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. Ths film is a comedy right.
    This is no different then what Travolta did in Hairspray or Mike Myers in Austin Powers.
    Just a gag for laughs.

  2. Brad,

    Yeah, absolution of personal responsibility is a disease that seems to be affecting EVERYONE these days.

    And Liz, I don’t defend the Crusades except as far as the purpose behind them was to stop Muslims at the time from converting Europe to Islam by the sword, which is something that I rarely hear mentioned.

    I’m sure there were political and other motivations besides that one and that I don’t agree with at all. Let’s not even talk about the inquisition…


  3. Brad –

    You’re absolutely right. I think we are really, really close to completely moving on from racism as a culture. Kids today likely wouldn’t have any concept of why it could be offensive for a white man to pretend to be black, because it’s all just skin color. We’re one step closer.

    I was attending Bellevue Community College during a slight scandal that involved a teacher writing a test question about Condaleeza Rice and a watermelon. Half of the teen-something and 20-something students in one of my classes didn’t have any concept of that stereotype when we discussed it. The teacher had to explain the whole thing, and they thought it was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard. I thought it was an encouraging sign.

    790 –

    That’s the proper way to look at it, for sure. I trust today’s audiences to see it that way instead of making it a race issue.

  4. I don’t agree that racial distinctions are merely superficial. They are cultural and innate. If not, the world would be all one cuisine, one culture, one boring place.

    There really are overbearing jewish mothers (Everybody loves Raymond).

    There are indeed loudmouthed pushy blacks (Starkisha [Finesse] from SNL).

    There are myopic white bigots
    (Archie Bunker)…

    and hot blooded italians, drunk irishmen, lazy latinos…bleeding heart liberals and cold blooded republicans…

    Not to mention internet geeks who need to “get a life.” ( I don’t agree that racial distinctions are merely superficial. They are cultural and innate. If not, the world would be all one cuisine, one culture, one boring place.

    There really are overbearing jewish mothers (Everybody loves Raymond).

    There are indeed loudmouthed pushy blacks (Starkisha [Finesse] from SNL).

    There are myopic white bigots
    (Archie Bunker)…

    and hot blooded italians, drunk irishmen, lazy latinos…bleeding heart liberals and cold blooded republicans…

    Not to mention internet geeks who need to “get a life.” ( <–that would be me)

    I’ve given up making everybody happy about race. Why should I, when there’s so much to laugh at?

  5. ***Edit
    Not to mention internet geeks who need to “get a life” (that would be me)

  6. Jim, of course all stereotypes come from somewhere, but we shouldn’t let the minority (of any group) define the majority.

    I think I’m about done talking about this, although I’ve been impressed with the civility of this thread. :-)

    We’ve got good visitors here!


  7. I think the important thing here is that we all agree “White Chicks” sucked because it wasn’t funny…

  8. Regarding the crusades, I think it’s a bit of a different issue than race discrimination. Christians are a self-identified group of people and much easier to blame for iniquities of the past than…whoever you might view as being responsible for slavery now. White people? Americans? The descendants of slave owners? None of these people choose to be any of these things, like Christians do.

    Granted, modern Christians are no more responsible for the Crusades than modern white people are responsible for slavery. But many modern Christians (not just in radical groups) still defend the crusades. This includes the appropriately-named Campus Crusade for Christ, a massive group of religious college students in which I was once involved.

    I know these comments have become completely derailed at this point, but it’s such an interesting discussion I can’t help myself.

  9. “Sci-fi internet geeks rule!!”

    At least in “World of Warcraft.” lol


  10. “Sci-fi internet geeks rule!!”

    Are you talking to me? Are you talking to ME?

    Didn’t mean to cast aspersions. I’ll get even by casting Annette into the sea.

  11. Sci-fi internet geeks rule!!

  12. Aaahhh
    I should have said sci-fi tv, and film geeks rule.

    “World of Warcraft” is not worthy.

