Get a Life by Including Others

Last week, “Tropic Thunder” hit movie theaters, and I hit the protest line. I joined with a crowd of disability … Continued

Last week, “Tropic Thunder” hit movie theaters, and I hit the protest line. I joined with a crowd of disability advocates, self-advocates, and my own family to challenge the film’s unfortunate and disparaging use of the word “retard” and it’s unacceptable stereotyping of people with intellectual disabilities. We held signs, marched in lines, and chanted to moviegoers, “Stop the show, the “R” word has got to go.

But I was taken aback by one moviegoer, a young woman in her late teens or early twenties. She marched by us indignantly, refused to take our literature and snapped at one of our young protesters, “Get a life.”

Curious, I thought, that she would see all of us assembled — diverse, engaged, organized, and with strong opinions — and use those words. I wondered whether it was a throw away line or if it meant something. What, in the mind of today’s young people, does it mean to “get a life?”

So I asked a group of people in their teens and twenties — my children, cousins, nieces, and nephews. What does it mean to you guys to “get a life?”

The answers shouldn’t surprise. “If you’ve got a life,” my cousin Jack, 15, said, “you’ve got friends.” Rose, 21, expanded: “people who ‘have a life’ are the kids who belong. They’re the ones who are in.” “Is there a single word?” I wondered. “Cool,” responded Sam, 16. “Kids who have a life are cool.”

Belonging. Included. Cool. Those are teenage-speak words for what the great spiritual traditions invite us to do with our lives: build community, promote acceptance, inspire joy. The Jewish people defined themselves and their religion through covenant, a relationship of belonging between the people and G-d. “I will be your God and you will be my people,” the prophet writes. The ultimate in having a life was having a relationship of intimacy with the divine.

A similar spirituality continues in Christianity as early believers put their focus on creating community. The Book of Acts is an account of how those who lived after the death of Jesus created their version of a church, a place where people who believed in the risen Lord could share their lives and feel connection. “They held all things in common” showing that they trusted each other, felt a bond. God’s presence, they believed, enabled a kind of supernatural connection to others–relationships without barriers; relationships of love.

In our everyday world, every parent knows the challenge of belonging. We raise our kids to be good friends to others, and we try to help them find a peer group in which they can feel at ease, comfortable, accepted. Kids want to belong and parents work hard to help them do just that.

But belonging can cut two ways. Some people can feel “cool” only when others feel excluded. The coolest kids at school are often those who only hang with other cool kids. The mark of cool can be that you’re good at putting down those who aren’t.

That’s not the type of belonging that lasts. A spirituality of belonging isn’t exclusive; rather, it’s inclusive. The spirituality of belonging has a powerful message: we feel most included when everyone is included. Our deepest aspiration is to be at one with everyone. That’s the real cool — being cool with everyone.

That’s why stereotypes and name calling are so dangerous. They have a subtle way making some people feel rejected while others benefit from feeling included. We’ve seen it over and over again: name calling and giggles of ridicule lead to loneliness and humiliation. It’s a story as old as the bible and as current as the protest line at “Tropic Thunder.” There is always someone who doesn’t belong, someone who we need to laugh at, not with.

All this came full circle as I thought about that young woman who sneered at us to “Get a life.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we were on the same mission but with very different strategies on how to get there. She wants cool, but I fear it’s the kind that excludes. We want cool, but the kind that includes. We want a life for people who are too frequently society’s outcasts. We want every child — not just a few —  to grow up and have a life.

That would be a great storyline for a movie. And that would be a lesson worth teaching our children. Surely, we can agree that name calling and mockery aren’t cool no matter who is the intended target. Surely we can teach our children that they will find the greatest happiness when they broaden the circle of welcome, especially to include the kids who struggle.

That’s a lesson that has power from the spirit to the school. And, in the end, that’s one sure way to get a life.


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Timothy Shriver
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  • Rachel

    I saw the movie, and it’s quite obvious that the SATIRE is directed at the Hollywood tendency to exploit the differently able and challenged for Oscar winning gains. It is ridiculous to protest something you’ve not seen either, and ironic self-defeating to protest media satirizing the very thing you’re protesting. This movie is hilarious, btw and deftly punctures the self-importance of various aspects of the film industry.

  • greenmansf

    Hey there old man Shriver, you didn’t need to ask the “young folks” to explain the term “get a life”. It is a very simple term, and one that a grown man like yourself should easily understand. It means that you should get a life and leave others to their own lives. See how simple that was? It means what it says. So instead of standing outside of a movie theater and telling people they should not see a movie that you yourself haven’t seen, just don’t go see the movie. I too would tell you to get a life, but in your case, I guess I would have to follow that up with “and stay out of mine” as you show yourself to be just that ignorant. I don’t care that you don’t understand satire, but don’t try to stop me from seeing a movie based upon your own shortcomings. It only makes you look foolish. I work with DD adults and have an uncle who is DD, and I didn’t find the scene offensive in the least. It is actually making fun of people who use the word retarded, and not making fun of DD people at all. But of course, if you were as engaged as you claim, you would already know what I am telling you. Ah, but that was the problem wasn’t it? You reacted without even seeing the film, so you aren’t engaged at all, just a bully trying to force other people to see things your way. Poor little fool.

  • Chris

    For the people who keep pointing out that the film is satire…..So what? Does satire give a free pass to anyone who wants to toss slurs at a group of people? If so, couldn’t all slurs be couched as satire, e.g., “I know I used the n-word, but I was actually poking fun at racists who use that word….”Calling it satire doesn’t make it OK.

  • Potter2

    Chris – allow me to quote Bono:”When Johnny Cash sang ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’, no one said, ‘Arrest that man.’ “The answer is yes, satire does make it okay. The word is being uttered by the CHARACTERS, not by the voice of the writers or actors. The slur is not being tossed at anybody.

  • Hillman

    Mr. Shriver:You fight for a very worthy cause. But you are way wrong on this one. Every single person I know that’s seen the movie says the dialog you are so upset about is not offensive, is done in the context of showing the shallowness of the characters involved, and is easily understood as such.So, yes, get a life. Stop whining about movie scenes and go out and use your bigtime name and money for some actual good.

  • deflag

    You might as well say, “get a garden.” Life pretty much takes care of itself from there. You grow your own inspiration and it grows on others. Our food is fighting and there’s no fight like a food fight to determine who grows stronger and who is spoiled. It’s a family tradition and it never ends. You can grow your own goodness in American soil, for strong seeds lay beneath this ground.

  • Chris

    Well, if it actually is satire, it does make it OK. It’s also OK if the words are put in the mouth of a fictional character who is of the sort who would use that language (i.e. a drug dealer in Baltimore, a white Southerner circa 1870, a KKK member circa whenever, etc.) Context matters. Getting hysterical about the word itself, sans context, is just stupid.

  • AnneS

    OOPS! That last post from “Chris” was from me and was meant to be TO Chris.

