'Thunder' Premiere Showdown Pits Megastars Against Disabled Who Obviously Don't Get The JokeDespite all traces of Simple Jack—veteran fake-action-star Tugg Speedman's brazen Oscar-shot playing a stuttering, simpleton farmhand—having been literally whitewashed from the web, activists remain outraged over Tropic Thunder's depiction-within-a-depiction of the developmentally disabled as bucktoothed "retards" incapable of expressing affection without the use of the phrase, "You mm-mm-m-ake my p-p-pee-peemaker t-t-t-tingle." (Sheesh—so touchy.) As threatened, dozens of placard-wielding protesters outfitted in 'Retard'busters T-shirts marched outside last night's premiere in Westwood, giving the proceedings the strangely familiar air of an RGA West strike line. From the AP report:
"When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside," said Special Olympics global messenger Dustin Plunkett.
"I cannot believe a writer could write something like that. It's the not the way that we want to be portrayed. We have feelings. We don't like the word retard. We are people. We're just like any other people out there. We want to be ourselves and not be discriminated against." Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said he and other representatives from advocacy groups representing the mentally disabled met with DreamWorks co-chair Stacey Snider and watched a private screening of the film Monday morning. Imparato called the movie "tasteless" and said it was "offensive start to finish."
Despite the fun-dampening chant of "Call me by my name, not by my label!" echoing off in the distance, the premiere must go on—and it did, albeit with tightened security and views of the A-listers in attendance blocked off by 10-foot-high green fences, Variety reports. As for the film's stars and star-writers, here's what some of them had to say about the controversy: Justin Theroux: "I happen to disagree with them in regards to our film. It’s a shame that they are out there, and I hope that when it comes out, they will actually see the jokes for what they are — a deep cutting satire of Hollywood and the stars." [Us Weekly] Jack Black: "Everyone has the right to protest. It’s a free country. Anytime that anyone feels that they are justified in their heart, more power to them." [Us Weekly] Etan Cohen: "Some people have taken this as making fun of handicapped people, but we're really trying to make fun of the actors who use this material as fodder for acclaim. The last thing you want is for people to think you're making fun of the victims in this who are having their lives turned into fodder for people to win Oscar." [MTV News] Ben Stiller: "It's sort of edgy territory, 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 humor would come from. [The joke is on] actors reaching for roles in terms of hopefully winning awards." [MTV News] It will be the A-listers, of course, who have the last laugh should Thunder succeed in doing what so many other couldn't, and toppling The Dark Knight at this weekend's box office—a movie, ironically enough, heralded by watchdog groups as an "exemplary instance of the disabled as being fully functional members of society, as depicted by Maggie Gyllenhaal's courageous and deeply honest performance."