During lunch with four pastors, a volunteer and a teenager who all work with people who are mentally challenged, the question was asked, “Should we go and see the movie Tropic Thunder?”  In case, you don’t know, I have been told–because I haven’t seen the film–that this a movie that contains some demeaning and even profane references to persons who are developmentally delayed.  It takes the degrading term “retard” to a new low.

 After a brief discussion of the movie and the pros and cons about viewing the movie, one of the teenagers who was sitting at the table asked, “Why would you even want to go and see that?

Perhaps the greatest problem with this kind of thing is that you want to be current and relevant.  In fact, won’t your opinions be dismissed if you don’t spend the time and actually see film?  Doesn’t being able to speak with authority mean that you must know what you are talking about and doesn’t that also mean that you must see the movie?

Balancing on the other foot, paying to see the movie only promotes the profits, encouraging other movie makers to copy-cat the experience.  “Sure it was a controversial movie but look how much money they made” could become the rationale for more of the same.

I happen to agree with the teenager at the table.  However, there would be great satisfaction in going to the movie, then walking out and asking for my money back.  Yet, if this is my plan and purpose, isn’t that a bit deceitful?   

As it often does in a free flow of ideas, the conversation morphed into one pastor telling about a private Christian school in Florida that had a contest at lunch time called “Retard of the Day.”  This contest was to humiliate the misbehaving students and help control them during this rowdy time.  I think, as a group, we left the lunch table with the disturbing realization that there seems to be no good way to handle this issue.  We were also smacked in the face with the understanding that abuse is allowed–even in Christian circles–in regard to this population and the mental health population that would not be allowed with any other sub-cultures. 

However, I was so grateful that these important people in our culture aren’t being warehoused and ignored.  I was raised in the South.  I remember the days when the mantra of the white population was “they don’t care and they don’t know any better.”  We found out in technicolor reality that we were acutely wrong and things began to change.  The South of today is not perfect by any means in regard to race relations; but so much better than the South of the ’50’s.  Yet, blacks and whites will tell you that it has taken years of pain and suffering on all sides to reach where we are. 

I didn’t march in any demonstrations to make things better.  But I did reach out and touch my brothers and sisters of color who lived in the South and love them.  I did voice my opinion in mixed company.  I did monitor the use of offensive words to insure they weren’t used by me or my children.  

Perhaps the movie, Tropic Thunder has given the mentally challenged community a resounding slap that will back fire into society as a whole.  Perhaps professionals and pastor will stop ignoring the offenses and begin to speak out and reach out in love and grace.  We can only pray that this will happen.

How do you plan on handling this offensive piece of Hollywood cinema?