With the world currently in the midst of a huge push for racial and social equality, the entertainment industry has been paying close attention, with the studios now removing movies and episodes of certain TV shows that people may deem offensive. Gone with the Wind was initially removed from HBO Max before returning with a new introduction, while The Dukes of Hazzard is heavily rumored to be next in line for the chopping block.
However, in some cases it feels more like a knee-jerk reaction without looking at the bigger picture, with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia losing an episode over depictions of blackface, even though the episode in question is designed entirely to show the ignorance that certain sections of society have over the offense it can cause.
Another example is Robert Downey Jr.’s Academy Award-nominated performance in Tropic Thunder, with a lot of folks demanding that he publicly apologize for his turn as Kirk Lazarus even though the point of the character is to mock the entitlement of white actors that just assume they can play any role regardless of race, creed or gender.
In a recent interview, Tropic Thunder director and star Ben Stiller reflected on the movie and admitted that there’s no chance it would be made today in the current political climate, saying:
“It would be tone deaf right now to make it. But the time we made it was very clear, in terms of for us, the idea behind that character was an actor, it was making fun of an who would actor who would go to any lengths to win an award. For me that was always the very clear idea behind it. Now, does that mean that necessarily now, I would do it today? I probably wouldn’t, because I would know that the atmosphere today would be like, that would feel wrong. But at the time, it was very clear that was what we were doing and felt okay to do it.”
Stiller then admitted that Downey Jr.’s performance was the key behind making the character work, because in the hands of a less-talented actor, the point that they were trying to make might not have come across quite so clearly.
“Now, I’m not saying that that’s okay to do. That doesn’t mean blackface is okay. Blackface is not okay. But it’s probably never okay. So, I have no leg to stand up and say that character is doing that. But for us it was really clear that this is making fun of an actor who would take on any character, just so he could win an award because actors are so self-involved. And I think when we were casting it, it was really clear to me that there are only a few actors who I think an audience would buy doing that and not find it offensive.”
Cancel culture has been spiralling out of control for a while now, with various movies, TV shows and actors becoming targets for seemingly innocuous reasons. Tropic Thunder is definitely one of them, because Kirk Lazarus is the embodiment of white privilege in the acting industry and Downey Jr. pitched it perfectly to get that point across without becoming an offensive caricature.
Source: Bounding Into Comics