In not very surprising news, Netflix’s plan to have Adam Sandler jumpstart their move into original films has landed them in the center of an outcry over offensive humor. About a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Sandler’s first Netflix film, The Ridiculous Six, over jokes they say insulted and grossly misrepresented Apache culture.
Apparently the comedy gold we can expect from the Magnificent Seven spoof includes Native women named Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, a Native woman squatting and peeing while smoking a peace pipe, and “feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee” (probably a genitals thing, just a wild guess).
These jokes were enough to cause a dozen or so Native actors and the Native cultural advisor to walk off the set, according to reports – and the producers didn’t seem too concerned about their complaints. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave,'” said Allison Young, Navajo. “Nothing has changed. We are still just Hollywood Indians.”
The film was written by Adam Sandler and collaborator Tim Herlihy and will star Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice. It’s part of an exclusive deal Netflix announced last October to release four new films produced by Sandler.
The Netflix-only production is an effort to compete with movie theaters – but if it continues to draw headlines like this one, it could end up alienating more viewers than it attracts. It’s worth remembering that The Lone Ranger, featuring Johnny Depp in blackface, was one of last year’s biggest flops after it received scathing reviews. Granted, there were lots of things that made it a bad movie, but accusations of cultural insensitivity didn’t help.
Navajo actor Loren Anthony (also lead singer of the metal band Bloodline) reportedly had misgivings about The Ridiculous Six from the start. “I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set.”
A Netflix spokesperson defended Adam Sandler today, saying “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”
From the sound of things, though, the Native actors aren’t exactly amused.
Is The Ridiculous Six racist, or is it satire? Tell us your opinions in the comments.