Tropic Thunder Boycott Brewing Over Simple Jack Parody

Some people just can’t take a joke. Then again, some jokes just aren’t funny. Ben Stiller’s upcoming comedy Tropic Thunder recently came under fire for one of its many viral promotions, a fake movie called Simple Jack, which is supposed to be a drama in which Ben Stiller’s character, actor Tug Speedman, plays a mentally challenged child. After disability rights advocates complained about the fake movie’s tagline “Once Upon a Time… There Was a Retard”, Dreamworks agreed to pull the viral website off the internet. However, it seems that was not enough. Since Simple Jack also appears briefly in Tropic Thunder itself, 22 different disability groups across the U.S. are now protesting the film and asking people to boycott it altogether.

Peter Wheeler, spokesman for Special Olympics, had this to say: “We are asking people not to go to the movie and hope to bring a consciousness to people about using derogatory words about this population… We will continue to be vocal about the destructive effect of this film.”

Dreamworks has since responded by saying they will not make any cuts to the movie: “Tropic Thunder is an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses, and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the top characters in ridiculous situations. The film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities.”

I have yet to see Tropic Thunder, which is obviously necessary before a proper judgment can be made, but from what I’ve seen, I agree with Dreamworks that the movie is more poking fun at Hollywood actors who try to win critical acclaim by portraying mentally challenged characters, rather than poking fun at mentally challenged people themselves. On the other hand, I do think the way they used the term “retard” seems unnecessary and is only inserted for a quick low-brow laugh. Either way, in cases like this, the free publicity from a proposed boycott only seems to help the movie get more attention than it normally would have, and I’m not sure it’s going to accomplish much. What do you think, is Tropic Thunder pushing the envelope too far, or is it well within the realm of decency and respect?

  • Reed Farrington

    In the future, I’ve got to use Dreamworks’ disclaimer statement or some variant thereof whenever I get accused about something I say or do on Film Junk. :-)

    I’ll admit I’m insensitive and try to get a cheap laugh sometimes. I know that words hurt. I guess I draw the line at physical harm.

  • swarez

    Why do people who obviously never seen the movie become so vocal against it because they think it’s offensive.

  • This weekend me and my friend sat in the handicap seats in the front row of the theater to see Pineapple Express and it was awesome–it was like we had a whole row to ourselves. And alls I can say about this protest is that it’s looking like a safe bet that those seats will be open again this weekend for Tropic Thunder.

  • Reed Farrington

    Ha, that’s funny Joel.

    BTW, can the Film Junk readers answer a nagging question I have? Are non-handicapped people allowed to use handicap bathroom stalls?

    (BTW 2, in all my years of earthly existence, I’ve never seen a handicapped person in a public washroom. Well, I’ve never seen a handicapped person in my home washroom either. Maybe I should get some handicapped friends. :-) )

  • @Reed,

    I use the handicap stalls in public restrooms all the time. They’re roomier, and tend to be cleaner, as well. Am I supposed to? I don’t know, but as you say, there’s not exactly a line of disabled persons waiting for their turn.

  • Matt

    Tropic Thunder is obviously satirizing movies that center around mentally chalenged characters, because these movies are confusing exploitation with creativity (like Radio, I am Sam, etc.) I understand that the protesters intentions are worthy, albeit totally misplaced. Thare are plenty of movies that make fun of retarded people for being retarded, but Tropic Thunder doesn’t appear to be one of them.

    I’ve used the Handicapped stall as well, because, unlike a Handicapped parking spot, a cop is not going to give you a ticket for using the stall. The same goes for handicapped seats on a bus, that you’re only supposed to give up if a handicapped person has nowhere else to sit.
    btw, you did an awesome job on Cantencrous. I was in stitches through most of it. You are a very unique person, with a very interesting life. And if it not interesting at times, you make it interesting. Someone should make a documentary (or biopic) of your life. Should be Jay’s next project.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  • Swarez

    At the airport the best toilets are the handicapped ones. Always empty and the best thing usually very private as well so you can take a dump at your own leisure and not worry about unpleasant sounds or smells.

  • Kudos for Dreamworks for not bowing down to the whims of special interest groups.

  • Ian

    Yeah this is fuckin’ stupid. I hope more people go see the movie and it’s not like the friends of retards allicance or any other speial interest group that doesn’t have a sense of humor was going to see anything that wasn’t just a bunch of shiny colorful pictures anyway.

  • Goon

    where were these people when Theres Something About Mary came out?

  • Reed–I love using the handicap stalls. I’ve never had a problem with using them. But I do have a good anecdote about handicap stalls–one time my friend was using the handicap stall at his work and this guy in a wheelchair and his bathroom helper (someone who helps wheelchair-bound people go to the bathroom, I don’t know how else to explain it) came into the bathroom. The disabled guy said real loud to his friend “Someone’s in there, let’s wait.” And my friend finishes up, the whole time thinking “Oh shit.” He comes out to wash his hands and the guy in the wheelchair just points at my friend and says, “He’s not disabled! HE’S NOT DISABLED!”

    So I’m always kind of afraid something like that will happen, but it doesn’t keep me from enjoying the luxury of a nice handicap stall.

  • James Richard Armstrong

    I have seen the movie.. i agree with the studio. The whole thing is a farce poking fun at Hollywood and all that is phony about the movies, the actors and America itself.