Top 10 Tropic Thunder Jokes That Wouldn't Work Today



Top 10 Tropic Thunder Jokes That Wouldn't Work Today

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
As much as this classic comedy cracks us up, getting it made now might be an uphill battle for Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and the rest of the “Tropic Thunder” crew. For this list, we're looking at concepts and lines from this 2008 film that might not go over well with some 2020 audiences. Our countdown includes Kirk Lazarus' Method Acting, Jeff Portnoy's Faux Trailer, “Simple Jack”, and more!
Script Written by Andrew Tejada

Top 10 Tropic Thunder Jokes That Wouldn’t Work Today

As much as this classic comedy cracks us up, getting it made now might be an uphill battle for Ben Stiller. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Tropic Thunder Jokes That Wouldn’t Work Today.

For this list, we’re looking at concepts and lines from this 2008 film that might not go over well with some 2020 audiences. Since we’ll be talking about the whole movie, a spoiler alert is in effect.

#10: Lazarus Pretends to Be a Farmer

When actor Tugg Speedman is captured by members of a drug cartel gang, his co-stars go to rescue him. Part of their plan involves Kirk Lazarus pretending to be a Chinese farmer to cause a distraction. He then proceeds to don a conical hat and discuss his rice paddy and poppy fields in broken Mandarin. Today, people of Chinese descent might find his appropriation of cultural clothing and misuse of language insulting. And seeing as China is extremely important to the modern box office, it’s unlikely Hollywood would risk alienating the country. Besides, we’re sure a brilliant actor like Kirk Lazarus could come up with another creative distraction.

#9: The Young Gang Leader

Shortly after the cartel gang kidnaps Speedman, they take him to their leader. It’s then revealed that they’re led by a cigar-smoking boy named Tran. In recent years, documentaries like “Kony 2012” have depicted the horrific reality that child soldiers face. The viral documentary garnered over 100 million views online and managed to get former President Obama to take action. The widespread knowledge of stories like “Kony 2012” today would make “Tropic Thunder”’s Tran less of a joke and more of a tragic figure. But even if the movie somehow dodged that real-life association, the filmmakers may still face heat from the FCC for the child’s smoking habit.

#8: Jeff Portnoy’s Faux Trailer

“Tropic Thunder” begins with a series of fake movie trailers. In one of the previews, Jack Black plays multiple members of an obese farting family known as “The Fatties.” While the trailer excellently parodies films like “The Nutty Professor,” it does so at the expense of overweight people. Modern society has made huge strides forward in the last decade to promote body positivity for people of all shapes and sizes. This shifting perspective towards body image would cause many to see this trailer as fat shaming. If Black’s character stepped out of the fat suits and they dumped the cringey title, there would still be enough material in the scene to make a great parody.

#7: Alpa Chino

Alpa Chino is initially introduced as a heterosexual musician who writes songs expressing his love for… ahem… female anatomy. So, his castmates are caught off guard when he accidentally admits he’s attracted to a man. After an angry Alpa tries to end the conversation, his co-stars continue to ask questions about his sexuality. Jack Black’s character goes so far as to offer the rapper sexual favors. The reactions to Alpa’s sexuality are cringeworthy. To make matters worse, his attraction to men is later treated as a punchline. Over the last decade, Hollywood has notably increased LGBTQ+ representation. In this growing landscape, Alpa’s sexuality wouldn’t be treated as just another joke.

#6: Inappropriate Jokes

During a stormy night, Speedman kills a panda in self-defense. When he confesses to murdering the thing he loves most, his agent Rick assumes the actor killed a prostitute. Rick immediately responds by giving Speedman instructions on how to cover up such a murder. We can safely assume PETA wasn’t too happy with this scene, but… the way they talk about a fictional sex worker is just as troubling. Instead of encouraging Speedman to face justice, Rick immediately tells him how to get away with it. The idea that the life of a sex workers is less valuable than a Hollywood career is messed up. This line is way too dark for modern audiences.

#5: Demanding People Speak “American”

After an action sequence is delayed, explosives expert Cody takes his frustration out on his Asian assistants. He complains that they don't “speak American” and implies that one of them has worked in a sweatshop. And ultimately, Cody faces no direct consequences for his words and actions, and no one acknowledges that he’s said anything that could be construed as offensive. Some of the riskier jokes in “Tropic Thunder” managed to make clever points while pushing the envelope. But in this case, the movie seems to be leaving it up to viewers to find any deeper meaning or brilliant commentary about Cody’s racist remarks for themselves.

#4: The Flaming Dragon Cartel

The drug cartel that antagonizes the actors is called Flaming Dragon. This group is solely composed of Asian men who apparently have one VHS tape to go around and are extremely quick to resort to violence. Although it’s never explicitly stated where they’re from, this gang could still be offensive to those of Asian descent. Their name is rooted in a cheap cultural stereotype and they’re all treated as crude terrorists. Making foreigners into scapegoats for your villain is a tired cliché. And as we stated before, Hollywood is more dependent on international box office than ever. Flaming Dragon would need fleshed out members and a name change to appeal to wider audiences.

#3: “Simple Jack”

Speedman once starred in an Oscar Bait movie called “Simple Jack.” In the film, he played a mentally challenged character who had bad teeth, a low IQ, and an exaggerated stutter. The depiction of a possibly autistic person as physically and mentally inferior outraged disability groups. While the character was meant to be a parody of films like “Forrest Gump,” certain audiences couldn't see the satire underneath Speedman’s hammy performance and outlandish makeup. The character is still so controversial that snowboarder Shaun White drew criticism for wearing a Simple Jack costume as recently as 2018. The character is another example of how badly received a parody can be when the joke comes at the expense of a minority group.

#2: An Infamous Conversation

It wasn't just the real-life audience that criticized Simple Jack. During the movie, Kirk Lazarus ridicules Speedman for getting way too into his role. Their conversation is a sharply satirical commentary about actual actors who’ve portrayed people with mental disabilities for clout. However, their exchange features the extremely liberal use of a certain r-word. Over the last decade, society’s increased awareness of people with mental disabilities has made that word increasingly more taboo. The frequent use of the word in this scene would likely distract audiences from the sharp commentary underneath. Overall, the conversation would need some serious rewrites to make its point today.

#1: Kirk Lazarus’ Method Acting

Australian actor Kirk Lazarus wore blackface and changed his voice to play African-American soldier Lincoln Osiris. While his choice is thoroughly criticized and deconstructed throughout the film, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Lazarus earned him an Oscar nomination. Despite the accolades and smart commentary, we just can’t imagine there’s any way he could wear blackface today under any circumstances. Since the movie debuted, general audiences have become more aware of the historical and racist significance of blackface, and celebrities who’ve failed to oppose the practice have even lost their jobs. Since Robert Downey Jr.’s role brought attention to the issue, it’s unlikely he’ll face consequences in the future. But given the hugely negative reaction to blackface in any form, Kirk Lazarus would likely approach his method acting in a different way today.
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