  • Michael Melius

    I started working for people who have disabilities eight months ago. Before that, I essentially ignored and avoided such people, and was at most uncomfortable in their presence. Looking back, I see that was pretty lame on my part, a self-retarded aspect of my development, the opposite of cool.This work can be very challenging and is often quite delightful–I won’t go into detail here. But I would invite readers to stop ignoring people with disabilities. In my experience, the aspect of everyday life they miss most is having friends and being able to “go out” as freely as most people do–dancing, shopping, exercising, you name it. Avail yourself, as a volunteer or employee, of agencies and organizations that serve such people. Make friends with someone who is disabled and you will find you have a sincere and appreciative friend for life.

  • Real Name

    Seriously now, Mr. Shriver. You’re not even graying around the temples, and you had to ask what “Get a life” meant. I’m less than convinced.I can’t help but be reminded of something my sister did in high school (for about a year); if someone called her a b****, she would rattle off a long and incomprehensible string of equivocations until she had somehow warped it into something about being beautiful, and then would say “Thank you for the compliment”. This kind of deliberate opacity is usually the distinct realm of internet trolls and teenage girls. It does you no favors.I would like to ask you if the sappy, exploitative shlock of Forrest Gump and I Am Sam makes you reach for the tissues. If so, it’s clear what flew over your head.While you mull that over, I’ll clear off the mysterious viscous liquid that collected on my screen as I read this article.

  • deflag

    I just watered the garden. A big queen bee was out there working on something big. Maybe I’ll dig some holes after I get my sharpshooter friend back and punch some holes in something. You have city life and country life. We’re living it out here and the city is a different kind of hole. I’m moving out deeper into the country. We have a lot of city people coming here and they don’t understand it. Many of them drive back to the city to work and get stuck in rush hour (bums rush) and crawl back here, digging different kinds of holes filled with gasoline and plastic money. It’s all capped by a big mortgage going bad and they call us names. We’re hicks in the sticks. Whatever.

  • Ray in NC

    Mr. Shriver, do you apply this level of navel-gazing to everything you do? Goodness, the young lady’s comment really didn’t require all THAT much introspection and interviewing. She was stating her opinion that your protest was stupid. An opinion that I happen to agree with. ‘Retard’ has been used with increasing frequency in popular comedy. From South Park to the Family Guy. Your sense of personal self-importance as one of the righteous who choose to teach us ignoramuses the errors of using non-PC language is amusing in and of itself. It’s this kind of inanity that changes a Christmas tree to a ‘holiday’ tree… despite the fact that Jews and Muslims and Buddhists typically have no interest in it. Yes, sir, you need to really get a life. Get your own house in order and be happy with that. Don’t try to force your own politically correct-speak down our throats.

  • Shanks1

    WWJD? I think he’d be so concerned and involved with the plight of the down & out portion of the population that he wouldn’t concern himself with silly protests such as these.

  • Wendell

    Chris,I am a black man (who just happens to have been raised in part by a wonderful woman with Cerebral Palsy), and if an artist, director, writer or comedian uses the “N” word or the “R” word to breathe life into a character that will show people just how ignorant the use of these words can be, then so be it. That’s the POINT of satire, to make you take a long hard look at certain things that need to be brought to light. Just because you choose to ignore intolerance does not mean that it is not there. In fact, if one young man or woman sees this movie and from the scene in question realizes how Hollywood often exploits minorities and those facing challenges to make ‘heart warming stories’ that are really just Oscar bait, then it is a positive thing. It takes a bit of courage to really face up to the true ills of society and not just point the finger at seemingly obvious targets. Don’t start fighting a battle without looking at both sides, and don’t defend a cause without having a sound perspective; you’ll just end up looking like someone without a valid point of view. That road will lead you directly into the crosshairs of those of us who will bluntly say, “Seriously, get a life.”

  • Dick Cabesa

    Absolutely right. That’s why use the word motard. A cross between a moron and a retard.

  • dcredhead73

    Maybe she meant you should see a film before protesting it.

  • Righto

    Shriver is right. This is fundamental Christianity. Most of the so-called sharp and witty secularists who read the Post are so out of touch with basic Biblical teachings they have no idea what Shriver is talking about. WWJD? He would be furious too.

  • Steve

    Mr. Shriver, I am terribly disappointed in your shallow campaign against this movie. I won’t even bother with your ridiculous posting today — “get a life” is a common slang for “why don’t you find something useful to do?”I’ve read your previous op-ed on this issue, and I was surprised to find that you do not seem to have any interest in the point this movie is attempting to make. Instead, its use of the word “retard,” independent of the context in which it was used, seems to be the casus belli for your protest movement. I noted how your initial vitriolic protest against this movie was made before you saw it. Have you seen this movie yet, or are you content to denounce it in a vacuum, without considering the point which it is attempting to make?I completely agree with your premise that people of limited mental capacity should be treated with dignity and respect as human beings. Unfortunately, I think that your campaign against this movie is the worst form of political correctness. It’s as if you don’t care about the substance as long as the form is observed. Let Tom Hanks or Dustin Hoffman make a distorted mockery of mental disability and be lauded by the critics — no problem. But use the word “retard,” even as satire, and you are a monster. This attitude is shallow and is ultimately harmful to your cause.Words by themselves are meaningless — intent is everything. Now, please go see the movie and give us a reasoned critique of the issues it raises, and how these issues might be misinterpreted by the moviegoing audience. If you don’t have the fair-mindedness to do this, do us all a favor — and get a life…

  • Steve

    By the way, I’m pretty sure that if Jesus watched this movie, he would get the joke…

  • yellowdoggie

    A few years ago the special education professionals in the public schools (and perhaps in more places…I had no reason to know that) replaced labels such as “mentally handicapped” and went back to the older terms, such as “retarded.” I still don’t know why they did that. Is it okay in the PC world to use the R-word in the context of a parent-teacher conference of a retarded child? I’d like to know the take of the disability advocates on this labeling. Personally, I thought the movie was hilarious. It didn’t ridicule retarded (there’s that word again…) people at all. It did, however, skewer just about every Hollywood type there is.

  • Anonymous

    get a life

  • Lee

    Members of Mensa (a high IQ society) are in the same relation to normal people on the intelligence scale that normal people are to the retarded. As normal people make jokes about the retarded, so Mensans make jokes about normal people- who we call the “Densans”.

  • Special Ed Teacher

    For over ten years, I have been working with teenagers who have severe developmental disabilities. Some of them have severe mental retardation (Down’s Syndrome and other forms), while most have severe autism. Once a week, our school takes these teens out into the community for some type of outing (e.g., a trip to a dollar store, breakfast at an IHOP). You can imagine how some people look at these kids. I read about this dopey movie, and I don’t plan to see it. People who haven’t dedicated their lives to working with developmentally disabled children can talk all day long about the use of satire and irony in the way various characters call each other “retard” — personally, I’m not buying what they’re selling. By the way, this article by Mr. Shriver was stupid and sanctimonious as well.

  • AnneS

    Those of us who aren’t in Mensa, but could be, mock those of you who are in Mensa who mock us. It’s so cute that you mock people like your bosses – really, do your big heads take up so much oxygen during your meetings that the resulting deprivation causes you a temporary IQ lapse that leads you to miss the palpable bitterness behind that mocking? Perhaps, if you got off your high horse, you’d do the work necessary to become the boss, instead of venting your wit mocking the people who have actually achieved something.Oh, and those of you who work with the developmentally disabled and think those of us defending the movie are insensitive can get off your high horses, too. Some of us also work with the developmentally disabled and have developmentally disabled friends and family members.

