Today, there are so many cases of the public being too sensitive and overreacting to a statement made by celebrities. One example being the huge uproar (complete with #CancelColbert internet campaign) over the Colbert Report’s poor re-delivery via Twitter of a joke made on air. At the time, Colbert had pointed out the mind-boggling logic behind Dan Snyder creating a charity for Native Americans to make up for the fact that he owns a team called the Red Skins.
The tweet read: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Insensitive, yes. But that was the point. As a half-Asian woman, I do not believe that this warranted the internet backlash or Suey Park’s personal agenda that resulted. This was a situation where people were too sensitive and did overreact.
Then, there are situations though, where the masses are willing to turn a blind eye.
Lena Dunham vs. Jennifer Lawrence
I’m leading with my opinion that making jokes about real crimes, especially hate crimes, are no laughing matter.
Lena Dunham made an inappropriate “rape” joke a few months back. The internet went nuts, bashing her for it.
She tweeted, and promptly deleted: “@lenadunham Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He’s been making me! RT @Bobbythornton you don’t always have to get naked” in March 2014. She apologized.
But, Jennifer Lawrence, America’s “it” girl (for the moment), made a comment at Cannes toward Alfonso Cuarón. She was so excited to see the director, that her greeting was “I broke out my rape scream for you!” Wait. What? Both the director and actress found this to be amusing. Perhaps, what’s more amusing is the fact that the internet is defending her! So far, there does not seem to be an upcoming apology.
You have Dunham who is constantly criticized for her television show, and her frequent nudity. Personally, I think her characters display a level of entitlement of the 20-somethings in New York City that we don’t really want to face. She has also said of her body that she sees it as a tool. She’s not a size zero, she’s not even toned or in good shape. Dunham doesn’t care. And I think that is why she’s not wildly accepted. It’s this lack of acceptance versus the glorification of Lawrence that makes all the difference in these situations.
Lawrence is confident, quirky, and brings a level of humanity to Hollywood that the masses don’t get to see all that often. She’s adorable and talented! But does that mean she gets a free pass on comparing the excitement of seeing a mentor, a talent, a man, to the cry of a woman who is being brutally attacked and forced to do something against her will? Hmm, I think not.
A whole slew of examples of the double standards in the use of the “r” word.
The word “retard” is a real word, with a real-world definition. However, in slang, which is it is more commonly used these days, it’s wildly unacceptable. I grew up numb to it, just like a lot of people in this country, but as I became socially aware, this word was quickly thrown out. There are many examples of situations where the public chooses to acknowledge or disregard the use of the word in movies, songs, comedic routines, and interviews.
1) Iggy Azalea from her song Fancy: “And my flow retarded, each beat dear, departed.”
How is no one talking about that? The only thing you hear about her is that she has made the hit song of summer 2014, has a fake butt, looks like the Wayans brothers in White Chicks, and she’s made distasteful racist and homophobic tweets when she was younger. No one acknowledges these lyrics. She does not apologize.
2) Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder: “Everyone knows you don’t go full retard.”
This is a double-edge argument, here. There were major protests when the movie came out. A large number of groups across the country came out against this movie for including that one line. However, there are plenty of people who still quote that line, or some variant in everyday conversations. No one from the movie apologizes.
3) Lady Gaga in an interview says that claims that Born This Way is plagiarized from Madonna’s Express Yourself is “retarded.”
After saying the chord progressions are the closest matching points of the song, and that’s it, she copied it because she’s smart not a plagiarizer, blah blah blah. She made the distasteful statement. Gaga apologizes.
4) Lebron James muttering “That’s retarded,” during a pregame interview.
When a reporter asked a long, obscure question to teammate Dwyane Wade, James made the statement under his breath, but directly into a microphone. Distasteful and also rude to the reporter, however, I didn’t see too much coverage on this. Honestly, this might be because I don’t frequent sports sites, but this is a social issue. James issued an apology.
5) Chelsea Handler on her show says “that’s retarded,” when discussing E! executives asking her to not discuss the likes of Dina Lohan and Denise Richards, even though discussing characters such as those women is what got her the timeslot that she has.
A lot of people like to dismiss this use of the word for the simple reason that such dark humor is Handler’s style. That’s how she became famous, it’s her calling card. No one apologizes, and no one thinks she has to.
6) Ann Coulter tweets “@AnnCoulter: I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.”
Oh, Coulter. You evil, nasty, fame whoring, hateful person. I don’t care if you don’t agree with the policies, or even take the third-grade route and simply don’t like the President of the United States, show some respect. Post tweet, when faced with the backlash, Coulter responds by essentially saying “Screw you” to the American public. This got a lot of attention, and some right-wing defenders because “aggressive victims have to come out and tell you what words to use.” This “human” doesn’t apologize, the network doesn’t apologize, Mitt Romney didn’t even step up to denounce this statement.
There are plenty of others who have used it and been pushed to apologize. Then there are others who simply don’t think they have to, and then proceed to go on the record subsequently using the word again.
No one should use that word. It’s dated, and offensive to a large population in this country and beyond.
In the end…
People make mistakes, and those should not always result in a hatred or elimination of respect for the perpetrator. But, all of the inevitable judgement should be distributed evenly.
When approaching anyone, go in with a level of respect and accountability. Beginning with equal expectations is more likely to yield equal standards to which people should be held. This means to hold actresses, singers, directors, athletes, your neighbors, bartenders, family members, tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, the rich, and the homeless at an equal standard.