I am only going to make oblique references to a new film being released at the end of this month, starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jnr, because I don't want to feed it the oxygen of publicity that a controversial film gets.
Nick on Downsdad and Kristina Chew on Autism Vox have covered this issue admirably and I will only add that you should perhaps check out this Youtube Clip.
Sadly, my own son has been talking about this dreadful movie for weeks. He is a regular reader of the Dreamworks website and like Madagascar II ; he knows this film is Coming to Cinemas Everywhere Soon. Fortunately he has not quoted any lines from the trailers. And now that they have been deleted, I am hoping he won't.
Because that is the problem. Like Zoolander before it, this film is bound to lead to quoteamania.
"Blue Steele" (do the face)
"Mer-man! *keh... keh... keh...* MER-MAN!"
"Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty"
or how about:
"Words can only hurt you if you try to read them"
Now imagine me and Boo in the foyer of the leisure club with Boo doing his flapping and whooping. An adolescent boy looks at his companion and says slyly "Never go full Retard".
It can and will happen. And it will happen again and again to every learning challenged kid who might be successfully attending a mainstream school. Who might be just about coping. Who might be fitting in. It will happen to the siblings of those kids who don't go to mainstream. But whose horrible friends watch the DVD and use it to get a popular edge on their mate with the weird brother.
And it won't be the kid who makes the joke who hurts them. It will be the others who might have been their friend, but for the sudden tinge of reflected "difference" being cast by the child with special needs. Schools are cruel. Nobody wants to be the butt of the joke. Because that is just one short step from being bullied and miserable.
There are plenty of ways to raise awareness of special needs in our community and be funny at the same time. Creating an obviously unlikeable character and using them as an example to demonstrate the wrong way in consultation with the special needs community is perfect.
Creating a catchphrase that is going to be written on every public toilet wall for the next 20 years isn't.
I will boycott this film. But that doesnt mean much as I wouldn't have seen it anyway. I will also stop Boo from buying it on DVD, 4 times. Again. It won't mean much. But if you boycott it, and tell all your friends to tell their friends then it might mean something.
Finally I will paste in this quote from Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics writing in the Washington Post
"People with intellectual disabilities are routinely abused, neglected, insulted, institutionalized and even killed around the world. Their parents are told to give up, that their children are worthless. Schools turn them away. Doctors refuse to treat them. Employers won't hire them. None of this is funny."
Dreamworks is a big company. They need to cop on.