Disability groups boycott Ben Stiller’s movie
13 August 2008
LOS ANGELES – Critics are calling Ben Stiller’s new movie a hilarious spoof of Hollywood’s egotism, but a coalition of disability groups is not amused.
The coalition has objected to the repeated use of the word "retard" to refer to the character Simple Jack, played by Stiller.
Comprising 22 groups including the Special Olympics and the National Down Syndrome Congress, the coalition launched a nationwide boycott of the film at Monday’s premiere in Los Angeles.
Protesters allied with the disability groups heckled stars such as Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. at the premiere and held up signs that read, "Ban the movie, ban the word."
The film’s producers rejected the criticism and refused demands to cut the repeated use of the "R-word." But they did chop all promotional material featuring the Simple Jack character, a dim farmhand who stutters and talks to farm animals.
"The film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities," said Chip Sullivan, a spokesman for DreamWorks, a unit of Paramount that released the film.
"The film "satirises Hollywood and its excesses, and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the top characters in ridiculous situations."
Activists dismissed the explanation. "It’s supposed to be a parody, but it’s really a mockery of the word ‘retarded’," said Myra Davola, of ARC – Advocacy, Respect and Commitment to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities – of California.
"It’s setting us back. It’s purposeful and hateful to people that have disabilities."
[dpa / Expatica]