  • Ace

    Rather than land yet another body blow on the hapless Mr. Shriver, I would like to point out that there really is a serious issue here — one which is being lost in the pointless campaign against the use of the word “retard.”We all know that this joke will appeal not only to people who understand that this is a shot aimed squarely at Hollywood, but also to people who take the references to retards at face value and laugh at Ben Stiller’s expression. And the moral dilemma for the movie studios is, will we stoop to market this movie to the latter audience? And how much money will this make us?For example, I find the poster for “Simple Jack” to be hilarious specifically because it would almost fit right in at any movie theater today. The goofy but likable leer, the use of a euphemism for the offensive word “retard” (in this case, the equally offensive “simple”) are all things we’ve seen before. Let’s see — “Rain Man,” “Forrest Gump” — these cuddly names have Hollywood-style sugar-coated cynicism just dripping off them.I think that the best way to gain something positive from this controversy is to reexamine some of the movies which are being skewered here, and ask whether Ben Stiller got it right. Are “classic” movies such as Forrest Gump really pandering to our worst instincts, with their “retarded superman” characters? If we can learn something from thinking about these movies in a different way, then maybe we’ve learned something after all.

  • KB

    get a life = I don’t care what you do, but you obviously care about my life because you’re annoying me. So, get a life of your own and get out of mine.

  • Dawny Chambers

    The link on the WaPo home page reads:I was sure that it meant that Shriver had learned a lesson about how NOT to protest a film. I was certain he had seen the futility of his ways and he now understood that all he had achieved was terrific publicity for the film and a harsh spotlight on his ineptness in the public arena.But no. Here, he embarrasses himself even further, as usual leading with his chin. If he becomes so introspective following a “get a life” comment to his face, I can only imagine the psychological breakdown that would follow if he could hear what people were thinking.

  • Gigi

    As someone who serves disabled people, admittedly usually sensorily impaired and not intellectually impaired ones, it’s hard for me not to feel some sympathy with Mr. Shriver’s point of view. Yes, ultimately the object of the film’s ridicule are the people uttering the epithet and not developmentally impaired people. But the American public has been notoriously undiscerning in interpreting just that kind of humor: back in the seventies, a survey revealed that most viewers did not understand, for example, that Archie Bunker was the object of the humor in All in the Family when he called his son-in-law a “meathead” and not Rob Reiner’s character.But how are artists to portray bigotry and hold it up for criticism if they can’t . . . well, portray bigotry? I’m not sure they can. This movie is taking the heat for the dozens of demeaning portrayals of developmentally disabled people in TV and on films. And while I haven’t seen it, it sounds as though it’s taking it unjustly. As usual, though, it always warms the cockles of my heart to see how any disability issue raised in a public forum will generate a sewer-in-a-glass-bottom-boat’s-eye-view of the general public’s thinking on the subject.

  • getting a life

    I worked with DD people for years and I plan to see TT. It sounds like a funny movie.

  • Blubber

    It’s pretty amazing how simple words can cause such an uproar. I wonder how many people were killed around the DMV over the weekend (which is way more important) and here we are blasting away at each other over a F’n word. Re-Tard… so simple that even Julius Caesar used it in one of his speeches.

  • cartographer

    Here’s another irony of which Mr. Shriver is unaware: “retarded” (which means “slowed”) was originally a euphemism, invented by psychologists to replace “backward,” which in turn replaced “moron” and “idiot” — all of which in their own time were euphemisms, too! “Retarded” actually expresses a sunny optimism about the people it describes — their mental development is not halted, it implies, and eventually they may catch up. Someone should write a study of the progress of such words from gentility to slur. Someday, for sure, “developmentally impaired” will sound just as nasty as “retarded” does now. So this business of policing everyone’s language is ultimately futile.

  • Fate

    Shriver wrote: “So I asked a group of people in their teens and twenties–my children, cousins, nieces, and nephews. What does it mean to you guys to “get a life?”You asked the Shriver clan what it means to get a life? Why not ask the Bush clan? Those brought up in privilege and wealth are not the people to ask. Even Nixon, who did not understand the anger of the Vietnam war protesters, went to the Lincoln memorial one night to talk to the protesters instead of just talking to his daughters. I suggest you find some regular Janes and Joes and talk to them.As for what the girl meant, she probably was referring to the many other issues that deserve protesting, and the one you chose would be way down on her list of which to protest first. You also need to understand that words from the 70s don’t have the same meanings today. For example, the word “suck” as in “that sucks” certainly has a different meaning today than it did back then. Retard is probably different too, not referring to people with disabilities at all instead to people with abilities who do not use them. Its a different world Tim, get out and talk to people, regular people. Maybe spend a day at the Lincoln memorial.

  • Chris

    Wendell,While artists, directors, writers or comedians may be using words like “retard” to make an intellectual point about the absurd randomness of language, I doubt that kids on a playground are employing quite that depth of analysis.To them, “retard” has only has one meaning and one purpose. And I’m pretty sure I know where they’re all learning how to use that word. As for your comments about courage, I couldn’t agree more. It does take courage to look at issues fully rather than pointing a finger at obvious targets. I wish the proponents of “retard” would take your comments to heart.

  • Grant

    Chris:Tropic Thunder is R-rated, no? Thus the filmmakers are absolved of any perceived responsibility for the ideas of children. This is for adults, as is most satire, really.

  • Marc Edward

    “Get a life” means “find something meaningful to do”

  • Potter2

    Memo to Shriver, getting a life really doesn’t involve pondering the mysteries of high school wisdom and trying to tie that into the “ultimate” of a “relationship with the divine”.By the way, I was extremely offended by your use of the insulting R-word in your article. Please remove it immediately.

  • Grant

    Yeah, “get a life” in this case means that you should find something more interesting/useful to do with your time.Protesting obvious satire is a pretty dense thing to do, and it proves you’re terribly out of touch.

  • Tonio

    While I can understand the objection to the word “retard,” I would like to know the protester’s feelings about the ongoing exploitation of disabilities in film. In my view, it’s worse to milk a disability for sentimentality than to make fun of the people who have them. The former robs the disabled of their humanity, turning them into idealized heroic or tragic figures. These don’t help increase awareness about disabilities. All they do is give the appearance of political correctness for the filmmakers.

  • Jack

    Just saw the movie tonight. Laughed my butt off. Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black are both hilarious, as is Tom Cruise. Found nothing objectionable whatsoever. Highly recommended…

  • Michael Melius

    You know, we’re all retarded. We’re all obsessive compulsive, or the opposite, or manic, or depressive, we get angry at others or down on ourselves too easily….some more, some less, some able to control it better than others. And it’s often an accident of birth or life that makes a person one or the other.Get a life, but share it. I challenge any reader to befriend a person who is disabled and make one small improvement in his or her life. You have to see a movie before advocating a boycott. (A Ben Stiller movie, yuck.) From what others have written, TT may be one that Shriver would actually recommend, for its obvious satire on movie stereotypes.So, is “Washington Redskins” satire? Someone please explain. I do understand that “Spearchuckers” would be no more true, kind, or fair.

