21 Jump Street Movie Ignites Autism Controversy

21 Jump Street

Sony Pictures

The blogosphere has been abuzz the last few days about an emerging controversy involving the new "21 Jump Street" movie starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube. The movie, set for release on Friday, March 16th, is being promoted by a YouTube trailer, which shows Ice Cube using the term "autistic" as an insult towards Jonah Hill’s character. After a detailed presentation from Hill on a bulletin board, Ice Cube mockingly states, "This chart looks like sh*t, are you autistic?" 

What makes the comment so troubling is the insinuation that autism is characterized by individuals who are messy, unorganized and incoherent, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s unclear why it was decided to include this in the movie (let alone the trailer), but autism advocates are not at all amused and according to Examiner
writer Melissa Teodorovic
, calls for a boycott have already begun.

Adding to the controversy, Holly Robinson Peete (of original 21 Jump Street fame) has a cameo role in the film and certainly can’t be pleased with these developments. Peete is the mother of a child with autism and a widely recognized autism advocate. She is the founder of the HollyRod Foundation and a board member for Autism Speaks. According to Teodorovic, Peete responded to the controversy via Twitter claiming the line was not in the original script and that autism should never be used as "a punchline."

In a final twist, Autism Awareness Month is only a few weeks away and "21 Jump Street" will still be in theatres at the time. Hopefully, Ice Cube, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, as well as the producers of the film, will take the time to educate themselves about autism before attempting to garner cheap laughs at the expense of those who have the disorder.