Local News

R-word coming to a theater near you

Posted August 12, 2008 11:29 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2008 9:27 a.m. EDT

— Special Olympics North Carolina, The Arc of North Carolina and five other groups across the state that advocate for disabled people have joined to speak out against DreamWorks' new film, “Tropic Thunder.” The film features the prominent use of the "R-word" (retard).

"I heard they use the R-word in the movie. That's not right at all,” Special Olympics athlete Matthew Carpenter said.

"Tropic Thunder" is a comedy directed by Ben Stiller. It focuses on a group of actors shooting a war movie.

Keith Fishburne, president and CEO of Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC), admitted Tuesday evening that he has not seen the film, but says he has seen excerpts of the script that use the R-word.

"There were scenes in it that were very derogatory and negative towards people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.

When the movie opened Monday night in Los Angeles, many people protested.

Stiller said the movie is not intended to hurt anybody's feelings.

"I think we were clear about what our intention was in the movie and where the humor was coming from, and I feel like that's clear in the context of the movie,” he said.

Matthew Carpenter's mom, Jill, says she has seen the hurt the R-word can cause.

"I have seen them slide down in their chairs. I have seen them get tears. They know what that word means,” she said.

“Labeling and humiliating others is unacceptable in this day and age,”  Fishburne added.

Jill Carpenter said she wants an apology from the filmmakers and the movie not to be shown.

Matthew Carpenter just wants the R-word to go away, he said.

"It just hurts people's feelings,” Jill Carpenter said.

Late Tuesday, a spokesperson from DreamWorks Pictures released a statement to WRAL News:

“’Tropic Thunder’ is an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the top characters in ridiculous situations. The film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities.

“We have had productive discussions with representatives of disability-advocacy organizations and look forward to working with them closely in the future. However no changes or cuts to the film will be made.”

In response to the movie, the Special Olympics has launched the R-word campaign. It aims to reach people who may not understand the impact of the R-word and to stop its use.

“Tropic Thunder" opens Wednesday and is rated R.