Universal Studios & The Change Up's Discriminatory Language

Ryan Reynolds, left, and Jason Bateman star in The Change Up. The Universal Studio's production is the latest to use discriminatory language toward people with intellectual disabilities as a punchline.  

It appears that another major motion picture has taken aim at people with intellectual disabilities by using discriminatory and hateful language, all in the name of "humor."  In this instance, Universal Studios' new comedy "The Change Up" which was released this past weekend (Aug. 5), has a scene that uses the R-word (retarded) and also uses the word "Downsy" in a derogatory manner.

Full disclosure: No one at "Spread the Word to End the Word" has seen The Change-Up firsthand to date. However, having heard several accounts similiar in nature via emails and online as to the movie's content, we feel comfortable moving forward with supporting action against the movie. If you see any factual errors on our part, please let us know via email.

If you are not yet familiar with the movie or its premise, the movie's Facebook page describes it as follows: "Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star in The Change-Up, from director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), writers Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (The Hangover) and producer Neal Moritz (Fast & Furious, Click). The R-rated comedy takes the traditional body-switching movie, ties it up tightly and throws it off a cliff."

Once the movie was released, the backlash from families and advocates of people with intellectual disabilities was quick to spread across the Internet and advocates are rallying to speak out against the movie and Universal Studios. 

Mom blogger Gretchen Mather from Julian's Journey immediately took to her blog to describe the offensive scene and make calls to action to boycott the movie in addition to speak out via social networks.  Says Mather about the offensive scene: "In one scene in the beginning of the movie, Ryan Reynolds who plays a bachelor who has never settled down, visits his long-time friend Jason Bateman; he sees his twins in their high chairs and says, “Why aren’t they talking – what are they retarded?”  I thought that was offensive enough but then he says, 'And this one, he looks Downsy.'”

After making an appeal to her readers by saying that if slurs were used against racial or ethnic groups, society would not think it was okay, Mather asks for her readers to let everyone know that using slurs against people with disabilities is not ok either:  "Will you have the courage to speak up? Will you do the right thing? We have to change our society for the better.  Please do NOT go to give your money to this movie.  Do not support those who think it is OK to laugh and make jokes at the expense of individuals with disabilities."  She then goes on to list several action steps to take against the movie that you can read in-depth on her blog.

Others have been speaking out, and speaking up as well.

Jamie Harman of Jaidin's Journey blogged, "This movie takes it a way too far. There is a scene in the movie where Ryan Reynolds is talking about the little kids and he says something along the lines of "why aren't they talking yet, are they retarded? That one looks a little downsy".. DOWNSY!?!?!? Who the hell says something like that?! That is beyond cruel and hateful."

Mashall and the Movies reviewed the movie on his blog, "Sophomoric and immature humor can be funny at times, but when anything relies solely on it, the act gets old really quickly.  The movie tastelessly hurls pot-shots at mentally challenged people, Down syndrome patients, Japanese people, and Catholics, just to name a few, trying to get a laugh at their expense.  This kind of shock jock technique treads a thin line between making a statement or commentary and exploiting stereotypes for personal gain; “The Change-Up” is so far on the wrong side of that line it really isn’t funny."

Many, many advocates have been speaking out on the Facebook pages of both The Change-Up and Universal(UPDATE Aug 9 - Both pages have removed the ability for "fans" to comment on the page walls. Universal's page also deleted their own post promoting the movie and removed The Change-Up promo poster as their profile picture.)

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign supports and encourages advocates for and people with intellectual disabilities to speak out against the use of the R-word in "The Change-Up" from Universal Studios. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the same respect of their human dignity as everyone else in our society.  Language reflects attitude, and the perpetual use of the R-word, and other derogatory terms, only reinforces negative stereotypes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities within our society. It's time for this to stop.  It's time we all pledge to respect and include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our society.  See our official statement.

You can join us right now.  The first step is to take our pledge at www.r-word.org.  By changing one word you use, you can change someone's life.  The next step is to ask someone to join you in pledging respect.  You can speak out against Hollywood's perpetual use of people with intellectual disabilities as a punch line by letting them know how you feel. 

Post on the Facebook pages of "The Change-Up" and Universal: "The R-word is not a punchline. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve your respect. You can make a difference by apologizing for the hurtful use of the R-word in The Change-Up and using your influence to promote the positive impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can have on our society.  A great first step is to pledge at www.r-word.org."

You can tweet: .@UniversalPics The #Rword is no punchline. Remove it from #TheChangeUp & promote abilities of people w/ special needs. Pledge www.r-word.org

You can join the Facebook Event to Boycott "The Change-Up"

You can read and share via social networks this running list of blog posts being written by advocates (as of Aug 9):
"Universal Pictures Thinks Bigotry is Acceptable, and Marketable" from The World of Special Olympics
"Just a Word: The Change-Up Edition" from Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords
"Help Wanted: Screenwriters with Common Deceny" from Missfancypants's World
"A New Movie Makes Fun of Kids with Special Needs. Any of You Think That's Funny?" from To the Max at Parents.com
"The Change-Up Gets Thumbs Down for Disability Slurs" from About.com Guide to Parenting Special Needs
"Take a Stand" from Something Extra Equals Extraordinary Blessings
"Pushing for Change!" from Our Little Chilli Tribe 
"The Change-Up" from A is for Aiden
"Stop Disability Slurs! The Change-Up" from The Chronicles of Ellie Bellie Bear
"The Change Up" from Nuts about Nathan
"It's Only the R-word" from Gathers No Moss
"Cowards: 'The Change-Up' and Disability Slurs" from Bringing the Sunshine


You can contact the writers, producers, actors and distributors of "The Change-Up" via phone or mail per the contact info below.

Ryan Reynolds:
Dark Trick Films, Partner
421 N Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: +1 310 274 3600
Fax: +1 310 274 3670

Publicist for Reynolds:
Meredith O'Sullivan, Publicist
11400 W Olympic Blvd
Ste 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90064
 Phone: +1 310 477 4442
Fax: +1 310 477 8442

The Change-Up's Director:
David Dobkin
Big Kid Pictures
9000 W Sunset Blvd
Ste 1010
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: +1 310 288 4300

The Change-Up's Writers:
Jon Lucas
Creative Artists Agency  
Talent Agent-Literary
2000 Avenue Of The Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: +1 424 288 2000
Fax: +1 424 288 2900

Scott Moore
Creative Artists Agency 
c/o Gregory McKnight, Talent Agent
2000 Avenue Of The Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: +1 424 288 2000
Fax: +1 424 288 2900
gmcknight@caa.com

The Change-Up's Distributor:
Ron Meyer
Universal Pictures 
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
Phn: +1 818 777 1000

 


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