  • Jim

    I have to agree with the tenor of the comments thus far: there are more credible things to “protest” than adolescent behavior which is, after all, perfectly normal. The vast majority of us simply grow out of it, so what are you so worried about? “Get a life” is an appropriate retort to adults protesting like this (and then drawing more attention to themselves with articles in the Washington Post).

  • AnneS

    This is what we call “digging the hole”.

  • suzanne

    Keep up the good work, Tim! The callousness out there is pretty unbelievable. The “get a life, lighten up” crowd still fails to realize that tossing that word around in movies and on TV leads to it being used against people who it hurts deeply — on playgraounds, in workplaces, grocery stores, just walking down the street. Why the need to be so hateful? Why the need to hurt?

  • Corky

    What a retard.

  • Earl Hicks

    So, I wonder – did you actually *see* the movie before you started protesting? Had the other protesters? Or did you just take the lines you didn’t like out of context? Have you seen any other Ben Stiller movies? Something About Mary? Zoolander? Were you on the protest lines for those, too?

  • Tonio

    Archie Bunker used many offensive words because the character was designed to condemn the attitudes behind the words. Unfortunately, Bunker became a hero for people who held those attitudes. Is it possible to create a movie or TV character who has offensive attitudes about people with disabilities and not have the film or show be misinterpreted as an endorsement of those attitudes? I suspect that any writer of at least moderate ability would find it difficult to make such a character believable without having the character use words that would be normally be offensive to people with disabilities.

  • Wendell

    The major problem with your article is that you’ve built an argument on a flawed premise. Perhaps you should look at many of the readers’ comments here to really see what the term ‘get a life’ could mean in this context instead of asking people who are close to you, and by association, may share similar views (thus nullifying the validity of your sample). It may also help you to increase the number of people close to you who understand the nuances and subtleties of satire. This may help you channel your energies into more productive pursuits, rather than protesting a film that is actually protesting the same exploitation that you claim to be fighting. Finally, I hope you have actually seen the movie, because I would hate to think that someone who has not only the power but the responsibility to speak to and affect people in such a public way would have the integrity to actually ‘listen’ to a viewpoint before attacking it.

  • T.C.

    Satire eludes you.

  • FakeNameGuy

    So, have you seen the movie yet? I seem to recall you hadn’t seen it when you first railed against it. I’m not going to see it myself, but only because I find Ben Stiller to be a black hole from which no humor can escape. Others differ in their opinions. I’m not calling for them to be kept from seeing anything, though.

  • Free Ben Stiller!

    If you had watched the movie, you might have picked up on the irony of the scene, which is clearly intended as a joke on actors. The two characters involved in that scene are written as well-meaning but insensitive fools experiencing a moment of self-importance which is all too common for actors. This is what Stiller excels at: blistering criticism of shallow people. He’s not being nasty to the mentally challenged; he’s being nasty to “normal” people who lack the depth of understanding even to comprehend when they’re being offensive. You really should consider watching the movie before condemning it. And get a life.PS – The movie was hilarious!

  • tdc

    Why so much animosity toward Tim Shriver. Do you have any idea what the man does for a living? He doesn’t spend his day devoting himself to ways to make more money, he doesn’t spend his time climbing the corporate ladder so he can be the head honcho, he doesn’t work at a manufacturing facility and try to make the public love his product. He, in fact, gives himself up everyday for the world of people, who most of you would rather forget about. Shame on you.It seems that many people are confusing the term “politically correct” with “compassion”. I never did understand why some people need “politics” to explain the wrongness of anything. Using any derogatory word to identify a group of people is insensitive and uncompassionate. These words used in almost all situations (to poke fun, as satire, in anger, out of ignorance, etc.) are absolutely wrong. The only use of the words that would be acceptable would be in teaching others how terrible they are. And no, Tropic Thunder does not do that. The movie makes people who use the terms look ridiculous yes, but also makes a person feel levity as they hear and use them. The point isn’t if it shows the tortuous comments as Archie Bunker type satire, the point is that the use of these terms, in a fun way, will make it easier for people to use them in their daily life. I can remember the invidious words of Archie being thrown around, without hesitation (i.e., “dingbat”, “buttinski”, “meathead”, etc.). If you think it funny for a “man of the house” to call his wife who stays home and works hard to care for the family, a “dingbat” – then again, shame on you.Saying that protesting one for standing up for what is right, is an excuse for you to participate in hateful and indelible language. Tim is standing up for what he believes, instead of sitting back and whining. Remember the old adage, “if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” He has been part of life-changing solutions for more people than all the rest of us put together. Remember the story of the man who could not walk to Jesus, and his friends carried him on a sheet? When they arrived at the home where Jesus was teaching, the crowd was so large that they could not get their friend close enough to see Jesus. They didn’t give up and say, “Well, sorry friend, you are out of luck – we tried enough.” No. They put their heads together and came up with a way to make it happen. They carried him to the rooftop and dug a hole in the roof to let him down through (as an engineer, I love that story of Black Belt root-cause analysis). Tim too, will not stop standing up and carrying his friends to the rooftop. His is a life mission – like his parents. I’m proud of him.You bellyache about Tim infringing on your “freedom of speech”. What about your infringing on other’s “freedom to assemble”, and right to protest. It is ironic to me that the same country that removed the ten commandments (good rules even if you don’t believe in the bible) from our view, has such resistance in removing a word that, by itself, can leave ineradicable scars on the hearts of so many. Is it worth a laugh, to promote something that could crush a young child’s spirit for life? If you said yes, then again, shame on you. Tim, and the others who are actually living to help people who might not be able to help themselves, will always be ridiculed by the narcissistic masses who justify their pursuit of happiness at all costs. I know that I will not change the minds of you who love to laugh at the expense of others, but I also know that I will never be complacent to your self-fulfilling laughter.

  • andre

    TDC- There is animosity toward Mr. Shriver because he’s inconsistent (maybe some would consider him a hypocrite). Have you seen the movie “The Ringer”? It is a movie about a man who pretends to be mentally disabled to participate in the Special Olympics. It contains frequent use of the disparaging words “retard” and “tard”.Mr. Shriver didn’t seem to have a problem with this movie. In fact, he was executive producer of the film.It seems Mr. Shriver only has a concern about “Tropic Thunder” because they didn’t come to him for his “blessing” before releasing the movie.

  • Anonymous

    Meaning of “Get a life” as it is really used is derogatory and it means: Can’t you find better use for your time than this? In other words, do something that is really worth your life and signifies real life.

