Robert Downey Jr. Doubles Down On Tropic Thunder Defense With In-Depth Explanation

Summary

  • Robert Downey Jr. defends Tropic Thunder‘s blackface depiction, arguing that the movie satirizes negative tropes and aims to challenge Hollywood’s blasé treatment of underrepresented groups.
  • Downey Jr. compares the movie to All in the Family, highlighting a disclaimer used in the show to explain its controversial content. He suggests that audiences nowadays lack the understanding to appreciate satirical depictions.
  • Tropic Thunder creators, including Ben Stiller, wanted to portray despicable characters as a way of criticizing Hollywood’s lack of equal representation. The movie aims to mock and vilify these characters, not endorse their actions.


Robert Downey Jr. has once again been defending his controversial movie Tropic Thunder. A satirical movie about the Hollywood’s depiction of the Vietnam War, Tropic Thunder follows a group of actors portraying soldiers in a tropical war. Downey plays Kirk Lazarus, a method actor who elects to wear blackface for the entirety of the movie. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the performance, but that has not prevented extreme controversy.

Downey Jr.’s Tropic Thunder blackface is a shocking aspect of the movie that has been repeatedly criticized since its 2008 release. Yet, on an appearance on the Literally! With Rob Lowe podcast, Downey Jr. has presented a new argument in its favor. Comparing a disclaimer about controversial elements of All in the Family to Tropic Thunder, he explained that audiences have become less willing to accept satirical depictions of negative tropes. Check out his quote below, via Variety:

“I was looking back at All in the Family, and they had a little disclaimer that they were running at the beginning of the show. People should look it up, exactly what it is, because it is an antidote to this clickbait addiction to grievance that [people seem] to have with everything these days. The language was saying, ‘Hey, this is the reason that we’re doing these things that, in a vacuum, you could pick apart and say are wrong and bad.’ There used to be an understanding with an audience, and I’m not saying that the audience is no longer understanding — I’m saying that things have gotten very muddied. The spirit that [Ben] Stiller directed and cast and shot Tropic Thunder in was, essentially, as a railing against all of these tropes that are not right and [that] had been perpetuated for too long.”


Why Does Robert Downey Jr. Defend Tropic Thunder?

Multiple elements of Tropic Thunder have become controversial over the years. In many cases, they were also criticized when the movie was first released. Outside of Kirk Lazarus’ blackface, other characters also engage in abhorrent activities. Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) plays Simple Jack, a man with an intellectual disorder. Simple Jack is at one point referred to by a derogatory slur and is portrayed as insulting caricature, which continues to spark outrage today.

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From Team America to Seven Psychopaths, there are many hilarious movies like Tropic Thunder that satirize Hollywood with explosive action.

The reason that Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller have regularly defended the movie from criticism is that the movie’s creators were not approving of their characters’ actions. Instead, they are simply portraying terrible people on screen in an attempt to force Hollywood to recognize the impact that its blasé treatment of underrepresented groups can have. Lazarus and Speedman are portrayed as figures to be mocked, and the movie goes out of its way to make them maligned characters.

Tropic Thunder is available on Paramount+ for streaming.

With Tropic Thunder 2 potentially in development, it is worth considering why the original has drawn such disdain. All the same, its calls for equal representation are still an important note that the industry needs to consider. After all, Hugh Grant recently played an Oompa Loompa in Wonka, despite the role being built for people with dwarfism. Actors continue to take roles that are designed for members of unrepresented groups that they do not belong to. Tropic Thunder is remembered for its controversy, largely because the points that it satirizes are still prevalent in Hollywood today.

Source: Literally! With Robe Lowe (via Variety)