Following years of genocide, forced relocation, and cultural appropriation, Native Americans now also have to put up with an Adam Sandler movie—namely The Ridiculous 6, the Western spoof Sandler is currently filming in New Mexico as part of his four-movie deal with Netflix. As part of Sandler’s commitment to authenticity, the production hired actual Native actors, primarily from the Navajo nation, to play the Apache whose proud traditions inform Sandler’s wayward orphan character after he’s adopted by their tribe. And as part of Sandler’s commitment to his brand of comedy, the script is apparently filled with so many terrible jokes based in broad ethnic stereotypes, about a dozen of those Native actors have now walked off the set.
According to the Indian Country Today Media Network, those actors said Sandler’s film “repeatedly insulted native women and elders and grossly misrepresented Apache culture.” Though certainly not specific to The Ridiculous 6, it also grossly misrepresented comedy—reportedly making use of hilarious jokes like “Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.” Exactly how they were positioned isn’t explained, though it’s probably safe to assume they formed something equally comedic, like a penis.
One of those actors, Loren Anthony, said he’d initially refused to take part in the film, but was told “it would not be racist” by the same people who told him it would be funny. He was also assured that the film had hired a “cultural consultant,” who would see to it that all representations on this Adam Sandler movie would be in the best of taste. That beleaguered cultural consultant reportedly also walked off the set, unable to influence producers to so much as change their inaccurate costumes from Comanche to Apache, let alone get them to drop a joke as crucial to the movie as “Beaver’s Breath.”
“One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?’” Anthony said, sharing an early preview of the gag that was worth creating this sort of shitstorm.
Another actor, Navajo film student Allison Young, says she approached the producers with her concerns, only to be told, “If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave,” which she says left her in tears. “This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way,” Young adds, in a pull-quote that could appear on the DVD box of most recent Adam Sandler comedies.
In a statement, Netflix has already responded to the growing controversy by reminding everyone that Sandler is a satirist by trade, his life’s calling to take pointed aim at our nation’s fractious history through barbed social commentary and wacky names. “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” the statement reads. “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.”
That diverse cast will now presumably include other Native Americans who get that they’re a joke.