Celebrities Using the “R” Word

March 3, 2010 at 2:43 pm 15 comments

There is a movement happening that I first learned about through Twitter called “Spread the Word to End the Word”.  The “word” that is being referred to is “retard” or “retarded”.  The word is often used in a disparaging way and the goal is to get people to stop using it in a derogatory manner.

The actual definition of “Spread the Word to End the Word” is found on the Special Olympics Website, and is as follows:

Spread the Word to End the Word is a campaign created by youth, in an ongoing effort with Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, to engage schools, organizations and communities by raising the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encouraging everyone to stop using the R-word.

March 3, 2010 marked the second annual day of awareness to Spread the Word to End the Word, hence the significant trending topic on Twitter.  Someone had issued a challenge to see which celebrities were using the word and to try to get the message across to them to stop.  I did some research and found out which current celebrities often used the word.

1.  Chelsea Handler hosts the late night talk show “Chelsea Lately”.  She averages 764,000 viwers/episode and has over 2 million Twitter followers (Source).  Below is an example of Handler using the word “retarded” in a disparaging manner.

  • “E! tries to tell me, “Ooh, you can’t talk about Denise Richards or Dina Lohan, when they have shows that are debuting,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Listen guys, the reason I have a show on E! is because of people like Dina Lohan and Denise Richards!’ So you can’t forbid me from talking about them – that’s retarded.”  Source of Quote

2.         Paris Hilton is an heiress and has 1.5 million followers on Twitter. She starred in several seasons of “The Simple Life”.  The first season of The Simple Life premiered to 13 million viewers (source).

  • On rumors that she is adopting children – “That’s retarded. No I’m not,” reports PEOPLE. Source
  • Hilton: I think I am a good role model, and a lot of mothers come up to me and they’re really happy, and I think if any girl follows their dreams then anything can happen to them. Source

3.         Guy Ritchie referring to Madonna,

4.         Kristen Stewart

  • “I just didn’t pay attention,” Stewart recalls. “I was like, ‘You guys are celebrating something that has not come true yet. So, you are really retarded and have nothing to do with this creative process and I really don’t want to hear you celebrate in front of me. Get out of here! It’s my responsibility!'” Source of Quote
  • Stewart is even more emphatic: “It’s so retarded,” she says. “We’re characters in this comic book.” Source Quote

5.         Lindsay Lohan

  • The hot young star has been upsetting some advocates for the mentally disabled by using the word “retarded” as an insult.
  • When asked about rumors she’d had breast implants, for example, Lindsay replied, “That’s retarded.” And, referring to reports that she was feuding with Hilary Duff, Linsay said, “It’s retarded.” Source

7.         Perez Hilton – Ranked #2 by Forbes on the list of the most influential people on the web.

  • “For the third year running controversial gossip blogger Perez Hilton (real name: Mario Lavandeira) reigns supreme over the world of Web celebrity. He runs what he calls “Hollywood’s most hated Web site,” an off-color blend of rumor, opinion and immature humor. The site attracts more than 7.2 million people a month, putting it among the 500 most-visited sites on the Internet, and Hilton has more than 1.77 million Twitter followers. Hilton’s online fame often spills into the offline world…” Source
  • Listen to his retarded rant. (above) Article titled “Danny Glover is a Moron”  Source
  • Emotionally stunted? That’s a nice way of saying retarded! — Article: Britney Spears is Retarded – Source

Most of these celebrities have a extremely large audiences.  Paris Hilton, Kristen Stewart and Perez Hilton have younger, impressionable fans reading and listening to what they say.  These young fans will pick up and repeat what they have read and heard.  I think that these celebrities should use more caution when being interviewed, writing on their blogs, or when hosting their television shows.


Entry filed under: PR Connections- PRCA 3330, Pr Writing 3330- Section A.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mackenzie  |  April 1, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Yikes! The “R,” Word!!! You are totally right, where are they Public Relations people?! They need help! They have HUGE audiences, and there audience are adolescents, the MOST easily influenced audience. Celebrities are supposed to be role models, using an offense wordlike that is not cool, or something they should be doing! I think when writing blogs, hosting television shows, and more everyone should be aware of what they are saying, as word of mouth travels faster than the speed of light on the computer! It’s important that celebs are held to that standard too, if not higher! This “R” word thing is NOT okay!

