‘Zoolander 2’ Writer Justin Theroux Says Transgender Boycott ‘Hurts My Feelings’ (Exclusive)

“Our target is not, and never was, to disenfranchise anyone,” Theroux tells TheWrap in defense of Benedict Cumberbatch character

Actor and screenwriter Justin Theroux responded to transgender critics of the trailer for “Zoolander 2,” which he co-wrote, saying a proposed boycott of the film “hurts my feelings.”

An online petition has received over 20,000 signatures since late November calling for a protest of the film and studio Paramount, after a trailer for the Ben Stiller movie featured the character “All,” an androgynous model played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  Protesters labeled the character “an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery.”

During an interview with TheWrap to discuss the season finale of his HBO drama ‘The Leftovers” Theroux said the Cumberbatch scene was taken out of context and that petition signers lack an understanding of satire.

“I don’t even know what to make of it, because it hurts my feelings in a way. 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,” he said.

Theroux, who also wrote the script for “Tropic Thunder,” is referring to a 2008 protest of that film by disabled groups for actor Robert Downey Jr.‘s use of the word “retard.”

“The goal was not to mock or be cruel to the mentally challenged, but exalt in the stupidity of people who use that word. I’m all for letting words be ugly when the target is correct,” Theroux said. “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.”

The petition doesn’t stop at criticizing Cumberbatch’s portrayal. It also takes issue with the hiring of the popular actor to play someone who does not identify with the male-female gender binary.

“By hiring a cis [one who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth] actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, the film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large,” the petition reads.

“Zoolander 2” is slated to open Feb. 12. It stars Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz and Will Ferrell.