Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In The Line Up

I was in line behind a wealthy older couple (you can tell rich) to buy tickets to a movie. I'd spoken to them briefly when entering the theatre as they insisted on helping with the door. They insisted with charm, not force, and therefore, oddly, I didn't mind. We were behind someone using coupons so it took a fair bit of time to process them. The woman noticed a poster on the wall for an upcoming movie, Tower Heist, and said, 'I'll never go see one of his movies again, it's a pity because I've enjoyed most of them.' Her husband and I looked to see who she was talking about. He said, 'Who, Ben Stiller?'

She nodded. He said, 'Yes, I liked him too.' She, encouraged by his agreement said, 'That awful fuss around Tropic Thunder, you'd think he would have had the decency to apologize. Making a mistake is one thing, we all do that. Not acknowledging it when called on it, that's simply lack of character. I thought more of him than that.' Her husband agreed, I interrupted.

'You're referring, and forgive me for eavesdropping but I am sitting right here, to the use of the 'R word' in Tropic Thunder,' I said.

She tensed as if ready for a fight, which tells me she's had them before on this subject, 'Yes, I can't abide that kind of name calling.'

I said, 'Nor can I. I'll never give him another dollar either.'

We were silent for a moment, luxuriating in unanimous agreement. Then I asked, 'So, do you have a child with a disability, or friends with disabilities, how do you come to your opinion.'

She looked shocked, 'No, we don't have children with disabilities, but what does that have to do with the issue? Anyone who was ever teased in school knows that name calling hurts. I don't understand why people, when they become adults, simply forget the horrors of the playground. What is youth for if not to inform the years to come?'

I told her I agreed with her and suddenly they were buying their tickets and I was buying mine.

We waved goodbye and she said, 'It pleases me to think that every now and then when Mr. Stiller puts his hand in his pocket to find that he has no change, that it's my money that's not there.'

'Well said,' I said, because it was.


Glee said...

Good people do exist :)

Tamara said...

What a wonderful woman! I agree with her so much. I taught my older kids not to call each other and others names long before our youngest was born with Down syndrome. Never have understood the parents who didn't - especially the ones whose kids were the biggest name-callers at their school. They had such high opinions of themselves and their morals, yet they couldn't even teach their children good manners.

Kristin said...

What a truly serendipitous moment.

tetisheri said...

Now you have me thinking. I protested, by contacting the studio and various people, about the use of the r-word and the word downsy in the movie The Change Up. But, I wasn't bothered by it in Tropic Thunder. It's not that there was a change in my life, because I've never used the word like that. My youngest brother was born with a spina bifida, and I've been exposed to the disabilities community since I was 10, including summers spent volunteering in a special needs childcare center when I was a teen. So I've always been aware of how hurtful the r-word is, as well as other insulting words like crip and gimp.

So, why does the use of it in Tropic Thunder, and by Lisa Lampenelli (an equal opportunity insult comedian that I like) not bother me, but the use of it in The Change Up really bother me? If it bothers me in one situation, it should bother me in all, or I am a hypocrite. So thank you for making me think and evaluate myself.

Belinda said...

Wow, what an admirable woman!

Andrea S. said...


Since I have not seen either of the movies you reference here, it is hard for me to comment. But I wonder if some of why your first reaction differs might relate to your reference to Lisa Lampeneli as an "equal opportunity insult comedian" ... I know for me (and maybe for others also? might this be the case for you?) I tend to instinctively respond better to insults toward various populations if I know the comedian spreads around these insults on an "equal opportunity" basis.

But I wonder if we (or at least, I) should be as quick to forgive insults in this context? Saying it's automatically okay to make joking insults about one population just because the same person also makes similar kinds of insults about other populations rests on an implicit assumption that the potential *impact* of making these insults is necessarily the same. For example, populations that already experience high levels of violence and hate crime may feel more threatened by these public insults. Also, the people who actually consider committing violent hate crimes may be more likely to follow through with their plans if they think others will basically condone or forgive their attack (in other words, if they believe that the odds of their being caught and penalized are low). They may view these insults as tacit "permission" to proceed even if the person making the insult did not remotely intend for their words to be interpreted that way. This consequence is not as likely to occur if, say, people insult white men because we do live in a society where crimes against white men are more likely to be penalized compared to crimes against many other populations. (Which is not necessarily to say that insulting white men as a class is therefore automatically okay either, whether in an "equal opportunity insult" context or otherwise ... just that the physical consequences of stereotyping, or of comedic "insults" etc may be experienced differently by different populations.)

Noisyworld said...

I haven't seen the movies referenced either but in response to the use of objectionable words by comedians:
I think the big issue is whether the word/phrase is being used as an insult (bad, very bad!) or as a way of bringing attention to the idiots who use the word/phrase with intention to hurt (sometimes important social commentary).
Does that make sense?

Oh and yay for meeting a fellow human with a heart :)

Ettina said...

I really don't agree with the outcry about Tropic Thunder. To me it's the same thing as boycotting Huckleberry Finn because it has the 'n' word. I agree that the 'r' word is problematic but you need to pay attention to message, not just what words they use.