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We Todd Did.

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08142008_simplejack.jpgWhile the folks behind “Tropic Thunder” had obviously soldiered up in advance for — and were probably counting on — controversy surrounding Robert Downey Jr.’s (totally hilarious) turn as a method actor in surgically applied blackface, the vehement protests surrounding the film’s frequent, gleeful use of the work “retarded” seem to have blindsided them. Bonnie Goldstein at Slate points to the 11-page kit released by a group that includes the American Association of People With Disabilities and the National Down Syndrome Congress, encouraging boycotting and picketing of theaters throughout this week. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics and another vocal opponent of the movie, admitted to NPR that, in true movie-protest tradition, he hadn’t actually seen the film beyond the key r-word sequences and didn’t plan to, a fact director/star Ben Stiller leapt on on Good Morning America yesterday:

“We screened the movie so many times and this didn’t come up until very late and I think the guy spearheading [the protest] hasn’t seen the movie. So in the context of the film I think it’s really clear, they were making fun of the actors and actors who try to use serious subjects to win awards. It’s about actors and self-importance. I think the context of the movie it’s pretty clear.”

And screenwriter Justin Theroux pointed out to New York that “Simple Jack,” the film within the film in which Stiller’s character plays a broader than broad caricature of a mentally disabled man in hopes that it’d lead him to an Oscar, isn’t that much of an exaggeration from projects that have actually been made: “There are MANY films we’re lampooning there, and TV movies included, just a bunch of movies we found completely outrageous.”

So, sure, Hollywood is the ultimate butt of all the jokes. And sure, what Orlando critic Roger Moore is attempting to label “the New Outrageousness” is also turning out to be a convenient way to pack in all the -ist jokes that will fit while crying no foul because, hey, those jokes aren’t aimed at who they seem to be aimed at. But I particularly enjoyed a judicious bit of word choice in Manohla Dargis‘ review in the New York Times, in which she twice uses “retard” as it’s utilized in the film: “one misbegotten attempt to bait Oscar with a weepie called ‘Simple Jack,’ in which he played a bucktoothed retarded man,” and “Kirk’s explanation for why Tugg’s performance as a retarded man in ‘Simple Jack’ doomed his chances for an Oscar.” The PC copy-edit would be “mentally disabled,” though the Times seems to use both terms freely, but why not apply the term directly to the role? Stiller’s “Simple Jack” character bears about as much resemblance to someone with an actual disability as Mickey Rooney did an Asian person in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — maybe “retarded” could become something like “minstrelsy,” used only to describe offensively bad roles in films, like, say, “Riding the Bus with My Sister.”

[Photo: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks, 2008]

+ How To Picket Tropic Thunder (Slate)
+ Disabled Group Calls For ‘Tropic Thunder’ Boycott (NRP)
+ Ben Stiller: Taking Chances with “Tropic Thunder” (ABC News)
+ ‘Tropic Thunder’ Writer Justin Theroux on ‘Simple Jack,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ and Stupid Actors (New York)
+ War May Be Hell, but Hollywood Is Even Worse (NY Times)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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