Monday, August 11, 2008


AAPD Condemns Portrayal of Disabled Character, Use of the Word 'Retard' in 'Tropic Thunder'

Last update: 6:29 p.m. EDT Aug. 11, 2008

WASHINGTON, Aug 11, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ --

Depiction of character and repeated use of word "horrifying" The largest cross-disability membership organization in the U.S. on Monday condemned all of the entities involved in creating, producing and marketing the movie "Tropic Thunder" for the use of the word "retard" and their portrayal of an intellectually disabled character in the movie.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) helped organize a coalition of disability groups that have come together to boycott the film. Members of the coalition, including AAPD's President and CEO, Andrew Imparato, met with DreamWorks executives last week to discuss concerns about the film.

The movie is a movie-industry spoof depicting a caricature of an intellectually disabled person -- a character called "Simple Jack," played by actor Ben Stiller's character -- which is a continuation of the horrifying portrayal of disabled characters in entertainment.

AAPD is also disgusted at the use of the word "retard" numerous times in the movie and promotional items for the film, including the promotional slogan, "Once upon a time there was a retard," in the now-defunct Web site for the movie-within-a-movie, "Simple Jack."

"Both the use of this word and the appalling portrayal of an intellectually disabled character in this movie are incredibly damaging to people with intellectual disabilities," Imparato said after viewing the film Monday. "This movie perpetuates use of a hateful word the disability community is trying to eradicate from our country's vocabulary. Although the movie is considered satire, this depiction of a person with intellectual disabilities is far from funny."

"One of the biggest challenges for people with intellectual disabilities is when society encourages this portrayal of them," said Cheryl Senenbrenner, Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities board, whose 38-year-old sister, Tara Warren, has Down Syndrome. "It's almost the worst adversity they face. People like Tara can do phenomenal things. She's very highly accomplished."

"As a person with a disability, the movie didn't make me feel good," said AAPD board member and President of Self-Advocates of Indiana, Inc. Betty Williams after viewing the film Monday. "I felt really horrible hearing them say the 'r' word so many times, so easily."

AAPD is also disappointed that the filmmakers included in the movie reportedly discussed the potentially offensive content of the movie with other groups before moving forward with production, but did not hold similar consultations with the disability community.

AAPD issued a joint statement as part of the coalition, which includes the Special Olympics, Arc of the United States and the National Council on Independent Living, criticizing the film and calling on Hollywood to remedy the harm that is being done by the film.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country's largest cross-disability membership organization, organizes the disability community to be a powerful voice for change - economically, politically, and socially. AAPD was founded in 1995 to help unite the diverse community of people with disabilities, including their family, friends and supporters, and to be a national voice for change in implementing the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To learn more, visit the AAPD website:

SOURCE American Association of People With Disabilities

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