Monday, August 11, 2008

Why Doesn't DreamWorks Get it? -Protesting the Ben Stiller film Tropic Thunder


I'm adding my name/support to the growing list of disability rights advocates and groups, including my friends at Special Olympics and the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA), in protest of the new Ben Stiller film TROPIC THUNDER because of its negative portrayal of those with intellectual disabilities and the repeated use of the offensive, outdated word 'retard.'  It isn't funny, Mr. Stiller.

While I can't be there in person for the protest at tonight's star-studded premier of the film in L..A., I will be there in spirit.  If you are in LA, consider attending in person.  If the dignity and portrayal of those with special needs matters to you, please at least add your voice by writing or calling DreamWorks, and by staying away from this movie.  

Words and outdated, negative portrayals of this population do hurt millions of people with intellectual disabilities and their families worldwide, and DreamWorks and Ben Stiller know it, especially since DreamWorks executives met with representatives of top disability rights groups to discuss key concerns about the film.  Yet DreamWorks refused to make important changes.

(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics/used with permission).



Here's the update I received from DSALA:

Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles "Tropic Thunder" Update
Disability Coalitions Unite
August 11, 2008

WHAT:
Several National Disability Organizations are joining together to protest the star-studded premiere of DreamWorks' "Tropic Thunder" to demonstrate against the film's use of the inflammatory word "retard" and the demeaning portrayal of people with intellectual disabilities throughout the movie. Organizations supporting the protest should mobilize their grassroots members to join us. Please wear a shirt/hat with the logo of your organization. 

WHY:
The use of the R-Word perpetuates the dehumanizing and negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. "Tropic Thunder "is an enormously offensive and degrading film released by Dreamworks. The protest will focus on making all who were associated with the film and the general public better understand the hateful outcome this film is sure to create. The protest is our time to raise our voices and demand change.

WHEN:
Monday, August 11, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.

WHERE:
Gathering point will be in front of Stan's Donut Shop on the corner of Broxton and Weyburn Avenues in Westwood across from Mann Village Theatre (961 Broxton Ave). Plan on being at the protest from 4:00 - 7:30 pm. Note: There are several paid parking lots within the area.

-Additional Press:
Sunday's N.Y. Times on "Tropic Thunder"
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/movies/11thun.html
Advocates for disabled to protest "Tropic Thunder"
Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:24pm EDT
By Sue Zeidler
Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSN1029346220080811?sp=true

Statement of Support and Solidarity

-We, as organizations and self-advocates representing members of the disability community, recognize the dignity of individuals with intellectual disabilities and the challenges they and their families face in society.

-Acknowledge that individuals with intellectual disabilities have been subject to discrimination, abuse, and exclusion from society throughout history.

-Recognize that the more than 200 million individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide, and more than 6 million individuals with intellectual disabilities in the US, have suffered severe consequences including: institutionalization, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, denial of education, employment, and healthcare, segregation, and targeted hate crimes.

-Acknowledge that "attitudes and expectations of the public, in part, determine the degree to which children, adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities are able to learn, work and live alongside their peers without disabilities." (President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, 2004).

-Understand that for over four decades the media has consistently mischaracterized people with intellectual disabilities; (Pardun, 2005).

-Realize that over 80% of U.S. adults surveyed feel that media portrayals are an obstacle to the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. (Pardun, 2005).

-Recognize that many people, including those with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends, consider the "R-word" just as offensive as the "N-word and declare that under the guise of "parody," whether intentional or not, Tropic Thunder demeans, insults, and harms individuals with intellectual disabilities by using the "R- word." 

-Furthermore, it perpetuates derogatory images and stereotypes of individuals with intellectual disabilities, including mocking their physical appearance and speech, supports the continuation of inappropriate myths and misperceptions, and legitimizes painful discrimination, exclusion, and bullying.

Together, we declare our intention to make the public aware of the need to create and foster inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities as a matter of social justice by:

· Boycotting the film and explaining to our nation's children why the film is harmful.

· Educating the public, especially young people, about intellectual disabilities through far-reaching awareness campaigns to ban the "R-word," and other initiatives to permanently change attitudes and promote inclusion.

· Demanding that Hollywood studios, writers and executives pledge to make this the final chapter in a sullied history of demeaning portrayals of individuals with intellectual disabilities and assist in public education campaigns through dedicated studio funds and talent.

-Requesting that Congress investigate and conduct oversight of how Hollywood portrays individuals with intellectual disabilities and the effect these portrayals have on our nation and around the world.

Contact Info for Key Players:

DreamWorks
100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 5121, Universal City, CA 91608
818-733-7000

Paramount/Vantage
5555 Melrose Ave., Ball/Lasky Bldgs., Los Angeles, CA 90038
323-956-2000

Ben Stiller, Writer/Director/Producer
Read Hour Films, 629 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036
323-602-5000

For more info, visit: www.dsala.org, or call 818-242-7871
__________________

I want to add that the above stated commitment to the cause of those with ID is also critical to those living with a wide range of disabilities, including physical, emotional, intellectual and behavioral.  If you care about those with special needs, please let you voice be heard now. 

-And be sure to read the great column in today's Washington Post on the subject by Timothy Shriver (Special Olympics CEO) entitled What Tropic Thunder Thinks is Funny:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/10/AR2008081001869.html

As Dr, Martin Luther King said, "What impacts one, impacts all."

If you want things to change, including in the media, be a change agent.

JudyWinter.com
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations
MySpace.com/judy_winter

2 comments:

Liz Ditz said...

Here's my post, Words Hurt: The "R" Word. It covers more than the Stiller movie. I linked to this post and as many others as I can find.

Patrick Roberts said...

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