  • 2. Erica Campbell  |  April 7, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for bringing attention to his issue; often times we (myself included) often get so caught up and comfortable with “slang” usage that we forget how hurtful our word choices may be. Certain words don’t mean the same thing across the board to all people and the “R” word is an example. I’m really impressed by all of the examples you listed, it shows how often this word is used and how often it is over looked as just another word. We could all benefit by taking a moment to think before we speak, especially when our words can be demeaning or hurtful to others.

  • 3. Blog Comments « J'aime des relations publiques  |  April 7, 2010 at 12:23 am

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  • 4. kristinabundy  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I’m so glad you’ve brought attention to this issue. I grew up babysitting for my neighbors who had an autistic and mostly deaf son along with 2 other children, and hearing people use the word “retarded” to mean stupid or lame breaks my heart. I also have an autistic cousin, so this word for me is only acceptable when used in the proper context. I’m so glad you’ve given examples of celebrities who use the word in excess. These people are supposed to have a positive influence on the public, not a negative one. I love that you’re making celebrities accountable for what they say.

  • 5. kdwhigham  |  April 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I hadn’t heard about this campaign until now. But it is actually really catchy and worth something. People are offended by that and there are ways around it. It’s kind of like the word “gay.” I have a brother that is gay and I know I make the mistake sometimes of saying something is gay, but an object or situation cannot be gay(not in the context of happy or homosexual). So I have to be careful sometimes and watch my words, especially around him, in order to not offend him. There are plenty of other words in the english language that can be used to express our feelings.

  • 6. marilynpr  |  April 19, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    II really really liked this post because it a problem and way too frequently used in today’s society. I feel that is some ways it is used almost as the word “like.” I have to admit that I am guilty of saying it and need to make a conscious effort to remove it from my vocabulary altogether. It’s not a nice word and even for medical terminology it still has acquired a stigma that has a negative complex. It’s sad to see how many stars use the word especially because many of their comments end up on TV and the radio. Especially with Chelsea Handler, I LOVE her sense of humor but even she could cut back on those words and probably a few others. Love your blog!

  • […] Kelsey Hendrix […]

  • 8. mbutle  |  April 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I never knew that the “R” word was used as much as it is. It has been a part of American vocabulary for so long. We all know that it is offensive to people who are infact mentally retarded. But the overuse of the word in comedic situations seems to have overshadowed this socially offensive taboo. After reading your blog I am going to be more aware of using this word. I think it is great that they have created a camapign to stop the use of the word.

  • 9. Comments « The Maranda Writes  |  April 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm

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  • 10. hhiggs87  |  April 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I think sometimes celebrities don’t think before they speak. This is a major area where PR needs to get involved but at the same time…what can they do? In order for PR to work, the celebrity would have to take the advice. And after the whole Tiger Woods incident, we know the words of PR pros aren’t always listened to. These celebrities are trying to promote themselves and frankly are not worried with who is hurt in the crossfire. If celebrities just took the time to realize how the things they do and say are taken to heart by their fans, maybe then this would stop.

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  • 12. Hillary  |  April 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I commend you for addressing this issue. I really liked what you had to say. People in the spotlight generally try to say they aren’t role models for people or nor do they want to ever be held responsible for what they say. They always go to pointing fingers. I have had several friends that had a handicap and also babysat for 2 autistic children when I lived in SD. I know the pain that some families go through trying to deal with the fact they have a handicapped kid so to be more sensitive to the subject wouldn’t be a bad thing. Especially people in the spotlight, people listen and learn from them on an every day basis.

  • 14. Janee  |  April 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Wow! I never really payed that much attention to how often that word is used in media. I really don’t agree with the lack of respect when using that word. IIt is being freely used by individuals that have a large impact on society because of their positions in the media. I find it to be pretty unacceptable. That’s not the type of language that you just toss around in everyday speech. People, especially public figures, need to become more aware of their word choices.


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