Lighten up…it’s just a movie…

The latest news about the new Ben Stiller movie, Tropic Thunder, is that groups of advocates for the disabled are planning to boycott the film stating that it shows a “negative portrayal of people with intellectual disabilities.” Have these people not noticed the overwhelming number of people out there with “intellectual disabilities?” Obviously, not.

Though I think it’s really stupid to boycott a film for this reason, I don’t begrudge the groups for attempting to do so. It’s their form of expression. But there will always be something offensive to someone in any movie, song or book. That’s just the nature of human beings. No two people will take the same message away from someone else’s form of personal expression. That’s just the way things are and we need to ask ourselves if this is really worth the effort of a boycott.

I always wonder, however, if the people who are boycotting something have looked at why they are really against the boycotted item. Will it change anything significant to simply not go see this film? Is the problem not that a movie depicts people in this light, but that there is no funding to address the problems faced by people with disabilities? How does a boycott resolve issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the root issue? They may say that films that show challenged people in such a negative light perpetuate the type of thinking that keeps their support organizations from getting funded. I say, bullshit. What keeps these places from getting funded is a much bigger problem than the perception of the population. I think we all know that, but no one wants to admit it.

My background is in working for non-profit organizations that helped the homeless, substance abusers and even those who were victims of disasters. From my own experience, I know that funding issues seem to be less about how a group is perceived than about who is giving out the money and what their “pet” programs happen to be. Just my opinion, but I believe this to be very true. We still have issues with the stigma related to the various groups of “challenged” individuals, but those can be easily overcome with effective communication. Not just jargon thrown out there to pull at the public’s heartstrings, but true communication about where the problems come from, how they impact the rest of society and how we can help to resolve them.

You see, I’m all for advocacy, but when taken to extremes it pretty much damages the cause more than anything. If the people who are advocating for something can’t separate things out and wisely choose their battles, then how can they be trusted to work on effectively fixing the problems they are out there fighting for?

Ok, I’m done. I’ll put my soapbox back in the closet now. I just wanted to say that I will not be boycotting this film. In fact, I’ll probably laugh my ass off while I’m watching it. And it won’t mean that I don’t care about the problems of the intellectually challenged. It means that I have a sense of humor and am not afraid to see the funny side of even the worst that happens to us.

Until next time…

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