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Robert Downey Jr. Has No Regrets About 'Tropic Thunder' Role in Blackface

Gettyimages | VALERIE MACON
By Chanel Love

In a recent interview on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, Robert Downey Jr. addresses the controversy over his character wearing blackface in the 2008 comedic satire film Tropic Thunder. In the interview, Joe Rogan asks the method actor whether he feels the film could have been released in today's social climate without backlash. The actor touches on his role as an artist playing a character and whether or not he feels people are justified in thinking he may have crossed the line.

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A Character Within A Character

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In the 2008 film, Robert Downey Jr. plays two roles. He is an Australian actor on set filming a war movie. His white character darkens his skin in the film to portray 'Kirk Lazarus' who is supposed to be a black soldier. "I'm a dude playing a dude, disguised as another dude," his character famously says in one scene. The film, which was directed and co-written by Ben Stiller, raked in more than $110 Million at the box office.

Joe Rogan Interview Draws Backlash

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"90% of my black friends are like 'dude, that was great,'" Robert Downey Jr. said during his sit-down with Joe Rogan. "I can't disagree with them, but I know where my heart was," the actor responds when asked about the 10% of his friends who disagreed with the controversial role. Though his comments were meant to address Rogan's inquiry, his unapologetic stance on the topic has caused a backlash on social media as people revisit their frustrations and voice concerns over a white actor wearing blackface.

Social Media Response To Downey Jr.'s Comments

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Across social media, people are reacting to the interview and not all think it can be explained away in the name of artistic freedom. There is a long thread of responses on Twitter that show the polarization in responses. Some think that Robert Downey Jr. is downplaying and even minimizing the significance of the topic of blackface. One user scoffs at the actor as he jokingly shrugs off criticism by saying at least he enjoyed getting to pretend to be black for a summer.

Could It Happen Again?

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"It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie," Robert Downey Jr. said. "It's an interesting and necessary meditation on where is the pendulum." Joe Rogan posits that we may never see this happen again in film and Downey Jr. points out that what made Tropic Thunder work is that it examines and addresses why white actors portraying black characters by using blackface is wrong. "Not in my defense. . .but I plead exception." The question remains a point of contention as this discussion of whether exceptions can be made regarding a practice that has dark roots in American's tumultuous, racially charged past rages on.

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