Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The word "retard"

Excuse my meandering thoughts please...

One thing I have continued to struggle with since we have had Maeve in our lives is the language around us, specifically today, the term retard. I blogged about it about a year ago April. Interesting side note on this post... it was found by this author, and I was quoted at the beginning of this article.

This is coming to a head especially recently because of two unrelated, but linked occasions.

The first occasion is a movie premiering locally about use of the word retard in that show I blogged about last year. The same person who wrote that article connected me with a film maker. I did an interview with him, and shared my thoughts about the Brave New Workshop's use of the word Retard in their shows title. I talked with him briefly last week and it sound's like he is using some of what I said, and he is including some pictures of Maeve.

Yikes. What the heck did I say anyway?

The other occasion is a movie coming out this weekend called "Tropic Thunder" that I have received numerous emails and see many of my friends calling for a boycott of this movie. The movie is about a group of actors including Ben Stiller, who are making a movie that include Stiller acting as a stereotypical mentally disabled person. (Got that? A movie about actors making a movie in stereotypical roles, a black guy, a homosexual, a fat guy, and Ben Stiller's actor plays a mentally disabled guy (phew!))

There is extensive use of the word "retard" that people are calling offensive, including the Special Olympics committee, and the Down Syndrome Association of MN, among many others.

I have a deep internal conflict about this. We can't make this word illegal to use. I believe education and discourse is the way to enlighten people and their views about people like Maeve. And I agree too that calling for a boycott for something like this may be just calling more attention to what is probably a bad movie. Also, I suppose, a boycott may also lead to people taking time to learn more about why the word retard is hurtful.

Maybe it's a wash?

I really can't make up my mind on this issue. I look at what has happened with the racial terms that have been used in our country. There is clearly some words we don't use in our vocabulary as they might offend, shouldn't retard be treated the same way?

Then I look at what Josh "the Ponceman" Perry does with the word retard, and I am sincerely befuddled. I have been a relunctant fan of "Retarded Policeman" since it started last year, and have seriously enjoyed many of the episodes. Retarded Policeman is a series of videos featuring Josh Perry (who has Down syndrome) as a police officer pulling over people. I like it in that Josh is making fun of the stereotypes people have about him. (One thing I don't like is that it is often crude bathroom humor, with fowl language, so look out for that in the later episodes).

Josh has a brother who is a filmmaker too, and they repeatedly (look out, bad language) tell people that Josh knows what he is doing. In fact, many of Josh's family members appear in the first few episodes of Retarded Policeman.


So, I don't know what else to say right about this except that I'm conflicted.

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