“Rolling Thunder” part deux

This summer has had another blockbuster season, but I have been stuck in a hospital bed and have not seen a single one of them!  But being in LA the news on television and in the LA Times gives me alot more information than any other city I have lived in and of course info on the protest surrounding the premiere of Ben Stiller’s new movie “Tropic Thunder”.  I have read the contraversial part in the film and for me it comes down to language, equal treatment, and representation. 

I have spoken before about language and the politically correct era we live in.  I am not that politically correct but I will give you an ear full if you call me a handicapped person!  The origin of the word “handicapped”  comes from cap in hand, a person who holds a cap or hat upside down in their hands is often associated as a begger.  The image is also often with a person in a wheelchair.  So, I am not a begger although because of my disabilities and the often unacceptable society, I do have to ask for help and those situations handicap me but I am a person first and foremost who happens to have a disabilty.  If one has to label me, I am a “person with a disabilty” and NOT a handicapped person. 

Of course I speak on physical disabilities because I am a paraplegic from a spinal cord injury 13 years ago when I broke my back.  But the language used to label people with developmental disabilities can be just as insensitive and demeaning if not more so.  Using the word “retard”  or  “handicapped” is as much as a slur as “nigger” or “faggot”.  Yet I didn’t read anywhere that even with Robert Downy Jr.’s character in Blackface that any racial slurs were used.  Society has deemed those as politically incorrect and not to be used.  Yet those with a disability are once again not given the same consideration.  As if living with a disability, physical or mental, is not as significant, not as important as a persons skin color or sexual preference.  And even though I have mentioned this before, but the numbers are staggering.  There are approximately 40 million black Americans, the same for Hispanics, and 15 million gay, lesbian, and transgender.  And 56 million Americans with a disabilit.  Some say that that is a low number and there are actually 62 million with a disability.  Either way, clearly the largest and has been the fastest growing minority in America and yet society doesn’t give us the same consideration and respect. 

So language and equal treatment is obviously a part of this “Tropic Thunder” controversy.  Lastly I again I have to talk about representation.  If there were more, or today’s Hollywood, any authentic voices and representation of those with a disability in movies and television then the tongue and cheek satire like that in “Tropic Thunder”  would create the same controversy as the Blackface.  It could actually be less offensive given the context and genre of the film.

Since the only representation those with a disability have in Hollywood is limited, stereotypical and all of pend, helmed, and performed by able bodied, each reference is that much more significant and has to be protested.  If the only representation and even references are a slur to get a laugh or to magnify stereotypes and it is easy to see why each one is offensive regardless of the context.  I wonder how black Americans would feel if all representation of their lives was done by white actors in Blackface.  Or all representation of women were written, directed, and performed by men. 

I am here in Hollywood to not only hold this mirror up, but to also say “Look at this protest.  Can you imagine the box office of a film that authentically represented this huge market segment that often ignored or when recognized is only humiliated” I can not only imagine the great potential for commercial success, but I have the creative works and a business plan with step by step details on how to capitalize on this socially responsible genre!

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