Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder is just the latest example of how the word "retard" has become a pop-culture phenom, but the movie also has served as a catalyst for disability advocates who claim that the word is offensive and must go, writes Lynn Harris in Salon. Are they right? Don't be too quick to join the these-people-can't-take-a-joke-camp. The advocates simply want people, and Harris includes herself among the offenders, "to at least think twice about the insult's real-life impact."
"People are comfortable using 'retard' as a dis because in the past no one has stood up and said anything in numbers worth counting," writes Harris. Tropic Thunder has energized advocates, however, because it spawned catch-phrases such as "Never Go Full Retard." Sure, it's funny in the movie, but when it gains currency and gets thrown around school hallways after a kid with Down syndrome, not so much.