  • Paganplace

    ” bri:”I continue to be astonished as the compulsion some have to defend Tropic Thunder. Defending it is debased. It’s a cheap comedy. Even if the multi-millionaire clown behind it is adept at framing shallow jokes, to elevate it to the level of “satire” or suggest that it somehow raises questions or prompts a discussion of ideas is ridiculous.”It’s a *farce,* Bri. In a farce, ignorance and human foibles are portrayed in a ridiculous manner: it takes *way* too much of a literalist mind to fail to see the fact that the stuff Ben Stiller’s characters generally say, is being said by a self-important idiot. That’s the point. :)I remember explaining certain punk rock behaviors… using the little example of throwing rash around… Sometimes that would involve doing the *wrong* thing really loudly where many would do it discreetly or unthinkingly. Like in a world where yupsters’d sort of casually or discreetly drop their trash somewhere for others to pick it up, you’ve just gotta shriek, ‘Aaa! My Big Gulp Is Half Empty!’ and fling it really far. 🙂 Ah, youth. More effective than a whole lot of lectures, though. I think. The point of a movie like this ‘Tropic Thunder’ is really that ‘Fools are saying this.’ The target isn’t intellectually-disabled people, it’s how Hollywood sells us ideas about award-winning portrayals of people with remarkable compensatory gifts while most such folks who aren’t Rain Man or Forrest Gump are brushed aside and scorned and ignored.

  • Storm

    OK buddy, I hope you are reading these comments and having an epiphany about how pathetically foolish and coercively PC you are.People can say whatever they want, absent making threats, etc. If you are “offended” by it, tough luck. Being offended does not mean the other person has to change their speech or ideas. There is no constitutional right to not be offended. If you do not like the movie or simply do not understand or approve of the concept of satire, then don’t see the movie.The US Supreme Court says you have the right to put on a Nazi uniform and be issued a parade permit, or participate in a gay rights group, or start your very own local chapter of the Klan.Every one of those aforementioned activities is going to offend SOMEONE, but that’s irrelevant. It is amazing how intolerant the champions of tolerance are when they are “offended.”I think it is very easy to understand what that girl at the movie theater was telling you. I am saddened that you don’t get it, especially when you have a newspaper column.I think that you should show your family members these comments and see if they now have a different answer to what “get a life” means. Or maybe you’re afraid to.

  • EgoNemo

    >>”what elevates and what debases the human spirit.”Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy knew “what elevates and what debases the human spirit.”-They knew that freedom elevated the human spirit.All have the right to:Take away any of those three freedoms, and the human spirit is, as you eloquently put it, debased.

  • nicool

    Now Tim you really should explain why you were involved in a movie that actually used the word quiet freely.I understand it might have been from a differant perspective how ever a calling for the total ban of the word does not correspond with that.As for the young woman who said get a life,she also probably uses phrases LIKE It was hot…..doubt she ponders Soren Kierkegaard.

  • punxnbutter

    I’ve got a Mensa IQ and spent my time in classes/tracks for the gifted during my primary schooling; so when I say this I want you to really read this post again with an open mind.This is the most pompous and offensive stereotyping I’ve read in quite some time. You’re embarrassing the gifted in a big way. Have the intelligence to keep your mouth shut about your personality shortcomings. I certainly don’t sit in a dank basement room and giggle with other nerds (yes I identify as a bit of a nerd) about the many foolish things co-workers have done, because nobody is perfect. This includes YOU, ME, and the rest of the planet.****Lee:Members of Mensa (a high IQ society) are in the same relation to normal people on the intelligence scale that normal people are to the retarded. As normal people make jokes about the retarded, so Mensans make jokes about normal people- who we call the “Densans”.

  • TDC

    Chris,You are wrong about Tim’s work ethics. Tim(like his parents) is a ball of energy. He greets everyone in his path with a big smile and kind words. He works relentlessly to better the world. If you knew his mother you would understand where he gets the when-you-can’t-go-anymore-go-some-more attitude. If you knew his father, you would understand where he gets his indomitable spirit. He doesn’t get his attitude or spirit from the “root of all evil”. He is known by his fruits and he has fruit in over 180 countries. How ’bout you? How many thousands of people do you help everyday?

  • Paganplace

    “Members of Mensa (a high IQ society) are in the same relation to normal people on the intelligence scale that normal people are to the retarded. As normal people make jokes about the retarded, so Mensans make jokes about normal people- who we call the “Densans”.”Eh. I got invited into Mensa. (FWIW, my IQ actually is pretty stoopid) All I could think was, ‘I may have to revise my notion of it being existentially-impossible to completely waste my time.’ 🙂 Then again, I try to get out of things what I can. 🙂

  • Alex

    fr Jack:>…Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black are both hilarious, as is Tom Cruise…I do not find Black OR Cruise “hilarious”. Cruise needs a good swift kick of reality where it would do the most good, and to stop practicing medicine without a license. Black just can’t act. I do like Robert Downey Jr., loved him in “Chaplin”. VERY good movie.

  • Fuji

    All the comments here are SO GAY.*kidding!

  • TDC

    Friends, a high IQ does not make a person wise, nor does it give them the ability to reason. Years ago, I had a MENSA, nuclear chemist, PhD working for me. One day he called in to explain that he could not make it to work. You see, everyday when he went home he would take his shoes off outside his apt. door, leaving them on the mat. That particular morning someone had thought it cleaver to steal the right shoe of both pairs sitting on the mat. It was an important day, and he was to follow a major chemical change on our product through the manufacturing process. I rearranged my schedule to follow it for him. Later that afternoon he made it into work with shoes on both feet. When I asked him if the culprit had returned the right shoes he replied, “No, I just remembered I had another pair in my closet.”I rest my case.

  • Fuji

    You asked the Shriver clan what it means to get a life? Why not ask the Bush clan? — All roads lead back to Bush. I’m convinced that you’re convinced.

  • clamb11

    Mr. Shriver,A couple things you might want to learn about:1. Satire. In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with the intent to bring about improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humor in itself so much as an attack on something of which the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit.You obviously haven’t seen the film, nor understand what satire is.2. You also might want to learn about not USING others for you own self absorbed purposes. Were you planning on protesting this movie prior to the media reporting on this? What other movies have you “protested” because you didn’t like language used in it, or was this a first time for you? I’m willing to bet this was the first time.All in all, you could learn a lot from that teenager.

  • Chris

    “He doesn’t spend his day devoting himself to ways to make more money, he doesn’t spend his time climbing the corporate ladder so he can be the head honcho, he doesn’t work at a manufacturing facility and try to make the public love his product. He, in fact, gives himself up everyday for the world of people, who most of you would rather forget about.”He doesn’t spend his time “working” because he doesn’t have to. He comes from a family that made its money through backroom dealing and illegal bootlegging. His family spends their time tryig to make more money, climb the corporate ladder and, most importantly, they all make public love their sole product.

  • Stick

    “Get a life” means people that have a life are living it and not protesting and telling other people what to do. It means being cool with who you are so that words roll off your back.

  • Paganplace

    I mean, you do realize that a high IQ doesn’t mean you don’t have to *do the work,* right? That it still *does in fact occupy the attention to be thinking up all the stuff it takes to make you your whixbangs and gizmoes?* While some sophomoric *wannnabe donkey* might think it’s clever to say ‘Let’s see you get to work *now,* smart guy? I mean, Being a girl I got a little museum of obsolete shoes, and anyone that tried to steal *mine* might get a practicum on ‘How To Feel Lucky The Twitchy Girl is a Humanities Type Who Picked Up The Flashlight First…’ But.You’re a prime example what I’m talking about. You think it’s great sport to pick on the ‘geeks.’ Probably the same kind of guy felt some necessity to steal your employee’s shoes while you were demanding he do chemistry tricks for your profit… and mockery. How bout that. Wise guy.

