Thumbs down for “Tropic Thunder,” thumbs up for Maurice

I love going to the movies. Everything from Batman to Juno will get me to a theater. There is nothing better than sitting in anticipation with my popcorn and waiting for the big screen to light up.

But I won’t be in the theater this week when the feature film Tropic Thunder opens.

I get it. Ben Stiller’s new movie is meant to lampoon the Hollywood film industry. But it is just NOT necessary to have people who live with intellectual disabilities become the objects of such broad satire. The discrimination experienced by the six million individuals with intellectual disability in the United States is intolerable. This movie only adds to the discrimination they face every day.

Wendy Murphy of Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago was quoted in a story in today’s Chicago Tribune about the movie’s use of the word “retard.”

“Sometimes I think the word has almost lost its meaning,” said Wendy Murphy, director of therapeutic schools for Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago. “I hear a lot of teenagers using the word now, like they don’t know at all what it means.”

The article ends with some terrific words of wisdom from Easter Seals Autism Blog contributor Maurice Snell.

Just ask Maurice Snell, a 24-year-old employee at Easter Seals’ Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research in Chicago.

Snell has autism and has been called retarded plenty of times.

“I hear the word retarded, it’s basically like putting people down,” Snell said. “I’ve felt that way when I was called retarded. I just wasn’t motivated … It hurts my feelings very deeply.”

He overcame such barbs, graduated from college and became a key spokesman for Easter Seals and for people living with autism.

Snell said he understands, and believes, that the filmmakers didn’t mean to be hurtful.

“But I would tell them,” he said, “not to judge a book by its cover.”

Maurice, I couldn’t have said it better.

Easter Seals — and I — join the disability community in its criticism of Tropic Thunder.


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  1. Jacob Wang Says:

    Does anyone want to hold a demonstration, as they have done in LA or Vermont?

  2. movie junkie Says:

    Ben Stiller has a track record of doing anything for a laugh

  3. Beth Finke, blog moderator Says:

    Patricia, I just tried to leave a comment to that Tribune story to compliment the writer for choosing to quote Wendy and Maurice, and guess what? There were so many comments to that story that they aren’t accepting new ones anymore. I had to laugh at the ironic wording in the message that was posted, though:
    “This comment board has been disabled.”

  4. Maurice Snell Says:

    Thank you for those kind words, Patricia! I knew I had to come up with a strong point sooner or later. I encourage people NOT to go see this movie!

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