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AfriGeneas at the Movies

Re: “Tropic Thunder”
In Response To: “Tropic Thunder” ()

Thunder’ mocks Hollywood racial profiling
What Downey, Jr. does as a joke, satirizes Hollywood’s shameful history

Robert Downey, Jr. stars as overly committed method actor who has his skin dyed black to portray an African American in "Tropic Thunder," in which he co-stars opposite Ben Stiller.

Alonso Duralde
Film critic

One of the more outrageous conceits of the new comedy “Tropic Thunder” involves Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, who undergoes a controversial skin pigmentation surgery to play an African-American soldier in the Vietnam epic movie-within-the-movie. (Shades of, say, Christian Bale losing lots of weight for “The Machinist” or Robert De Niro putting on the pounds for “Raging Bull.”)

But like all the jokes in the film, it comes from a very real place. (The film’s controversial use of the word “retard”? It’s about mocking hammy, Oscar-starved actors, not about making fun of the mentally challenged.)

Hollywood has a fairly despicable history of casting Caucasians as ethnic minorities. “Tropic Thunder,” at least, is making fun of the practice, but in these movies, it was no joke at all:


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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