  • Pragmatic Idealist

    Absent the rancor, I agree with the general sentiment. Cartographer makes a particularly good point. Tim Shriver is either a nice person who is out of touch with reality or a cynic who seizes the opportunity for free publicity for his cause without worrying about the negative effects of his own attack on those involved in the movie.Remember the massive protests when Monty Python’s Life of Brian hit the theaters? Despite treating Jesus with perfect respect and only making fun of a false messiah, the film was attacked broadly and energetically by people wanting to feel persecuted.

  • Lynn

    Perhaps you should consider that your freedom to protest the movie is very similar to the prodcer’s freedom to use any language they wish.Perhaps “get a life” meant “stop trying to control my life.”

  • hipposniffer

    Mr. Shriver,

  • Massachusetts Person

    As a member of the most prominent Catholic family in America, I’m sure Mr. Shriver led the protests against the infamous “artworks” “Pi** Christ” and the “dung Madonna.” Oh no? Freedom of expression you say? First amendment? It’s not about “cool;” it is apparently about whose feelings – and whether they’re on the Left or the Right – are offended.

  • EgoNemo

    Consider this:

  • bri

    I continue to be astonished as the compulsion some have to defend Tropic Thunder. Defending it is debased. It’s a cheap comedy. Even if the multi-millionaire clown behind it is adept at framing shallow jokes, to elevate it to the level of “satire” or suggest that it somehow raises questions or prompts a discussion of ideas is ridiculous. It’s juvenile humor. And why are the cruel jokes related to disabilities reprehensible? First, obviously, because Stiller is lampooning and exploiting the weak and defenseless for cheap laughs. Secondly, his “serious” message seems to be that a heroic portrayal of a person with a mental disability is fundamentally dishonest and phoney as opposed to an “honest” portrait, at least according to his arrogant and stunted vision. If your life is brightened by something like Tropic Thunder, you really ought to reflect on your standards about what elevates and what debases the human spirit.

  • Joe

    I agree with the young lady: get a life.

  • Monty Keeling

    Have you ever met a person who stood up for eternal truth of biblical faith who was not a hypocrite? Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures attest to the fact that we are grass and God knows it. But I, for one, felt greatly comforted by the truth of Mr. Shriver’s article. God’s grace comes only to those who are hypocrites and know it. Only then can God’s love begin to empower us to start being better people. And that friends is exactly how to “get a life.” We all are retards when it comes to faith. So let the word rest.

  • Priver

    I’ve recently actually SEEN the movie in question, unlike a lot of people around here. The whole setup is that the actors are playing differing types of the WORST KIND of actors, who are arrogant, utterly self-absorbed, out of touch the world outside of the studio/groupies and have absolutely NO knowledge of anything that doesn’t concern them. Their conversation about disabled people speaks only to their ignorance, and without it, the premise falls apart to some degree. I wasn’t laughing at their description of disabled people, I was laughing at their utter ignorance of the people they played. There’s a difference here that people fail to see. Honestly, I was disturbed more by Robert Downey Jr. in blackface until I realized that they wrote that his ACTOR CHARACTER underwent a ‘procedure’ as his way of getting into character.Did I find it funny? Yes, I did. After the stress of worrying about a dying family member, I needed a vacation, and a break. This movie was silly and superficial enough to do that for me. It served its purpose. And that’s all I needed. Will this movie win any major awards? No. Is it supposed to be ‘meaningful’? No. Is it the worst comedy I’ve ever seen? no. The best? no. There is a place for all humor, even those that people don’t agree with.People protesting a movie/book/whatever is always guaranteed to increase sales. It’s the best marketing tool there is.If people really want to help disabled people, why protest a movie? Why not spend time with them, take them into the community? Work on them with Job training? Work to get them aides or help them out with their day to day lives? Work with their families to help them care for them?People protest usually things that they haven’t seen. Usually as a way to try to prove to themselves that they’re ‘doing something that counts’ for whatever population is feeling ‘oppressed’ at that moment. Often missing the point and purpose of whatever the object of their ire is. Kevin Smith proved this very well when he showed up in disguise to protest his own movie “Dogma”. He made the news as one of the more vitriolic protesters, and the newsperson was in on it and couldn’t give it away. It gave him more publicity and actually drew more people to the theater to protest which actually led to more people seeing that movie.When in fact protesters don’t want to actually get too close to those same people they claim to be ‘helping’. Because they’re different. As if difference is… catching, somehow. Don’t get too close to someone who doesn’t look or think like you! It may rub off!It’s hypocrisy, in different form.

  • Priver

    and IQ is not the indicator of much. I knew of someone who bragged to everyone she came in contact with about her invitation to Mensa. She isolated a whole lot of people with her superior attitude. She is single and not likely to find anyone with her utter lack of empathy for other people.But then I cared for someone very ill in my own home who can put most of those Mensa folks to shame, and actually turned them down because he doesn’t need any organization to tell him how smart he is even though his IQ is exactly what hers was. And he can draw people to him like nobody you’ve ever met. Because he cares about people and relationships.

  • BeowulfthePolitician

    Fuji wrote: *kidding!”===================LOL!

  • Tonio

    “and IQ is not the indicator of much.”Different people are intelligent in different areas. Having “street smarts” or people skills is not necessarily incompatible with “book learnin'” or factual knowledge, nor does a high level of one automatically mean a low level of the other.

  • Priver

    I agree, Tonio. I just can’t figure out why whoever put that up about ‘Mensa’ folks thinks it’s any different because they think differently.I was intrigued by your mention of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ as a movie. I wonder how someone would work to make a movie about something like that?

  • Tonio

    “No, I just remembered I had another pair in my closet.”TDC, the behavior you describe sounds more like Asperger’s Syndrome. “his ‘serious’ message seems to be that a heroic portrayal of a person with a mental disability is fundamentally dishonest and phoney”While I can’t speak for Stiller, a chief complaint about movies like “Rain Man” is that the heroic portrayals involve cheap sentimentality, manipulating the emotions of the audience. The characters with disabilities are shown from an outside perspective – we learn little about their own emotions or perspectives. They’re simply plot vehicles or McGuffins. I would love to see a movie that takes the approach of Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

  • Stephen

    Mr. Shriver,I read some of your other articles about the Special Olympics and appreciate your genuine sympathies and interest in advancing the plight of these wonderful people. But most people who HAVE seen this movie (my son saw it, but I will wait till it comes to HBO), say there is no insult. Now, comes the fact that you yourself were involved in a movie that also had actors using the words “retard” and “tard”. So what is the difference, Mr. Shriver? Or perhaps you would want us to actually SEE your movie before we start to judge? I find it hard to believe you would not have known exactly what was meant by “Get a life.” Perhaps the air in your ivory tower is a little stale, since the alternative would be to accuse you of obfuscation and guile. The “Get a life”, was wise advise, Mr. Shriver. But first you need to “Get a clue”. You seem to think your commendable work with disadvantaged people gives you the right to pontificate: announcing that all decent people should be just as offended by this movie that you have never seen as you. You should read these posts, descend from your tower, and realize that most of us believe the attitude of the teenage girl you encountered was more real than yours: at least on this issue. We all have our blind spots, that’s why we need good people around us. People who laugh at us when we carry on, suggesting that we laugh at ourselves too.