  13. Hey there goes another one, “hold your fire, there’s no lifeforms aboard”….

  14. Love the sarcastic reference to “White Chicks”.
    Anyone pulling double standards needs to dig back to the movie “Watermelon Man” it did a great job of showcasing racial stereotype as well. All within intelligent limits.

  15. Wow! I’ve never seen a discussion on this topic that has been soo civil. Bravo guys!

    You sound like a guy I used to work with when I worked for the government. His name was also Brad. Did you ever work at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency?

    While I agree that race relations are better, we have a long way to go. Not too long ago, in Luoisville, KY., I was walking down the street going to a friends house. A white woman on the other side of the street looked at me and ran away. I turned to see why she was running and found nothing. Today, people have confessed to me that I frightened them when I wore my scully, shades, and black leather jacket; I laughed because I am 6’1”, black with a van-dyke, and weigh over 300 pounds. My son says I would be a perfect bouncer, as long as I don’t talk (he says I sound white, whatever that means LOL). As long as we have men and women who commit crimes instead of being lawful members of society, these stereotypes will always exist.

    I did not hear any outcries when “Soul Man” came out, so why this film. These are comedies, not some movie on the social problems of the world.

  16. As a Black man I just cant stop laughing at these photos. They’re so damn hilarious. Whoever gets offended by this humor should examine their priorities. I mean really, if you read the plot, you have to say, it’s rather innovative.

  17. Who cares! Lets worry about who is pulling the strings for Obama and McCain. Ahh… who cares about that too

    Ooh oooh South Park is on

  18. lol…. Are you serious??… Am Black and I think Robert Downey Jr. is just being funny, besides i don’t feel offended and I shouldn’t think you should either ….

    And am gonna be lined up 2 see that MOVIE!!!

  19. It looks like it will be a very entertaining film. I am a black woman and see nothing wrong with either Eddie Murphy playing a an old white man or RDJ playing a black man. They are actors and that’s their job and it also makes us…the human race take a closer look at ourselves and we see that everybody no matter what is somebody. And we get to analize sterotypes and rise above them and even laugh at them.

  20. Up: Robert Downey Jr. in blackface which seems very lulzy…as blackface always is.

    Down: Jack Black

  21. @Truthfirst I’m probably an idiot for responding, but you’re wrong. See the movie and you’ll find out that it actually pokes fun at the ACTOR Robert Downey Jr is portraying, not at blacks.

    IMHO it’s people like you that actually help perpetuate racism by constantly calling attention to race.


  22. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming, of course at the time this post was written I don’t believe there was any hint of Ben Stiller playing a mentally handicapped character in the film.

    I understand THAT concern (use of the word “retard”) but really within the context of the film it’s the actor portraying the character that is made fun of, not the character. (If that makes any sense)


  23. I agree with james burgham, they didn’t take away any role from actresses because they wern’t looking for actresses to play the role.
    and Robert downey jr isnt being racist at all just funny :)
    im african and im not at all offended.

  24. Thanks for stopping by my post. I wanted to tell you how right you were about RDJ, but you failed to mention Tom Cruise!

    But to remain in the context of your post (that’s going strong since march, amazing), I appreciated RDJ’s performance in the movie. There are more offensive portrayals about Black people by Blacks themselves, and RDJ didn’t fall into any typical acting mechanism when he did this role.

    build a bridge and get over it to all the people thoroughly offended by this genius work.

  25. Dude shut the hell up. You’re making an issue when there isn’t one. It’s the 21st century, it’s done because it’s funny, there is nothing in any of these movies to be taken seriously. It’s anal people like you who create the issues, someone can impersonate another race without any hard feelings, it’s a joke, alright, a joke. There is nothing racist about it, it’s when people like you get butt hurt, stick your nose where it doesn’t belong and slap the racist sticker on here. I’m sure the “next two big stars of Tinseltown” will fine another gig, if they are the next big thing then they won’t be missing any meals. Stop pointing the racist finger at b******* things like this, it’s just a MOVIE, seriously.