After the Zoolander 2 trailer dropped last month, a scene featuring Benedict Cumberbatch’s character faced backlash and a petition to boycott the film. Now, Justin Theroux, who co-wrote the Zoolander 2 script, has weighed in on the controversy, telling TheWrap that the scene was satire and taken out of context.
“I don’t even know what to make of it because it hurt my feelings in a way,” Theroux told TheWrap. “I take great care in the jokes I write, and the umbrage being taken is out of the context of the scene. I wish people would see the movie first. Satire is a thing that points out the idiots, and we went through it on Tropic Thunder with the R-word.”
Theroux also co-wrote the Tropic Thunder screenplay, in which Robert Downey Jr.’s character repeatedly uses the word “retard.” Protesters who objected to the word’s use demonstrated outside the film’s Los Angeles premiere in 2008, calling for a boycott.
“The goal was not to mock or be cruel to the mentally challenged, but exalt in the stupidity of people who use that word,” Theroux told TheWrap about Tropic Thunder. “I’m all for letting words be ugly when the target is correct. With social media and all the rest of it, people’s issues need to be heard… At the end of the day people are looking for bandwidth. People are looking for places to inject their voice. But our target is not, and never was, to disenfranchise anyone.”
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A petition calling for a boycott of Zoolander 2 criticized Cumberbatch’s character, an androgynous supermodel named “All,” as “an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals.” The petition claims that the film enforces “harmful and dangerous” perceptions of transgender or nonbinary individuals, saying, “This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority.” More than 21,000 people have signed the petition.
Zoolander 2, which also stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, and Will Ferrell, will hit theaters on Feb. 12, 2016.