  • Paganplace

    So, just to amplify:”Friends, a high IQ does not make a person wise, nor does it give them the ability to reason.”Neither does being or playing *dumb* confer the quality known as ‘commonsense.’

  • TDC

    Paganplace,There are no tricks or hocus-pocus in Chemistry. You can rest easy, my employee was not workinig with nuclear chemisty, just polymers. And by the way, what makes you think I’m a guy? Maybe because I am in the position of authority? Shame on you.I’m not picking on anyone, just making the point that just because one might have a higher IQ than another, doesn’t mean that they are “smarter”.

  • Tonio

    Paganplace,”those who *really* run around calling people with ‘intellectual disabilities’ ‘retards,’ are also the ones who say there’s something fundamentally-wrong or to be scorned about people who display *too much* ‘book-smarts.'”Good insight – the connection didn’t occur to me. Attributing such attitudes to the schoolyard doesn’t go deep enough – perhaps the root cause is simple insecurity unrelated to the person’s actual intelligence. A person can have very high intelligence are still feel insecure about it. For such a person, others with mental disabilities would be visible reminders of the insecurity, embodying how the person sees his own intelligence. Similarly, others who “display too much book smarts” would bring out feelings of inadequacy by comparison, even if the person is of the same intelligence level.

  • Paganplace

    Well, thanks, Tonio.There’s another level, though, that maybe a lot of folks aren’t as aware of:”Good insight – the connection didn’t occur to me. Attributing such attitudes to the schoolyard doesn’t go deep enough – perhaps the root cause is simple insecurity unrelated to the person’s actual intelligence. A person can have very high intelligence are still feel insecure about it.”It’s not exactly so internal, though intellectuals do get competitive about intellect…. it’s all they got, some of us. But. Going back to the ‘schoolyard’ and what comes from that in regular society, …people way up on the curve as regards ‘book-smarts,’ and people on the other end of the curve, have something in common: We see and experience the world somewhat differently than the masses of those who are ‘baseline’ or more able to fake it. In a very different way, of course, but on some level one knows that we have a lot in *common* with ID people. We’re among the ‘freaks,’ so to speak. People that are very smart and not very good socially, I always observed, were similarly-isolated, in many cases. And any ‘insecurity’ is likely to have a whole lot to do with that. I’m …*very* book smart. Retaining new information is a bit of another matter after too many knockings around, but I’m still pretty good at explaining things to people, …seeing things from all manner of angles and finding one someone can relate to. (Too bad they don’t like queer high school teachers, frankly, I could have been doing that instead of rummaging through your trash.) On one level, ID people can make me *very* uncomfortable. I get squirrelly, these days, about potential situations I can’t talk myself out of. But I’ve worked with developmentally-disabled or brain-injured folks in the past, some so severely-so that it was like trying to communicate with another world: …I think being *used to explaining things* to most people in the world is something I’m comfortable with, and doing so teaches that really, everyone’s got stuff they don’t understand or can’t function with. And sometimes we live in slightly-or-somewhat different worlds. But that’s part of the way of things. There’s no ‘one way to be’ …or denying there are in fact differences. But understanding we need as many perspectives on this world and humanity as we can get… *that’s* where human value is, not trying to obey and enforce one set of ‘ideals’ as written somewhere. Common humanity, ….actual *value* to people, not just ‘compassion’ and ‘tolerance,’ but actually loving the diversity. A Native American elder once said about Western society, ‘You waste people.’ And that’s really what we don’t want to be doing.

  • Paganplace

    Well, that’s just the point, Priver… And Tonio, on that last. In many ways, it’s about the deep-rooted ideals on a monolithic conformity in the culture at large: those who *really* run around calling people with ‘intellectual disabilities’ ‘retards,’ are also the ones who say there’s something fundamentally-wrong or to be scorned about people who display *too much* ‘book-smarts.’ Frankly, some of *the* are hiding how ‘smart’ they are out of fear of being ‘uncool.’Or, when grown up, ‘Elitists.’Too often, authoritarian religion and ideological nationalism then turn around and offer such people a sense of ‘having all the answers’ when they *don’t understand what they’re talking about. *Everyone has equal humanity. Everyone. Questioning how well we really observe that notion, and how often we just try and ‘dumb down’ for easy answers and a sense of control, is entirely appropriate. Especially for our jesters. The implied sense of conformity and ‘superiority/inferiority,’ though… That comes from the schoolyard. Or through it, anyway.

  • Paganplace

    Wow. I think ‘More Weight’ just got bumped down my ‘Top Ten Things To Say When Persecuted as a Witch’ in favor of ‘Get a Decent Haircut.’ That’ll learn em. 🙂

  • deflag

    You need a lot of sun for a garden to grow. Some people don’t like the sun. The plants love it. I suspect our negatives here are from people holed up inside. Shade is good, the sun is great. If you got a garden, put a girl in it.

  • Anonymous

    You should “Get a Life”

  • Peter Mendoza

    I am gratified that Special Olympics has taken such a strong stand on this issue. I want to commend both Tim and Maria Shriver for being at the forefront of this very important discussion that really has international significance.I wanted to share a personal experience with my own life. As a young person, I went to a segregated school located in Marin County. I would leave very early in the morning and ride a school bus that was wheelchair accessible. The bus happened to be smaller than the conventional buses. The neighborhood kids referred to it as the “little yellow retard bus”. As a young child, this phrase was devastating to me as a person and to my self-esteem causing me great humiliation. I began to believe that there was – indeed – something wrong with me. I have had great difficulties in the area of math and spelling. As a child struggling through school, periodically other kids would witness my difficulty and often refer to me as a “retard”.This derogatory word has been thrown around for years and accepted by the general public without concern of what the significance can really do to someone. Already, “full on retard” is being used in the community, not only by children but adults as well. And they think it’s such a cool phrase!The entertainment industry has a responsibility to empower society rather than degrade it with gratuitous insults as conveyed in “Tropic Thunder”. I am extremely saddened and angry that this movie, which is so hurtful in my opinion, topped the box office and will continue to reap dividends.It’s an outrage that Ben Stiller excuses the movie’s content because “it’s a free country” but in my opinion freedom is about civil rights, respect and equality, not insulting a whole group of people who have been sidelined for far too long. All of us who have disabilities participate in the community with meaningful accomplishments. Movies similar to Tropic Thunder have no place in society, not to mention the entertainment industry, which has significant power to shape public opinion and I think has a duty to ensure that they use this power to benefit society and not harm it.Again I appreciate Maria’s and the Shriver family’s unwavering commitment in supporting people with disabilities. Peter Mendoza, former chair of California State Council on Developmental Disabilities

  • Paganplace

    Again, I guess I have to mention that the movie in question is a *farce* and the characters in it are portrayed as *people who are wrong?* If kids are latching onto that and saying that it’s ‘cool’ to repeat it, just like they always said about ‘the short bus,’ …is the problem really that Stiller created the prejudice by mocking it, or that they’re being taught to be so *literalistic* about what they see, that they have no means to view any more critically than those who carry picket signs to satirical movies? See below.

