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Offensive Portrayal of People With Intellectual Disabilities
August 13, 2008

The self-advocacy and advocacy communities for person with intellectual disabilities are up-in-arms and waging a battle against a newly released movie, “Tropic Thunder.” The film is an action/adventure/comedy produced by DreamWorks and distributed by Paramount. The controversy is the liberal use of the word “retarded” and using this term in a disparaging way toward people with intellectual disabilities.

Representatives of a number of national disability organizations including The Arc, Special Olympics, National Down Syndrome Congress, and the American Association of People with Disabilities, met with DreamWorks prior to the film’s release and to discuss possible solutions. Following this meeting DreamWorks did pull some web site promotional materials, including a tag line, “Once there was a retard.” However, according to the producers no changes or cuts to the film will be made.

An article by Timothy Shriver in the August 11 Washington Post notes “By all accounts, it is an unchecked assault on the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities, an affront to dignity, hope and respect.” Shriver is also chairman of Special Olympics and has started to ask Congress to address issues such as this and to provide stronger federal support for persons with disabilities.

Dozens of people from the disability organizations protested the movie’s opening in Los Angeles on Monday. They carried signs stating, “We have abilities not disabilities” and are asking their supporters to boycott the film. Additional information and links to news articles are available through The Arc web site (www.thearc.org).

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