Austin News


Napoleon Dynamite controversy is… silly

Alamo Founder Tim League gets all hot and bothered about the City of Austin canceling the screening of Napoleon Dynamite because of pressure from disability rights advocates who are offended by the use of the word "retarded" in the movie.



Boy, what a day.  First I felt compelled to write a blog post about Roger Ebert's article about dim digital projection.   And now I caught wind of a cancelled outdoor movie screening of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE for all the wrong reasons.  I feel compelled to write some more, which will undoubtedly result in an in-box full of hate mail.

As part of our Movies in the Park series with the Austin Parks Foundation, we scheduled the completely innocuous, family-friendly, all-audience NAPOLEON DYNAMITE; a perfect popcorn flick for a hot summer night.  I was baffled today when I found out that the City of Austin had cancelled the film because of complaints from a vocal micro-minority, disability rights advocates who are offended by the use of the word "retarded" in the movie.

I understand full and well that this is a sensitive word and shouldn't be used as a casual insult.  It sure was when I was a kid growing up in the 80s, and I think adding a taboo nature to its usage is positive.  Using "retarded" nonchalantly in speech is hateful and can cause people a great deal of pain.  I understand.

What I don't think the people who were demanding the cancelation of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE in Republic Square Park understand is the context of the use of the word in this film.  Yes, "retarded" is bandied around as an insult, but look who is slinging it!  Napoleon and his family are freakish idiots and his use of the word further solidifies his status as king of the losers.  I don't think Napoleon using this word is intended to endear him to us.  Characters in movies can be and are supposed to be flawed, and we shouldn't feel obligated to agree with everything that comes out of their mouths.

I'm all for the fight to be sensitive to the word "retarded," but I will not abide strong-arm censorship tactics.  I hate the fact that just because there is maybe some dated racially-sensitive material in SONG OF THE SOUTH (and that is debatable, honestly), we can never, ever see this film legally in America.  Disney has shelved it for good to be "sensitive."  That makes me angry.  SONG OF THE SOUTH is a fabulous family film and deserves to be seen.  Its even more interesting to me because of the perceived racial sensitivity issues and the debate that it can spark.  Don't try to put  NAPOLEON DYNAMITE on a shelf permanently over the word "retarded."  That's.... silly.

In a small act of defiance, the Alamo Drafthouse is underwriting a free screening of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE on private land.  If you value your freedom of speech and the sanctity of cinema, I encourage you to join me there.  Admission is free.

Free screening of Napoleon Dynamite
sponsored by Alamo Drafthouse and the Bill of Rights
Wednesday, June 1, 9:00pm
at the American Legion
2201 Veterans Drive
RSVP on Facebook


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