Tropic Blunder?

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is the title of a new film, written and directed by Ben Stiller – starring, Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. (shown above). For those of you who don’t recognize Downey, he’s the character in the middle.. Uh oh. It’s the 21st Century and Black face is back in full effect!

Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a very serious Oscar-winning actor cast in the most expensive Vietnam War film ever. Problem is, Lazarus’s character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as black. So Lazarus decides to dye his skin and play Osiris, um, authentically. Funny? Sure. Dangerous? That’s an understatement. ”If it’s done right, it could be the type of role you called Peter Sellers to do 35 years ago,” Downey says. ”If you don’t do it right, we’re going to hell.” Read entire article here.

Considering the history of Blackface in this country, Stiller is really in a mine field with this one – Vietnam style. I really can’t speak on it because I haven’t seen the film (or even a trailer) yet, but I can definitely say that I’m uncomfortable seeing Iron Man, playing War Machine (if you don’t get it, peep the first comment). How do we feel about this, people?

9 Comments to ‘Tropic Blunder?’:

  1. Pierce on 7 Mar 2008 at 1:38 pm: 1


    In the new “Iron Man” movie, Robert Downey Jr. plays the popular comic book character, Tony Stark – a white playboy/engineer/billionaire turned superhero.

    In the comic book, Iron man’s close friend and fellow Vietnam War veteran, James “Jim” Rupert Rhodes (who in the film is portrayed by Terrence Howard) – is an African American from Philly who eventually becomes a superhero in his own right, called “War Machine”.

    Hence my statement, “I’m uncomfortable seeing Iron Man, playing War Machine”. ha!

  2. Jerome Woody on 7 Mar 2008 at 2:44 pm: 2

    A friend of mine sent me a link about this movie yesterday, the first thing I thought was “What the hell?”, but more out of general confusion than racial outrage.

    Of course at this point, all we have to go on is this film shot. But without knowing how he’s going to play the part, it’s hard to gauge whether or not this is a blackface moment.

    The days of simple step-n-fetch “Mammy” portrayals have long past within media and culture’s dark memory, and as such things like a white actor playing a black character, all the contextual dimensions have to be considered.

    I can tell you that this photo didn’t boil my blood that much, but once again, I haven’t seen him “act” the part yet. Perhaps when the trailer comes out we’ll have more to go on in this.

  3. Danielle on 7 Mar 2008 at 3:08 pm: 3

    I agree with Jerome on this one. I want to see what the character embodies before I jump down the “BEN STILLERS A RACIST” campaign.

    It always makes me wonder though…why dont people just cast a person of that race for the role. This has happened within the asian, latino, and of course black communities. Isnt it understood at this point that having a white male play anything besides a white male is going to get you crazy publicity… well lookie here, there’s the reason why. PUBLICITY.

  4. Ishmael on 7 Mar 2008 at 4:39 pm: 4

    You can almost picture the Hollywood “lunch” where this idea hit the fan. Someone mentions the movie “TOOTSIE” and EUREKA – white serious actor pretends to be a black guy. GOTTA BE A BLOCKBUSTER.
    It might be funny, have to wait for the movie.

  5. Pierce on 7 Mar 2008 at 6:35 pm: 5

    I agree with Jerome, the photo didn’t really boil my blood. My first thought was actually, “wow, they did a really good job on make-up” but it’s still such a touchy subject.

    Danielle-if you click the link and read the attached article, you’ll see that the character in the film is actually a white character, who turns himself black to get a role in a movie. It’s not like casting Ben Kingsly as Ghandi, or to quote our March Interview-ee, Paul Mooney (as Negrodamus). “Casting Brad Pitt, as ‘The Mexican’, Tom Cruise, as ‘The Last Samurai”, or Tom Hanks, as “The Last Ni**a on Earth”

  6. Jerome Woody on 7 Mar 2008 at 7:13 pm: 6

    Pierce, your “Mooney/Last Ni**a on Earth” reference reminds me of the upcoming movie “The Forbidden Kingdom”. As the first movie to have both Jackie Chan AND Jet Li in it, I was excited, until I found out that it’s about a time-displaced white kid from Boston who is once again touted as some “chosen one” figure as he joins a completely Asian cast. This DOES boil my blood, I wonder what the asian community thinks of this. I know this was off topic, I used wanted to rant about it :)

  7. Ashley Wike on 8 Mar 2008 at 2:28 am: 7

    I mean, I haven’t seen the film, but when I think of blackface, I think of a white actor portraying a black person in a derogatory way. In this film, it seems Downey is portraying a white man, going through several difficult changes to portray a man of position on valor. Now, like I said haven’t seen the film so I don’t know how the portrayal comes across. But this doesn’t necessarily make me mad…makes me curious. As long as there isn’t any disrespect or any jiggaboo shenanigans, I’m not going to go on a Salem witch hunt…

  8. Phillipe Copeland on 9 Mar 2008 at 5:28 am: 8

    I recently watched Stillers last movie “The Heartbreak Kid”. At one point a female character says “f**k me like a black guy” at the top of her lungs during love making with Stiller’s character. I guess that was supposed to be funny but funny to whom? Makes me wonder what kind of movie this next one is going to be.

  9. Ishmael on 10 Mar 2008 at 9:02 pm: 9

    Dan Akykroyd was in blackface in the train sequence in Trading Places.
    However, Ben Stiller and Jack Black just are not in the same league with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.

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Published on March 7, 2008 at 1:02 pm. 9 Comments.
Filed under entertainment,film.