This is a late to the game post but today I was reminded that the word ‘retard’ (aka “the r-word”) is still used in acceptable circles such as in organizations who help mentally challenged/disabled individuals. Anyone who goes to the movies may be already be aware of the (weak) protests/demonstration against the satiric comedy Tropic Thunder (dir. Ben Stiller). The film hosts a bunch of characters who say awful things, including one character who uses the word ‘retard’ freely. Nevermind that the character is an idiotic actor with little upstairs, real people were offended, calling the use of the word “retard” as ‘horrifying.’ I saw the movie, it was funny, and that’s all it was. The supposedly offensive scene is about 30 seconds. In context, the character is discussing his efforts to win accolades by imitating the mentally disabled in a film which later flops, in part because he went “full retard,” and not “part” (ie, Rain Main, Forrest Gump are examples of actors portraying successfully, partially mentally disabled individuals).
Anyway, cut to today, and somehow I run across dozens of very useful organization who help individuals who are, through no fault of their own, mentally disabled and who struggle in a world that is too often unfriendly and unfair to them. But, these organizations use the “r-word” so I am boycotting them. Not that I was sending them money, anyhow, but now I really will not send them money if I ever get money. Seriously, I was surprised to see the word show up in the search results and in some cases on the home pages of these organizations.
Click on Google search for the term “retarded citizens” and you’ll get dozens of organizations, all providing a very important service, no doubt, but many using the word “retard.”
What does the AADP have to say about these organizations? Or Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, and exec producer for the less successful r-word film The Ringer, who didn’t even see the movie before complaining.
From an 8/8 Latimes blog post:
Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, admits to NPR that he actually didn’t see “Tropic Thunder.”
But he’s calling for a boycott of the Ben Stiller film — the one he hasn’t seen — because its use of the word “retard” causes “suffering, injustice and exclusion.”
“I don’t feel any special need to see it myself,” he says on NPR. In the interview for “All Things Considered,” Shriver admits that he very much wanted to see it in the last 10 days, but that the studio wasn’t able to arrange it with him.
But that’s OK. He says he has seen several of the scenes in question that feature the dreaded R-word.
“I’ve seen enough of it on TV and on the Internet.”
Yes, there are people in real life who use this word to cause hurt. But there are other ways to go about educating people than protesting a R-rated “r-word”-using comedy that seeks to offend as many people as possible. You can not govern language without going down that slippery-slope of political correctness. The word is seen by most as unpleasant and nowadays I think it is thrown around for shock – kids and adults cycle through ‘regular’ and profane words to make their point. Whether it’s valid or not, it is a reality. I use it sometimes. I use a bunch of words I’m not always proud of.
So, what I have learned? Well, words are apparently owned by certain (rich) individuals and organizations and that the rest of us must ask for permission or edit our films, or jokes or books, etc. to avoid offense! And now, instead of the r-word, I will use “shriver” instead. So, in trying to censor this film, Timothy Shriver went “full shriver.”