Friday’s Eagle had a letter from Special Olympics Kansas decrying the new movie “Tropic Thunder” for “retard” jokes and calling for a boycott.
Here is Slate movie critic Dana Stevens’ response to a reader about the controversy: “You hold the view that the movie’s use of what advocacy groups are calling “the R-word” isn’t targeting people with disabilities; they hold the view that it is. But if the discussion is to go forward, shouldn’t everyone at least be willing to see the movie with an open mind toward the other side?”
She’s right that pre-emptive criticisms of movies often fail to judge the offending material in context.
One example: Critics who complain about the “racist” use of the “N-word” in Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” miss the author’s ironic use of the word and his larger point about its offensiveness and racism.
That artistic context may be utterly lacking in “Tropic Thunder.” I don’t know — I haven’t seen the movie.
But it’s satire. And as Stevens notes, “Satire is a notoriously difficult thing to police.”