiller: Exactly.
Downey: An imbecile.
Stiller: Yeah. When I was playing a character.
Downey: When you was a character.
Stiller: Yeah, I mean, as Jack. Definitely.
Downey: It’s like working with mercury. It’s how science makes art form.
Stiller: Yeah.
Downey: You an artist.
Stiller: It’s what we do, right?
Downey: Everybody knows you never do a full retard.
Stiller: What do you mean?
Downey: Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rainman, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic. Sure. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and he won a ping-pong competition? That ain’t retarded. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.



  1. “How to be funny with minimum effort? Insult minorities and people that are just NOT ME and make no effort to research anything about it!”

  2. I really, really hate Ben Stiller. It’s like they used the obvious shit-storm Downey Jr.’s character was going to cause to sneak crap like this under the radar.

  3. Bravo. Perfectly said.

  4. […] and Ophelia both talk about how humor doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that the execution of a joke is most […]

  5. Ben Stiller has a track record of doing anything for a laugh (i’m thinking Heartbreak Kid, yuck)

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