Wednesday, August 13, 2008


So Tropic Thunder opens today. It is unchanged, the R word will be rampantly used, the phrase 'don't go full retard' will enter popular lexicon. So we lost right?


I dizzy with excitement at our success. For a long time I have moaned about the lack of courage and the lack of leadership in the world of intellectual disability. Our collective fear of anger seemed like folly to me. Why minority hasn't allowed anger to motivate social change? We all just seemed so damned polite.

Somethings happened to us. A coalition of 22 groups worked together in protest. Along with them were the voices of disability bloggers across the blogosphere. Along with them were the voices of families, of care providers, of agency staff. Along with them all, most importantly, were the voices of self advocates speaking up and being heard. It seemed like we all glanced at one another and said, "Enough".

And we discovered power.

Real power.

The outcome of a war is not determined by the battle but by the spirit in which the fight was waged. Look at what happened. Dreamworks blinked. The Simple Jack website was pulled. The trailors were changed. The 'Don't Go Full Retard' clip was removed from You Tube. The tee shirt was taken off the market. Our protests were heard all over the media. Ben Stiller had to address the controversy and found himself explaining his 'humour'. Our voices were heard, in unison, around the world.

My boss is on holiday up in hinterland Ontario, she sent me an email that the local radio station, The Moose, actually editorialized against the movie suggesting it is not appropriate for teens and advising parents of the hateful language. Everywhere I have gone this week, people were talking about the issue. Not just the movie, the issue of hate speech regarding disability. Well my oh my.

I just hope and pray that now that we have discovered each other, that we have seen that united we can be a powerful voice, that we do not slide back into obscurity and petty wrangling. I hope that we unite again and again. That what started as a coalition becomes a movement.

There is much we can acheive together.


Shoulder to shoulder.



Glee said...

It is not only parents of people with ID who may "overprotect" their children. It is a generalised difficulty that parents of all children with disabilities encounter. I have a physical disability and my mum well meaningly (while trying to make me feel better) overprotected me. Not much but certainly enough to damage my psyche and my belief in my own feelings for many decades.

And the reason that some parents may "overprotect" their children is soundly demonstrated by gracie1956's post yesterday. Parents trust, and their trust and their children are abused. I personally here in Australia know of many stories like gracie1956's story.

Dave you talk today about us all working together. That's great and it appears so on this matter. However in Australia parents (carers, mainly of those unable to speak for themselves for whatever reason) don't really want to know about those of us with physical disability who would willingly and gladly join with them to fight for the rights of the lot of us - all disabilities and parents/carers. Carers have a huge voice here in Australia and shout long and hard but some reject our advances to band together to their and our detriment. See my post at

Governments will divide and conquer so we don't need to do it to each other. We crips are "merely" disadvantaged and I believe that while we continue to push for "disability" rights we will have a slow time of it. I am reclaiming a formerly derogatory term but shortening it "crip". I believe americans sometimes use the word "gimp". I am doing it in the same way that homosexuals have reclaimed the word "gay".

While we keep referring to "special needs" the Gen public will see us as special, expensive and difficult. My wheelchair is no more "special" to me than a car is to an abloid. It gets me from A to B that's all.

So I implore crips, parents, and carers everywhere to strike out the word "special". And perhaps we can talk about "human rights" to remind the abloids that we are indeed human. Please don't separate me from the mainstream when I am busting my guts to get into it.

As we have discussed over past days, language is very important.


Anonymous said...

maybe when we see someone with a "going full retard" shirt we should comment to them "At least its a step up for YOU"

FAB said...

Anonymous- I hope you would reconsider your comment.

Dave, that's exactly what I was just saying to my wise guardian. People are really speaking out and I hope it's only the beginning! If we keep up this fight we will see a day soon when language changes and attitudes begin to transform! I saw a clip on Good Morning America today with self advocates protesting the film. Ben Stiller is still shrugging it off, but people are shouting to be heard and some are listening. Change is a comin, I can feel it in my bones!

You can call Ben Stiller and leave him a message at 323-602-5000

DreamWorks SKG Studio
DreamWorks SKG
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201

Tel. (818)-695-5000

Lets keep shouting!

Anonymous said...

We all know that the path to change starts with acceptance. When we, the disability community, accept our status as a minority community and own up to our identity, then we can believe in what we demand. Maybe this incident is the spark needed for that, I say well done to all.

Anonymous said...

I emailed the following to Facebook after I saw a little blurb reviewing Tropic Thunder pop up on my page:

I do not want to see the movie advertisement or reviews for Tropic Thunder on my Facebook page. The creators of Tropic Thunder used hate speech directed at people with cognitive disabilities to create "humor." The use of the "R" word in Tropic Thunder is equivalent to other forms of minority hate speech. I know many many Facebook users who themselves have cognitive disabilities, as well as their loved ones, teachers, employers, etc. Advertising Tropic Thunder supports the negative stereotypes and hurtful name-calling that this movie perpetuates.

rickismom said...

I think that insulting those who are stupid ("its a step up for YOU" or t-shirts with "Don't go full Stiller") is conter-productive.
I think that our emphasis has to be on demanding RESPECT.
Obviously I don't like Tropic thunder's use of one blogger noted....its as if they tried to offend everyone, and blocked out what they thought they couldn't get away with. Hopefully, times will change. But replying in kind won't help a bit.

Tammy and Parker said...

Dave, I am linking you and all of your hard work up over at

Thank for everything!

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder how those Hollywood folks would feel if sometime in the future they had a mentally challenged child. Maybe that would change their attitude.

Tammy said...

Here in the states, it is really being talked about too. Today on Good Morning America, a national news show, they did a piece about the offensive language, protest at the movies premier, and the dialog started. They are suppose to interview Stiller about it tomorrow morning.
Just a little FYI.

FridaWrites said...

I don't think a T-shirty suggesting not going "full Stiller" is disrespectful. It doesn't imply something's wrong with a class of people or even with him, but that someone shouldn't exhibit that kind of prejudice.

Momma2Bean said...

Dave, you are my hero! I have just spent 30 minutes catching up on many of your TT posts including the open letter to Mr. Stiller...oh how I hope your six degrees are at work and the letter finds its way to him. I too will link to you at

Thanks for the always honest, thought-provoking blogging!

Anonymous said...

I think it's not the word that hurts as much as the spirit/intent behind it. Though I have on rare occasions used the word "retard", it defines those who are willfully ignorant- not those with disabilities. Intentional stupidity deserves the word.

Anonymous said...


That was a really nice blog to read. It is important to see that we can not change everything all at once. If change was just that easy! To ponder that the controversy made some people stop and think is a huge milestone in itself. It is a beging...