Racial Backlash Over Upcoming Film?

Published 7 years ago by

There’s a movie that seems to be in the early stages of causing an uproar over a racial issue. Apparently in this movie, someone of one race will be wearing realistic makeup to make the character seem like he is of a completely different race.

Besides the obvious outcry that this is demeaning, is the accusation that work has been taken away from someone of the target race who could just as easily have been hired to play the part in the film.

If you’re curious about what I’m talking about, see below.

white chicks Racial Backlash Over Upcoming Film?
The African American Wayans Brothers play two white woman in White Chicks

I can totally see the outrage over this, I mean with all the white, young blonde actresses trying to get a break in Hollywood, how could these guys possibly be so racist as to take work away from who could be the next two big starlets of Tinseltown? I mean… um, what?… You mean this isn’t all about White Chicks? There was no outcry over the race reversal in that movie?

Oh… sorry. My bad.

I guess the worry is about a different movie. This summer another comedy movie using the cross-race gag will be coming out: Tropic Thunder. In this movie Robert Downey Jr will play a white man playing a black man in a movie within the movie (got that?).

downey jr tropic thunder Racial Backlash Over Upcoming Film?
Robert Downey Jr. plays a black man in Tropic Thunder

From what I’ve read, the comedic part of Downey Jr.’s role depends upon the fact that he is a white guy playing a black man, much as the humor in White Chicks was supposed to come from a couple of black men playing white blonde women.

According to Entertainment Weekly:

“Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a very serious Oscar-winning actor cast in the most expensive Vietnam War film ever. Problem is, Lazarus’s character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as black. So Lazarus decides to dye his skin and play Osiris, um, authentically.”

Here’s the picture that started the whole thing:

first tropic thunder pic Racial Backlash Over Upcoming Film?

The movie has nothing to do with finding humor in racial stereotypes, rather the goal (which I’m 100% behind) was to poke fun at pampered Hollywood stars by having the director of the film within the film drop them into a live war zone in Vietnam so they could get a taste of real hardship.

I’ll fess up right here and tell you that before I knew that this was the plot of the film, I had been offended by the trailer. I thought that it was portraying a band of actual soldiers as “wacky guys” in the middle of the conflict. But now that I know the context, it does indeed look like it may be pretty damned funny.

If you want to see the “red band” trailer (for language), you’ll need to provide age verification information over at the official website.

Personally I think any racist accusations raised against this film in the media will be from the usual bunch of attention-hungry talking heads that pop up at every opportunity.

Tropic Thunder opens on August 15th and stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black & Robert Downey Jr.

Source: EW via First Showing

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  1. Honestly I don’t think there will be a problem with it. He’s not gonna be running around screaming “Yes masa,” or “Help me mammy” or whatever racial black face stereotype.

    The movie does look like it’ll be good, plus, it’s Robert Downey Jr. the man’s got charisma.

  2. How about Eddie Murphy playing an old white man in the excellent Coming To America? Or Eddie Murphy going undercover as a white man for Saturday Night Live? Both classic cases of just having fun, both some of the funniest films or TV moments from Murphy’s career. (He was ROBBED at last year’s Oscars!!)


  3. Typical nonsense, the usual double standard. It’s the same thing with black comedians ripping on white people, total acceptable, but lets see a white comedian tear into black people and listen to the out-cry. Eddie Murphy has made a career out of playing stereotypes for humor and no one says a word. Whether they be fat, white, Jewish, Asian, whatever, he has done it all and nothing is said.

  4. I think everyone’s jumping the gun here. I’ve not read or heard any type of complaints about this.

  5. Liz,

    Don Cheadle! lol

    What bothered ME about the Wikipedia article is how it stated that a black actor was considered first for the role and then the script was re-written for a white actor… with NO reference given as a source.

    The problem with Wikipedia is that ANYONE can edit ANY article. I don’t know why people consider it such an authoritative source.


  6. He doesn’t even look black to me, he kind of looks like my uncle (im latino). As far as the “public outcry” I haven’t seen or read anything on the subject.

    And to the person who mentioned Eddie Murphey and his characters, he actually was criticised for his asian and big momma character in Norbit so black people aren’t immune to such backlash.

  7. Hmmm…as an African American, the film or RDJ’s role doesn’t offend me. What “does” offend me is the ignorance of “some” (I said SOME) of these comments here. Should I say I’m used to it? I never “will” be.

  8. I avoided Norbit like the plague! FWIW, when I went back to college, all our professors warned us against putting Wikipedia as our source.


  9. Liz, the professors warned us because there can be a lot of misinformation put up there. I write for a few publications, both online and print, and I wouldn’t be caught dead citing Wikipedia. I can get a general idea there, but I usually find major sources.

    Trust me, I do go to Wikipedia, but like I said, I find other sources.


  10. Liz,

    And my point (again) was that they made a statement in the entry that I haven’t seen anywhere else and there was no source stated for it. That smells strongly like editorializing to me at best.


  11. Liz,

    I shouldn’t have to educate anyone here. If you’re oblivious to a few statements, blame “your” educator. I don’t pretend to be one. Also, life’s never fair.

  12. *lol*

  13. You’re right Liz. I’m feeding the trolls. My bad.

    Back to the movie!

  14. I have yet to hear of anyone actually being offended; I think it’s more people worrying that people might be offended, for whatever reason.