  • Prazak

    Peter, I have a great deal of respect for people such as yourself and Mr Shriver who devote their time and energy to helping people, especially those who are most in need of our caring and understanding. I deplore the tone of some of those on this blog who have attacked Mr Shriver without understanding what a unique commitment he brings to people who society too often neglects (or worse).Nevertheless, I would respectfully suggest that your and Mr Shriver’s protests about this movie are off the mark. To my thinking, the issue here is whether the producers have distinguished their work as satire or, instead, have blurred the line and profited from the very topic they seek to satirize. And I’ll explain what I mean if you’ll bear with me for a few paragraphs.In Tropic Thunder Ben Stiller lampoons just about every major profession in the film industry. One target of his barbs are character actors who portray developmentally disabled characters because they believe it will earn them critical acclaim. Here Stiller sets up a vacuous actor who has taken on such a role, Simple Jack, but who fails to garner any acclaim because the role is such an over-the-top portrayal of the developmentally disabled. The dialogue between that actor and the Downey Jr character is deeply cutting of all those in Hollywood who produce, direct, and star in movies like Rain Man, Forrest Gump, I Am Sam, that make such cynical use of developmentally disabled people.Is the crude dialogue between Stiller’s character and Downey Jr’s character designed to belittle the developmentally disabled or is it designed to belittle the entertainment industry’s use thereof? It’s pretty obviously the latter, as anyone who has seen the film could tell you. Mr Shriver’s criticism would be much more on target if it were directed at movies, like Rain Man and Forrest Gump, that make such facile portrayals of the developmentally disabled for the deeply cynical purpose of revenue and critical acclaim. Tropic Thunder is the most scathing criticism I’ve seen of this phenomenon — and it came not from Mr Shriver or his counterparts, but from Mr Stiller and his.Now, Mr Shriver was the Executive Producer of The Ringer, in which the developmentally disabled were used by the Farrelly Brothers as the backdrop to lampoon how low some people will stoop to win money. On several occasions characters in the film use the word “retard” or “tard” to describe developmentally disabled characters. Was The Ringer endorsing that language, or was it reflecting on the baseness of the characters using that language? Pretty clearly it was the latter, as the dialogue made clear. And in general the movie deserves a great deal more acclaim than it received for portraying the developmentally disabled in such sensitive and heroic terms. It’s a lovely movie, in the end, surprisingly generous of spirit for the normally rude-and-crude Farrelly Brothers. No doubt Mr Shriver deserves credit for much of that.But what distinguishes the use of “retard” in Mr Shriver’s movie from its use in Mr Stiller’s movie? Why serve as Executive Producer in the first, and public-protester-in-chief to the second? I must admit I fail to see the distinction.If anything I would fault Mr Shriver’s film on the key issue I raised at the outset.Mr Shriver’s film was marketed as one that would make fun of the developmentally disabled, not as one that would satirize those who do so. It emphasized those few scenes where the characters referred to a woman as a “hooker” or where they behaved in a potentially randy manner in the shower or otherwise looked goofy or said goofy things. Presumably the marketing department at 20th Century Fox thought that people would pay to see mentally challenged people behaving rudely, crudely, and goofily, but didn’t think they would turn out to see a movie that uplifted those people as great competitors, friends, and observers of life. Because of this marketing I refused initially to watch it. Only recently, after it was offered for no charge as part of my cable service, did I watch it.I fault Fox for doing the same thing with respect to Borat. Sasha Baron Cohen is a creative, intelligent satirist, and his show on HBO was absolutely brilliant. But when his character Borat was put into a feature length film, and handed to Fox to market, they pandered to the very misogynistic, xenophobic crowd that Cohen so gleefully skewers with his Borat character.To the credit of DreamWorks, I haven’t seen one trailer on this film that played up the Simple Jack angle, or repeated the dialogue between his character and Mr. Downey’s character about going “full retard”. It is advertised as exactly what it is: a send-up of Hollywood.I doubt Mr Shriver had any control over how Fox marketed his movie, any more than Mr Cohen had control over how they marketed his. But it would have been far easier to take offense at The Ringer than to Tropic Thunder, based on how it portrayed the developmentally disabled in its marketing. Only by viewing the movie did I come to appreciate it. Mr Shriver should do the same before he jumps to the barricades next time, particularly given how badly his own film was marketed.I hope he will do us the favor of watching the film beginning to end and explaining the distinction he seems to have made between the use of the word “retard” in Tropic Thunder and in his own film — and of comparing the respective marketing campaigns.

  • Roy

    Having been mocked, laughed at and excluded during my childhood in Utah because I wasn’t Mormon or athletic and because I was the top student in every class, I empathize with the protesters. People, like the disabled and Blacks, can choose, however, to be victims or not. It’s all too easy to blame life’s problems and injustices on others.One is only free from this when he or she springboards all this negative energy back out at the world with strength and determination to show the mockers they are wrong. There are too many victims and not enough heroes. Maybe someone who is disadvantaged will be compelled to see this movie because of all the great publicity columnists and bloggers are giving it and make the right choice in response to it.

  • Paganplace

    Do explicate, Deflag? 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Why can’t people stop being *victims?

  • Paganplace

    Some ID people, Anonymous, don’t even know the *word* victim, … and that’s one thing you can learn from them. But it doesn’t mean they’re treated fairly. When I was growing up, you could still hear the occasional murmur of suspicion that the parents had done something wrong, in a religious sense, that it was a curse for some ‘sin’ of the parents (though never, of course, one of society’s for polluting our world, of course) …you still hear about autistic kids being considered ‘possessed’ and ‘exorcised,’ (In Texas they even made a law that you can’t sue if a kid is tortured to death in one of these) How do you think these sorts of unspoken fears reflect on how the ID kids are treated? How the parents who have to take care of them are supported or ostracized?In fact, how kids who read these prejudices in their parents and the adults around them respond? ‘Oh, it’s their fault, they’re ‘victims,’ …they should be ‘winners,” some will say. It makes a nice convenient way to keep mistreating folks… without looking at it.

  • andre

    I went out and saw the movie Tropic Thunder in the theater BECAUSE of Mr. Shriver’s complaints. His arguements are unfounded. The movie is clearly lambasting the entertainment industry’s use of the mentally disabled as a money making venture. Please Mr. Shriver, put your action and money into useful, constructive activities, such as the wonderfully uplifting Special Olympics. Maybe the next obstacle to tackle is funding all public schools so that they are equiped to deal with special students instead of sequestering them from the rest of the students.It’s through positive interactions with the developmentally disabled that people will truly learn respect for them. Right now, most people can only look to their film and television experiences for examples. To them, all of these people are “Forrest Gump” or “Corky” or “Rainman”. These generalizations are just as bad as calling them “retards”.