“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″
(Aug. 25, 2008) — The Church of the Brethren Disabilities Ministry has issued a statement on the recently released movie, “Tropic Thunder.” The statement is made in support of people with intellectual disabilities, said Kathy Reid, executive director of the denomination’s Caring Ministries programs.
“Tropic Thunder” is a DreamWorks production directed by and starring Ben Stiller, released on Aug. 13. A portion of the plot is a fictional film, “Simple Jack,” about a farmer with intellectual disabilities who is played by the Stiller character. In its first 12 days, “Tropic Thunder” has booked more than $70 million in its worldwide gross.
“While some people think labeling and humiliating others is funny, we believe such behavior is abusive and should not be considered acceptable,” the Disabilities Ministry statement said in part, adding that the group is “appalled” by the movie. “Under the guise of ‘parody,’ ‘Tropic Thunder’ insults and harms individuals with intellectual disabilities by repeated use of the ‘R-word.’ The movie perpetuates derogatory images and stereotypes of these individuals by mocking their physical appearance and speech, perpetuating inappropriate myths and misperceptions, and legitimizing painful discrimination, exclusion, and bullying.”
The Disabilities Ministry is led by a five-member committee including Pat Challenger, a retired educator with 32 years experience in public education, 24 of those years spent in the special education field; Heddie Sumner, a registered nurse who has worked in the aging services field for 16 years, with an emphasis on advanced dementia care; Karen Walters, a tax accountant and a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, who has served on the Tempe (Ariz.) Commission on Disability Concerns for 10 years; Brett Winchester, who has been blind since birth, and is employed by the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Kathy Reid, who serves as staff representative.
The full statement follows:
“We, the Church of the Brethren Disabilities Ministry, believe all humans are made in the image of God. While some people think labeling and humiliating others is funny, we believe such behavior is abusive and should not be considered acceptable.
“We are appalled by the DreamWorks film “Tropic Thunder,” released Aug. 13, 2008. Under the guise of ‘parody,’ ‘Tropic Thunder’ insults and harms individuals with intellectual disabilities by repeated use of the ‘R-word.’ The movie perpetuates derogatory images and stereotypes of these individuals by mocking their physical appearance and speech, perpetuating inappropriate myths and misperceptions, and legitimizing painful discrimination, exclusion, and bullying.
“We ask all of us within the Church of the Brethren to examine our own actions, language (even in jest), and perceptions of persons with intellectual disabilities, and to measure our actions against Jesus’ command to love one another. We ask that we engage in conversation with our young people, offering a Christ-centered critique of a culture that allows us to so easily demean others.
“Individuals with intellectual disabilities have been subject to discrimination, abuse, and exclusion from society throughout history. Around the world there are more than 200 million people with intellectual disabilities. In the United States, more than 6 million of these individuals have suffered severe consequences, including institutionalization; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; denial of education, employment, and healthcare; segregation; and targeted hate crimes.
“ ‘Attitudes and expectations of the public, in part, determine the degree to which children, adolescents, and adults with intellectual disabilities are able to learn, work, and live alongside their peers without disabilities,’ according to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Thus we all bear some responsibility for the wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities. This is especially true for the entertainment industry, which exerts a powerful influence on us all.
“As representatives of the disability community, we lift up the dignity of individuals with intellectual disabilities, the challenges they and their families face, and the meaningful and powerful contributions they make to their families, their communities, and their country. We long for a day when our world treasures every person.”
Go to www.brethren.org/abc/disabilities/index.html for more information about the Church of the Brethren Disabilities Ministry.
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