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Tropic Thunder’ a satire

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, November 16, 2008

In the Nov. 14 issue of The Observer, two Letters to the Editor by Lindsey McMahon (“Still not laughing”) and Meghan Kaler (“Learn where to draw line”) discuss the issue of insensitivity towards the mentally handicapped in the movie “Tropic Thunder,” highlighting the inability of the handicapped to defend themselves and the use of hate words respectively as reasons for the censorship of the film. I personally respect their strong conviction, as the intent behind their words shows a desire for justice and equality. However, I cannot help but disagree on their methods.Whenever controversy overcomes a piece of media, whether it be literature, television or film, it is often a good idea to consider the overall intent and theme of the work. In “Tropic Thunder,” the purpose of the film is not, as Kaler and McMahon suggest, to denigrate and disparage the mentally handicapped, but to lampoon the outrageousness of the film industry. The portrayal of the mentally handicapped is used mainly in the context of the faux film “Simple Jack,” ridiculing such stars as Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman for using roles portraying mentally handicapped characters as fodder for acclaim. Therefore, if it wasn’t obvious before, “Tropic Thunder” is, without a doubt, a satire. The production of a satire is generally used as an attack on something which the creator disagrees strongly with; in this case, that something is the film industry and, more specifically, the use of roles by big name actors which inspire compassion simply as a medium for praise. Satire uses exaggeration and parody as two of its main weapons to confront the inherent ridiculousness of its subject.The portrayal of the mentally handicapped within the context of the movie industry is exaggerated and parodied to an enormous extent; so much so, in fact, that it inspires the outrage of many like Kaler and McMahon. But it has a purpose and it performs its purpose well. The attack of “Tropic Thunder” on the established methods of the film industry is well crafted, unique in its main concept and, if it matters, hilarious. Even if you completely disagree with all that it stands for and cannot see the brilliance, humor and elegance of its satire, the very least you ought to do is familiarize yourself with opposing viewpoints. Only by confronting that with which you disagree can you confirm that which you believe. Censorship, boycotts and rhetoric only serve to turn well-intended support into blind belief.

Brendan KeelerfreshmanSiegfried HallNov. 14