The “R-word”

In many respects, we have come quite a ways as a society.

It may be hard to fathom, but less than 50 years ago, our country was actually proud of a form of entertainment we created called “black face” in which white performers portrayed black people in film by covering their face in black makeup and using white makeup to create exaggerated eyes and lips.

Now, we are much more sensitive to races, genders and ethnic groups. Things such as the Spanish Olympic basketball’s team decision to lampoon the host Chinese by making “slant eyes” in a team photo is being widely condemned and would not fly in this country. Any form of sexual or racial discrimination in a media portrayal is instantly met with wide spread criticism.

Still, some insults and insensitive remarks slip through the cracks. The issue I’m speaking of is the controversy surrounding the new movie “Tropic Thunder” starring Hollywood funnymen Jack Black and Ben Stiller. Yes, it’s a funny movie but like so many recent Hollywood comedies, it’s humor comes from the easy targets. This time, it’s the mentally challenged.

“Tropic Thunder”: It maybe funny, but at what expense?

In the film, a character who clearly faces this challenged is referred to multiple times using the “R-word”. I don’t think I need to go into detail as what that words means. This was brought to my attention by a viewer who reads my blog and said how difficult it is to hear that word, especially when raising a special needs child.

You can say this smacks of political correctness, but I would disagree. It’s just a matter of recognizing people’s sensitivities. We all know of words that hurt and words that can scar. While we all want to laugh, we need not have to find humor and the expense of others feelings. I remember as a kid the “R-word” was used by the kids I went to school with and, even then, I knew it was wrong.

I know that the word offends me and that’s why I don’t plan to see “Tropic Thunder”. If you feel the same way, you should skip the film as well. I think the best way to address insensitive remarks is not to recognize them in the first place. I always tell people that if there is something you don’t like on TV, don’t watch. You will be amazed.

You have the ultimate power as a consumer as to what is considered acceptable and what is popular. That’s why a show like “American Idol” becomes a sensation while other programs like the Pittsburgh-based comedy “Back to You” didn’t survive the season. By your patronage, or your lack of it, you can tell Hollywood that use of the “R-word” will not stand.

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