Halloween is the annual time in which people of all ages can pretend to be someone else, whether it be a creature of folklore, a visual pun, or an obscure character of fiction. Professional snowboarding athlete Shaun White used the latter category for a “last minute” idea and donned a costume this year which he expected would be a great laugh, but some costume reactions are just not that simple.
That is White, posing on the right, dressed as “Simple Jack,” an intellectually disabled character from a fictional film of the same name invented for the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder. The character incited a national boycott of the film by special needs advocates prior to its release. This raises a question: why did the three-time gold medalist assume this costume would not lead to such a reaction again?
In the wake of the costume backlash, White deleted the photo from his social media and responded to the Special Olympics with this apology:
The resurrection of the “Simple Jack” controversy also garnered the attention of the actor who played the actor who played the character: Ben Stiller. The comedian, who also directed Tropic Thunder, commented on the offensive nature of the character and its original intention, while also suggesting empathy for White, having been in his shoes before.
Actually Tropic Thunder was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then. It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards. I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the @SpecialOlympics. https://t.co/RqID5jIXP1— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) October 30, 2018
Stiller created the character as a mockery of prima donna, Oscar-grubbing celebrities. It could even be interpreted as a satirical representation of insensitivity in Hollywood. But, regardless of its intended meaning, “Simple Jack” has, and always will, lead a legacy of controversy for offensive representation of the mentally challenged. Now, cemented as a pivotal element of that legacy by his own hand, despite his respectful apology, is Shaun White.
What do you think? Was White, like the man who created the character, just donning overalls, a moptop and large teeth for the sake of comedy or is this a lesson that should be remembered for Halloweens to come? Let us know in the comments below!