Let us travel back in time a bit, back to a period before Uber, The Masked Singer, and other atrocities. In 2008, the very same year that Iron Man would kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Jr. would take to the silver screens with a, uh, slightly more esoteric role as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder, the massive comedy hit. At the time, not much was made of Robert’s use of blackface. Now, however, it’s coming back to bite him, it seems.
Sitting down with walking HGH factory Joe Rogan on his podcast to promote Dolittle which, weird choice but okay, the host asked Downey Jr. about the role and the actor’s choice to don blackface, and Iron Man had this to say in response:
“I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ In my defense, Tropic Thunder is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception. My mother was horrified…I thought, ‘Hold on, dude. Get real here. Where is your heart? My heart is, A: I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion.”
There’s…a lot to unpack there. So, okay, sure, Tropic Thunder was satire, taking aim at all sorts of Hollywood types. The hubris of a white man thinking he could play a black man better than an actual black person is indeed insane. As the film was written by three white guys though (Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Etan Cohen), maybe they could have found some other way to comment on race without being, you know, kind of racist?
Also, what the heck are you talking about, Robert? You get to be “black for a summer?” Uh no, you do not. That’s bizarre. The “something that was in it for you” was like, millions of dollars and a job in a movie. That last line, too, seems like a lot. Almost like a cop-out. Can you really comment on something while doing said something yourself? Who knows? I’m no expert, just a “journalist” living paycheck to paycheck. Lordy, lordy, what a guy.
Anyways, Tropic Thunder can currently be found on many a white guy’s bookshelf in between TRON: Legacy and True Lies, believe me.