Thursday, 7 August 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #144: That's Offensive!

...especially those who get offended by everything...

It's happened again.

Someone got offended at something that was supposed to cheese off someone else. The problem being is that one side is too sensitive to offence and the other side is too oblivious to see it.

Allow me to explain.

In the film
Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller's character is an action movie star who wants to be accepted as a "serious actor." To be taken seriously he makes what he thinks will be a sure-fire Oscar winner, a treacly drama called Simple Jack, where he plays the title character, who is mentally handicapped.

What really got the goat of those who make
their living getting offended was the tagline "Once upon a time... There was a retard" featured on the bogus poster for the bogus movie. The dudgeon got so high, that Dreamworks pulled the bogus website.

Now the point of the whole Simple Jack movie within a movie gag wasn't to attack the mentally handicapped, but to pull the fashionable soul patch of Hollywood, whose inhabitants have mental deficiencies all their own.

You see, in Hollywood, the popular mindset is that to land an Oscar nomination you must play someone who is mentally handicapped, terminally ill, or both. The mentally handicapped angle has been particularly popular since Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks won Oscars for Rain Man and Forrest Gump playing innocent naifs dispensing life lessons that are wise beyond their scientifically measured IQs.

Now 99% of these attempts at Oscar whoring fail, miserably, resulting in dull, formulaic movies, and actors (Sean Penn, I'm looking in your direction) putting out performances that blend "look at me I'm acting" grandstanding with maudlin sentimentality. They also usually fail financially, and are made only to please or appease hyper-temperamental actors with big egos and poor impulse control.

These films, and the egocentric actors behind them are a ripe target for satire, and that's what Ben Stiller did. He even used the politically incorrect term "retard" in the bogus ads to illustrate the overwhelming ego and underwhelming intellect of the fictional film's fictional star / producer / sole reason for making the film.

Sadly, when someone like me has to explain the joke, the joke isn't succeeding. It's not the fault of the joke, the joke is solid, it's the fault of people who can't see beyond the surface to see the subtext. To them, it's all skin and no chicken.

Now the greater portion of the audience who see the Simple Jack material, won't be running out to the nearest special education facility to heap torment on those inside. They're going to chuckle, chortle, and even guffaw, all the while thinking: "Man that actor has a big ego and he's not that bright." The audience is smarter than you think.

I think the real joke is that Hollywood probably isn't going to see the joke either. They're going to think Stiller is trying to be daring, all the while wondering how that script they commissioned about the mentally handicapped person with a terminal illness is coming along so they can finally land that Oscar.

That's because both sides take themselves too seriously, because if they didn't, they'd see beyond their own reflection to the joke that lays behind it.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I can't wait to see this film.