Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so I know I'm beating a dead horse. Yeah, I'mma talk about Tropic Thunder again. Because I watched it again, and the more I think about it, the more it slays me. Heh.

The protestors. They're the ones who crack me up the most, I swear. Without even watching the movie, they condemn it for buzz words like "retard" and "blackface". Or even having watched it, they don't "get" it. Why it's funny. Why it's not offensive or intended to denigrate anyone but the actor mentality itself.

It's like this: Robert Downey, Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a white Australian method actor, who plays Sgt. Osiris, a rock-throated fast-talking black soldier. At one point, Sgt. Osiris plays yet another character, giving Downey a whopping four personalities to juggle at the same time, which he does without the slightest sign of effort. But the funniest part of the whole deal?

While Kirk Lazarus has absolutely no idea why anyone would question his playing a black man dangerously close to an ebonics-slinging stereotype, he blows his top when Alpa Chino -- an actual black man -- starts knocking back on Australians.

HA! How is that NOT funny??

I mean, seriously. Chino reams Lazarus for portraying the black sergeant as an Uncle Tom, damn-near-pickininny kind of stereo type, which Lazarus brushes off as method acting. But let Chino adopt an Aussie accent and poke at the famous "dingo ate your baby" line, and Lazarus lectures him on crossing lines because that was a true story.

It's classic blame-displacing rationalization, and Lazarus doesn't even realize that he's exposing such a blatant double standard in himself. And Downey's play on it -- with Brandon T. Jackson's enthusiastic help -- is frackin brilliant. But people don't get that.

And the whole retard thing. Oi. Lazarus' spiel on why, if you want an Academy nod, you don't go "full retard" in a movie -- with examples, I kid you not -- could be an equally effective spiel on the portrayal of "mentally challenged" people in movies in general. The Academy doesn't want an actor going full retard in a movie because they don't want to be blacklisted by rights advocates for portraying "special needs" people without any redeeming skill or feature. Ie., without any hope. It's not politically correct.

This over-vocal overprotection is understandable, but misguided. As is most intolerance. Oooohhh, I am SO already feeling the hate-vibes from that one.

The point is that the whole "retard" debate about this flick is moot. Again, the joke is on the actors, on the Academy, not on the characters being portrayed. For crying out loud, it's a spoof, not a personal attack or a nationally publicized dissertation on the limitations of mentally challenged individuals. It's not insulting and insensitive. It's not a hate crime or an invitation to school bullies the country over to beat up and make fun of special education kids. It's...a joke.

Besides, school kids shouldn't be watching this flick, anyway. It very much earns its R rating, which is another reason it's frackin hilarious. I and most of my similar-aged friends are really tired of Hollywood dumbing down adult-centered movies and taking out a few F-bombs to get that coveted and crowd-friendly (and money-generating) PG-13 rating. Why rip the nuts off a ballsy flick? What does that leave?

I dunno. I just think people take everything way too seriously, and this is a comedy that makes fun of that. Which is why the joke works. It's a comedy, people. It's supposed to be irreverent. It's supposed to take pot-shots. And it's supposed to push boundaries and even overstep in places.

Not all comedies succeed on even one of these fronts. This one succeeds on them all. Many, many congratulations for that.

See, there's so much seriousness hovering around us every day that it's borrowing trouble to get all fussy over one hilarious riot of a movie in a summer full of awesome movies. Why do you think I paid out increasingly good money that I could have used to fill my gas tank to go see so many films this summer? It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a method actor, heh) to figure that one out.

1. There were a load of good flicks this year, and
2. I want to get AWAY from reality for a couple of hours, not mire myself in it further.

And that's what movies are for. Entertainment. Distraction. Suspension of disbelief. Hell, at its heart, cinema is about escape. If you can't escape reality for a couple of hours without coming up with something to complain about or protest or organize a boycott and political march over, it says a lot more about you than about the movie you so hate.

At least...I think so.

Here's one of my mottos for life, and it has served me well. If you don't like it, don't watch/read/eat/drink/touch/play with it. See, that saves you from having to deal with things you don't like, but it leaves those things for others who don't have the same hang-ups. It's freedom at its most general and forgiving.

I mean, seriously. I don't like fish. Nasty stuff. Love seafood, hate fish. 98% of the fish I've tried over the course of my life has tasted like Missouri river bottom, no matter what body of water it came out of. And if it's left out even a bit too long in the wrong temperature, it can kill you. Or at least make you so sick you'll wish you were dead.

But you don't see me picketing Long John Silver's. You don't see me petitioning Congress to have that nasty, disgusting, and potentially harmful fish-yuck banned from every menu in the country. You don't see me condemning Wal-Mart for continually stocking such offensive (well, offensive smelling) grotesqueness for all the world to see and purchase.

Because some people, contrary to all logic, actually seem to enjoy fish. I can't for the life of me imagine why, but there it is. And who am I to deny them that small, inexplicable pleasure in life? Just because I abhor it myself?

Yeah, it's an over-simplification. But sometimes, it takes that big a leap in perspective to make people see how retarded -- oopsie! -- they're being about something. And that's what great comedies are for.

So, in essence, if you really wanna get down to brass tacks, Tropic Thunder is more of a much-needed and entirely undervalued public service than, say, an offense against decency.

So take that, rights advocates. HA.

And in the words of the mentally challenged but Academy-friendly-because-he-changed-the-world-by-playing-ping-pong-in-China Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."


At 2:48 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

Over PC-ness is just a means of avoiding discussion of the actual issues, IMO.

I will have to see that movie.


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