Bil Browning

The R Word

Filed By Bil Browning | May 26, 2011 7:00 AM | comments

Filed in: You Gotta See This
Tags: Glee, public service announcement, r word, retarded, season finale

During this week's Glee season finale, this public service announcement ran to remind people not to use the word "retarded" to mean something stupid. The ad catches your attention right at the beginning; it's really well done.

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What is the "correct" term?

Part of why retarded isn't a good word to use is that people use it in place of a lot of different things. What's the correct term to use? It depends on what you're trying to say. Are you trying to say someone's "slow" or "stupid" or are you trying to say that they are dealing with disability. The term is used a lot of times people see the effects of a physical disability, such as strained speech or jerky movement and assume that the person has mental deficiencies; or it is used when someone notices that a person has a mental disability regardless of whether that different way of thinking actually makes them less capable of thought or less developed.

You could usually use "person with a mental disability" or if they have a diagnosis they identify with (autistic, Asperger, bi-polar, etc), you could use that.

It's cool that Glee and Jane Lynch and the actress who plays Becky did this, but I feel like it's another example where Glee is delivering so many mixed messages. Sue Sylvester is one of the meanest bullies on TV, and while she rarely comes out on top, she's the one you're SUPPOSED to like, the one with the funniest lines and the one who gets lines where insults and slurs are played for jokes. My feelings about Glee are complicated, but I just feel like it's hard to preach a totally anti-bullying message when, within the show, stereotypes are too often reinforced and bullies come out on the comedic top.

Leigh Anne | May 27, 2011 11:45 AM

When you wrote stupid, did you mean ignorant? Or perhaps prejudiced, a form of ignorance in which a false belief has taken the place of simple ignorance, making the acquisition of knowledge more difficult, because there is no recognition of the deficiency?

Stupid used to mean mentally slow, lacking normal intelligence. Words like moron, imbecile, and idiot used to have specific meanings denoting particular IQ ranges, before being abused by people who chose them as invective.

Words that hurt are used because they hurt. There have always been, and will always be, ways to use words to hurt. Such campaigns are doomed to failure.