COLUMBIA - Signs with messages such as "Retarded is mean even if you don't mean it" and "Tropic Thunder, Colossal Blunder" were held by Special Olympics staff and athletes Wednesday night in front of Hollywood Stadium 14 Theaters. The group of about ten people boycotted the release of "Tropic Thunder" in theaters because of the film's use of the word "retard" and the portrayal of people with disabilities throughout the film.
Similar to other protests of Tropic Thunder nationally, groups such as Special Olympics find the word "retard" offensive because "it is hurtful to people with mental disabilities," the Special Olympics Missouri Web site says.
"I've been very passionate about not using the R-word for years because I have seen the way it affects people," said Teri Holt, a Special Olympics staff member who attended the protest. "Because of my brother's disability, he is called the R-word in the community."
DreamWorks, the movie's production company, issued a statement responding to the protests: "‘Tropic Thunder' is a R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the top characters in ridiculous situations. The film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities."
Following the original complaints from the advocacy groups, DreamWorks pulled some promotional materials, including a Web site that promoted the film-within-a-film starring Ben Stiller's character, which contained the tag line "Once there was a retard." DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan previously said in a statement that "no changes or cuts to the film will be made."
"Just as a bookstore does not censor books, we do not censor the movies that are released at our theaters," said Heather Wright, vice president of marketing for Hollywood Theaters. "We do encourage our audiences to use their own judgment when selecting which movie to see."
A manager at Forum 8 movie theater said he was not aware of the protest Wednesday night.
The boycott of Tropic Thunder is part of Special Olympics' "R-word" campaign.
The campaign's Web site, r-word.org, allows people to join the group and pledge not to use the word "retard."
"The campaign is a way to make people more aware of what they say and the hurtful meaning of the word retard to others," said Diane Brimer, central area director for Special Olympics Missouri.
"The word retard is a harsh word," said Annette King, a Special Olympics Missouri staff member. "People would be surprised what these athletes know and how intelligent they are."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.