Thursday, August 21, 2008

Full Disclosure
At the time, I was wearing sunglasses indoors and said to my family, “For the record we’ve been at Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” But I will confess now that we went to the movies for the first time since Iron Man. And it was to see Tropic Thunder.
And we liked it. I liked it.

Yes, there are people who would say that just because the boys have heard all those vulgar words doesn’t mean that we should pay to expose them to a barrage of the same. And they are right. But it was funny. When we spend our days dodging the coprolalia and echolalia minefields at home, there is a certain release in watching others really let-‘er-rip on the screen. (I can imagine one of the boys wanting to be ‘Les Grossman’ for Halloween.)

Fuller disclosure: Eddie, the baby is almost 15. This is not really an excuse, but I hope for a bit of exculpation here. I’m a bad mother, but not so bad. Other boys his age are doing worse things. Of course, they’re not doing them with their mother’s consent and underwriting, so maybe I’m a really terrible mother…

There were a few lines in the movie that did receive my withering glance of sincere disdain beyond the obligatory tsk-tsk that should always be a mother’s reaction.. In the dark Where the laughing boys and their laughing father could not notice it. But I withered nonetheless. And I reserved my revulsion for that Brokeback Abbey sort of trailer for a later discussion of the layers of meaning in satire.

A lot of criticism has been voiced by those who think that Tropic Thunder disparages certain groups, the least being medieval monks. Although I don’t think I’ve heard much protest from fat, farty people. Yet. But there is that business about the mentally challenged. (I promise not to digress on how I find that term to be evasively offensive. Shouldn’t we be challenged? What about the mentally unchallenged?)

The way I saw it, this was a film lampooning stereotypes, especially movie stereotypes. There is a spectrum of debasement of certain segments of society. Some would flat out make fun of the mentally retarded. Others just patronize them; diminishing their humanity by giving them attributes similar to the “noble savage” and “magical negro.”

Can’t say that I’m familiar with many savages, noble or not, but I’ve known a good share of retarded people and black people. They’re people. People deserving of respect because of their humanity. But also not possessing any special ‘powers.’ Wholesale glorification takes away much more than it gives.

Our girls have a friend – a black friend – who lived with us for six months. A young man of good manners and pleasant disposition. A real guy. Certainly no “magical negro.” (If he were magical, why would he be living on our couch.? And wouldn’t some of the magic have rubbed off on us?) Nor are any of the other black people we know.
Maybe I could make an exception for Hank Aaron, who I used to see in the local mom and pop grocery store when I was little, back when the Braves were still in Milwaukee. But that’s celebrity magic. Magic on my part – talent and discipline on Mr. Aaron’s.
Another habitué of that market was Junior. Junior was the son of the owner. Today, Junior would be called ‘challenged.’ Back then he was . . Junior. A fixture in the store. And, I would presume, something of a worry to his widowed mother. Able to chat with customers but not possessing the intellect to steer the course of his life, Junior would always need help. I doubt if his mother would have found solace in treacly movies. And those of us who knew Junior were the better for having known another real person. (I cringe to think how pitiable it would be if my children’s experience of their fellow human beings had been limited to their own homogenous family/clique tempered with exposure to Forrest Gump and Morgan Freeman as God!)

Tropic Thunder is a movie with a lot to recommend*. Just don’t tell anyone I said so.

*Except if you can’t stand vulgarities. Puerile humor. Explosions. Maybe if you had a bad experience with fireworks this 4th of July and wound up holding your boyfriend’s ‘guts’ in for forty-five minutes the beginning war scenes might disturb you. But, on the other hand, you might love it.

[Here we have another benefit of homeschooling: I don’t have to worry about Eddie going to school and bragging about how his cool mother took him to the ultra-profane blockbuster of the summer. Of course, if we belonged to a homeschooling group I would have to be very concerned.]


Bridget said...

I think I'll have to see it!
Although I may have to cover my eyes during some parts....(fireworks!)

Bridget said...

no...that was fran.....but I guess for some reason I am signed in as Bridget!

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