Pointless Thunder

"Tropic Thunder" opened yesterday. I haven't seen it yet, but it's touched on things I've written about before -- chiefly actors who portray mentally disabled people and actors in blackface.

I'm not going to rehash those things here. The "Excess Hollywood" columns are thoroughly accessible on the net even by the most inept surfer. What I will say, however, is that I don't understand the protests.

On one level, I do, of course, understand. Nobody likes being made fun of. When mentally disabled people protest the movie and the character of Simple Jack, they are trying to say they don't like the way their group is being portrayed. Fair enough. But how many have seen the picture? How many have thought about the message? How many of them protested Sean Penn when he played the role of a mentally disabled man and took it seriously? (That's far more offensive than someone doing it comedically to make a point.)

Groups protesting art and entertainment, whether they be mentally disabled, gay, or albino, often come across as having no sense of humor, being opportunistic and uneducated. Sad, but true. Every single person in America could find one movie that portrays them in a negative light. How many of them take to the streets with signs bearing "clever" slogans? (I don't know if this lack of protest is due to laziness or because they understand that art and entertainment is just that and not real life, however.)

If mentally disabled groups really wanted to make an impact, they should point out exactly what "Tropic Thunder" is said to do: There are actors who will take the role of a mentally challenged person in order to win awards. Don't protest the films. Write articles about them. Do press releases. Protesting brings more attention to a movie you want nobody to see, and nine times out of ten you give the film more credit than it deserves, including free publicity.

I'm all for protesting for the right reasons, like shutting down nuclear power plants and schools that train backyard dictators, but art and entertainment? Those protests always work in reverse.

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