Learning to Laugh
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 11, 2008
“Tropic Thunder” was far and away the funniest movie of this summer, surpassing the likes of “Pineapple Express,” “Step Brothers” and more. From its opening sequence of psuedo-advertisements to its uproarious finish, the movie was as enjoyable as any I’ve seen in recent times. I was elated at learning the movie would be showing with SUB movies, as I knew very many of my friends had missed the opportunity to experience the hilarity of this movie.
Thus, I cannot disagree more with Mary Forr’s opinion in “Tropic Thunder: not so funny” (Nov. 11). I certainly do not mean to downgrade any of the great challenges those with disabilities encounter. However, I do debate her Letter’s repeated claim that the film “degrades” those with disability. Again and again, Forr makes this statement, but only once does she offer any backing to it, likening the disabled-related humor to making fun of Jewish or black people. I hate to break the news, but many comical movies do have jokes concerning race and religion, where most people generally understand the difference between making a joke and “degrading” a specific people.
Consider, for instance, the 2002 movie, “Van Wilder.” The main humor in the character, Taj, draws from the fun poked at his Indian heritage and the resultant culture clash. By Forr’s standards of humor, isn’t this an unfair and “degrading” portrayal of the Indian culture? Likewise, in the 2001 movie, “Legally Blonde,” the entire premise of the movie’s humor relies heavily on the characterization of blondes as air-headed. Shouldn’t we be equally outraged at the “degrading” image of blonde haired individual the movie portrays? Best yet, consider 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Doesn’t this movie both mispresent the American people and degrade our idea of the Kazakhstanian people to that of a backwards country?
My point, then, is this. Nearly every comedy can seem “degrading” or offensive if viewed in some manner. The key is to understand the difference between poking fun and making fun. “Tropic Thunder” is not a movie intent on the degradation of those with mental handicaps, but offers jokes of all varieties, whether based on culture (Alpo Chino’s Booty Sweat ad), ethnicity (the backwards nature of the Asian drug lords), race (Kirk Lazarus’s skin pigmentation) or mental capacity. By all means, I do not mean to put down the trials and challenges that those with mental disabilities encounter and incredibly surpass. On the contrary, I think a little humor only serves to highlight these great challenges. All it takes is the right perspective. As Forr mentions, Notre Dame is named after our Blessed Mother … and I’m sure she had a sense of humor as well.