    For an actor like RDJ, who’s just starting to revitalize his career, to do an offensive role would be suicide. He knows that. I trust his judgment.

    I think the most offensive part of the whole thing is the Wikipedia page for Tropic Thunder, which says “test screenings for African-American audiences have been positive.” Well that obviously makes it okay!

    In other news, black RDJ looks frighteningly like Don Cheadle.

  15. It’s considered a valid source precisely BECAUSE anyone can edit it. Occasionally misinformation does fall through the cracks, but with all the citations it’s a great source to find things out. You just have to be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff, and most of the untrue things get edited out by the Wikinerds pretty quickly.

    I’ve just always found it funny how any member of a minority is considered to be a representative sample. I once used the word “disabled” in an anthropology class discussion, and people were offended until I said I had disabled friends who used the term themselves…then it was magically okay. Buh?

  16. Heath – there’s really no need to cite it as a source, since it typically has a massive footnote section of reliable sources. I never understood why people would take the lazy way out.

    MBL – Anyone in particular you want to call out? It doesn’t seem fair to make a comment like that without pointing out who you think is ignorant. Educate us!

  17. Heath -

    That’s what I was saying – refer to the sources at the bottom, don’t quote the page itself. I used it as an aggregate of information but I always checked the sources for whatever I wanted to refer to. I don’t get why people would quote the actual page when the format makes it incredibly easy to click on the footnote and find the source.

  18. No, I get that there are unsourced statements on there. They shouldn’t be taken seriously, clearly, until someone can find a citation.

    I’m just defending the sourced statements on Wikipedia, which is 99% of them.

  19. MBL -

    Okay. I just thought it might be nice if you said something more than “lots of people here are ignorant, bye.” That doesn’t really help anyone.

    Also I’m not sure that quote marks mean what you think they mean…?

  20. Oh, so you’re just trolling. Sorry, I thought there was the potential for an actual discussion here.

    Back to the movie!

  21. If I’m doing a term paper or writing a posted article, I’d go straight to sources.

    But, I usually go to Wikipedia for a thumbnail sketch with an detail options. Otherwise, I’d have to trudge through adoring/flaming fan sites where they
    a) assume I’m ga-ga over the character,
    b) discuss the nuances of his bio,
    c) get into minutia such as which version of the comic character is better, the Alternate Universe 17 black alcoholic version with the Mach 3 armor and the authentic grey uniform with the bio web shooters, or the Post Cataclysmic Conflict caucasian bisexual version with the webs under the armpits and the logo real prominent on the belt and the stainless steel nipples.

    More Wikipedia please!

  22. Whatca going to do about it, ya know? This kinda stuff always happens (Comedy; Stand up as well. Is number 1 on that list) Theres always people looking to start stuff. It’s absured.

    People need to get a life and stop worry about senseless crap like a White Man Portraying a black man “OH NO! YOU CANT DO THAT!” Urgh, whatever

  23. I’m kinda pissed that RDJ isn’t allready shooting scenes for Iron Man 2. Let’s go. Get that thing moving!!!

    I’m also shocked at how White Jack Black looks in that shot.

  24. The thing you all have to realize is that white men painting themselves up to portray black men has history behind it. It’s called a Minstrel Show. I suggest you all watch a Spike Lee (I can hear the shuddering from here) film called “Bamboozled”. Totally underrated and quite educational.

    As a Black man I am not offended by Robert’s role, in fact I find it rather interesting. Also, White Chicks sucked badly. I couldn’t even get through 10 minutes.

    I just wish people would be more understanding, it seems like some White people will take shots at Black people because they feel vocally “oppressed” in their everyday lives, but hey, I love everyone. No problems here.

  25. Liz-

    I agree that we should be ready to move on. I am tired of all this talk of “race relations.” We’re only one race, the human race.

    Now, it seems like some people want Blacks to just totally forget the past. When I bring up discrimination and how it still affects today, I’m not talking just about slavery, I’m talking about Jim Crow. My mother experienced this era first hand.

    When she was a young girl she wanted to go to an ice cream parlor but, was told it was a “White Establishment.” She was even spit on. It’s going to be terribly hard for her to forget or even forgive these things but, we have to move on if we intend to survive as a people.

    The reason why I am looking forward to seeing Robert in action is because the makeup is pretty good! It’s not offensive at all, none of the features are exaggerated or contorted in a freakish way. I am actually quite excited about this one!

  26. Brad,

    Great comments. I do think there is a difference between “not forgetting the past” and “dwelling on the past.”

    You’re right, Jim Crow is a lot more recent than slavery and anyone who was directly affected by those days certainly has a reason to be bitter. I just don’t agree with bringing up race every time there is some perceived slight.

    IMHO types like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson help perpetuate the division by constantly bringing our attention back to the differences and playing the blame game instead of taking the road that Bill Cosby has and saying that we are all responsible for ourselves.

    Anti-Christians still bring up the Catholic Crusades as an argument against Christianity today, which I also find ludicrous.


  27. Brad -

    I think people are pretty aware of blackface and minstrel shows; the terms have been thrown around quite a bit since these pictures surfaced. But there is quite a difference between this and traditional blackface, which I think should be obvious to the casual observer.

    I believe that, as a culture, we are ready to move on from some of these relics of our past. A white actor can be made up to look black without it being a callback to derogatory minstrel shows. People have different skin colors and facial features; as long as we understand these distinctions for the superficial things they are, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing them.