July 31, 2005
Does this grab your attention as it did mine? How often do we hear people use it and think nothing of it - we let it go by. Is there anything more offensive than calling someone a retard? I don't think so.
Today my husband and I went to see Willie Wonka and the ChocolateFactory. We heard it was great. It was to be audio described and closed captioned for people who are blind or visually impaired and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Within the first 30 minutes, one of the kids in the movie describes his calculations to determine the gold ticket as so easy "a retard" could do it. I was shocked and amazed. I had not heard anything pejorative about the movie including the use of "retard" in reviews or friends and yet millions of Americans have seen this. Is this such a common term in our society that we consider this acceptable language?
Some people have a condition known as mental retardation but this does not define them any more than referring to a child who has cancer AS cancerous or an adult with leukemia AS being leukemia.
We just celebrated the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities act: to open the doors of opportunity in all areas for the 54 million Americans with disabilities. We cannot select which individuals or what disability groups we will treat with regard and respect. We must be willing to embrace ALL people: their talents and skills, not because it is politically correct because it is the right and honest way to live.
I urge you - do not let this or other examples of hatred go by unnoticed. Speak out, write to directors, producers, theatres, magazines and newspapers where ever you experience hatred of any group and let them know how unacceptable this is. To my sisters and brothers with developmental disabilities- you do NOT stand alone.
Sincerely,Lorre Leon Mendelson
cc Richard Zanuck & Tim Burtonwbsf@warnerbros.comc/o Warner Brothers Studios4000 Warner BoulevardBurbank, CA. 91522***************
Reprinted by permission of the Author.
I too wrote a letter [although mine was not as eloquent as this] right after I sat and watched this movie with my four year old daughter sitting on my lap [my four year old daughter who happens to have mental retardation]. My nine-year-old son and his fourteen-year-old sister and her friend right next to me.
My heart sank when this word was uttered.
My most favorite author is 'Roald Dahl' and I enjoy the magic that Tim Burton creates in his directing, so I figured this was going to be a wonderful way to celebrate Greta's 14th Birthday.
The movie was amazing, but for me, it was ruined by that one hurtful word.
After the show we went out to Applebee's to have dessert and sing 'Happy Birthday'. It was a joyous evening and to my surprise, the children were the first to bring up the word. They were hurt by it. We discussed that it was no different if the actor had used a religious or racial slur......it was aimed to be hurtful....and for us, sadly, t hit the mark.
I am thankful that at four-years-old my precious daugther didn't realize the intent of that word is to cut like a knife........in a few short years she will and my heart will sink again at the moment that she is hurt [just as her siblings were hurt on this evening].
The children tried to rationalize that it made the charachter even more unlikeable,,,,that it showed the true ugliness of using a word like that and what type of person would utter such a thing at another human-being.....but take that one word away, and that character had many other facets that showed his rotteness.......the word did not have to be used.
This script went through many hands before it was finalized.....it went through many takes on film before it was finalized. It saddens me greatly to think of all the people who saw and heard this word uttered over and over again in filming and editing and not one person said "'wait'....that is offensive'".
So please, share this letter with others,,,,and better yet, if you saw the movie and it offended you, please take pen to paper [or keyboard to e-mail] and send off a letter,,,,even if it is to your neighbor, pastor or local newspaper.....let others know that we don't have to accept hatred in our media.