An Open Letter to Mr. Stiller,
Dear Mr. Stiller,
You hurt me today. Personally. I am writing to protest your action against me, I am writing to hold you accountable. Not that I imagine you care, but I wish to explain myself to you.
This afternoon I stopped at a local mall to do some shopping, I wanted to pick up a birthday gift or two for a friend. After shopping I went to the food court to have lunch. Food courts are wonderful places. One can dine on Mexican whilst one's partner dines on Thai - they are places of such diversity. Around me were representatives from many nations, colours and creeds. Around me were those with varying faces, varying languages and varying abilities. I sat in my wheelchair, across the way from me was a young mother with a child with Down Syndrome, over there was a college kid dripping big words from the corner of his mouth. We were an ecclectic bunch, we were.
A skinny girl and a chunky boy with long hair arrived alongside a geeky friend. They were clearly in a playful mood, suddenly one said to the other, "There you go, you went full retard." My heart stopped. It was the first time I'd heard the phrase spoken in common parlance. The first time, the phrase you wrote, you created, you crafted, was spoken in my presence. I cannot tell you how much that phrase hurt me. I cannot describe to you the look of pain on the face of the woman who's child sat with her. A child, thankfully, not yet old enough to understand the meanness of that statement. A child simple by age who will grow complex with disability.
You hurt me a second time today, Mr. Stiller. I am writing to tell you, to hold you responsible. I arrived home and saw on a website that it is now possible to buy tee shirts with the phrase 'full retard' on it. You are responsible for this Mr. Stiller, you wrote those words, you chose those words, you went public with those words. It is you, and only you, who must bear the consequences for your actions.
There are parents, Mr. Stiller, who have to send their children into schools in only a few weeks. Hallways have never been welcoming places to those with differences - even so, those hallways are now even more dangerous than they were when they were abandoned for summer play. A new phrase will tickle the fancy of the privileged and scar the selves of the different. 'Full retard,' this is your creation. One you are no doubt proud of.
But I read interviews with you on the web. Interviews that explain that I 'don't get it' that the humour is about shallow, self absorbed actors, not about people with disabilities. Mr. Stiller, I submit to you that your reaction, your denial, in the face of reasonable protest, reasonable requests and reasonable explaination could only be the reaction of a shallow, self absorbed actor. A person that cannot see beyond his need to express to the need of others to be safe. A person that cannot understand protest as anything other than hysterics.
I tried to find a way to contact you, to write you personally, to tell you of the pain I felt today, of the pain I fear tomorrow, and of the concerns of millions of parents, millions of people with intellectual disabilities. I wanted to tell you that you may make a few people laugh for a few hours but you will undoubtably cause many more hours of pain and many more tears to be shed. But as I could find no way to contact you, I resort to this, my blog. I hope that if there are truly only six degrees of separation - that those six between you and I - will get this to you.
Years ago, Mr. Stiller, I met a man with Down Syndrome who was in his late 30's. I met with him because he would no longer leave his house. He abandoned his work (yes, he held a job), he abandoned his friends (yes, he had friends), he abandoned everything he loved and enjoyed in the community. Why? Because he had decided that the world was a cruel place. That he no longer wanted to walk the mean streets. That he never wanted to be called a 'tard again. He had had enough. He would stay in and stay safe.
That was the world before you came into it. It was already bad. But now it is worse. Much worse.
Tropic Thunder will make a lot of money, I'm sure. Box office and momentary popularity is the goal, is it not? It is to shallow, self absorbed actors, so I assume it is to you as well.