Robert Downey Jr. Defends Controversial Tropic Thunder Role With All in the Family Comparison

Actor Robert Downey Jr. is revisiting his Tropic Thunder role by addressing the controversy associated with the character.



In the 2008 comedy, which was directed by Ben Stiller, Downey played a dedicated method actor who underwent surgery to have his skin dyed for his role as a Black man in a war film. In more recent years, there has been some retroactive criticism over the character, as there had been increased scrutiny over white actors donning “Blackface” in various movies and TV shows. Downey does not seem to have any regrets over playing the part, however, suggesting that those who were complaining missed the point of the character.

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I was looking back at All in the Family, and they had a little disclaimer that they were running at the beginning of the show,” Downey explained about viewer sensitivities during an interview for the Literally! With Rob Lowe podcast, per Variety. “People should look it up, exactly what it is, because it is an antidote to this clickbait addiction to grievance that [people seem] to have with everything these days.”

All in the Family was a classic sitcom that aired during the 1970s, and it has also come under fire in recent years for controversial themes, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. Defenders of the series would argue that these issues were handled with sensitivity, with Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) consistently learning to overcome his outdated biases. On the relation between the two, Downey said that Tropic Thunder and All in the Family were similar in that they highlighted “tropes that are not right and had been perpetuated for too long.”

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Specifically, the All in the Family disclaimer referenced by Downey informed viewers that the sitcom sought to “throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show — in a mature fashion — just how absurd they are.” Downey noted how this same disclaimer could be applied to Tropic Thunder as well.

“The language was saying, ‘Hey, this is the reason that we’re doing these things that, in a vacuum, you could pick apart and say are wrong and bad,’” the Iron Man star said. “There used to be an understanding with an audience, and I’m not saying that the audience is no longer understanding — I’m saying that things have gotten very muddied. The spirit that [Ben] Stiller directed and cast and shot Tropic Thunder in was, essentially, as a railing against all of these tropes that are not right and [that] had been perpetuated for too long.”


Robert Downey Jr. Is Open a Tropic Thunder Sequel

Downey had garnered high praise for his role in Tropic Thunder upon its release, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. As Downey has also teased his openness to reprising the role for a sequel, there’s also a chance that fans could one day see Kirk Lazarus back in action on the big screen, but perhaps no longer in character as Lincoln Osiris.

Tropic Thunder is currently streaming for free on Pluto TV, and it is also available on Paramount+.

Source: Literally! With Rob Lowe

Tropic Thunder poster

Tropic Thunder

Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.

Release Date
August 13, 2008

Cast
Ben Stiller , Jack Black , Robert Downey Jr. , Jay Baruchel , Nick Nolte , Steve Coogan

Runtime
107 minutes

Genres
Action , Comedy

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