Netflix is being called upon to stop funding the first of four feature productions paid for in a special agreement with the production company, “Happy Madison,” owned by Adam Sandler for it’s racism not only in content of the film Ridiculous Six, but also in creating an environment on set that was so toxic for the First Nation actors hired, that a dozen actors walked off set. They made effforts to voice their concern with members of the production team over racist characters, cultural appropriation and inaccuracy. The actors who walked off set cited racism as the reason for leaving.
Indian Country news source provided specific more detail examples of some of the racist and degrading character depictions as explained by the actors working. Links to these stories will be provided below. The examples of disrespect included “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.” The link provided below is one man’s experience and further descriptions of various troubling content. His story explains the lead up to him walking off set after repeatedly trying to speak to Adam Sandler or be directed to those that are influential with regards to his concerns, but he was time and again dismissed with the explanation being the mantra of the white male privileged experience- It’s a joke.
Read more from his perspective here: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/29/why-i-quit-adam-sandlers-movie-ridiculous-sixs-apache-consultant-speaks-160185
A dozen actors on the set were not laughing and actually walked off the set. One of these Navajo Nation tribal members was Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young.
“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”
“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”
One women who also walked off is quoted say this:
Here are just a few issues articulated by an indigenous community members:
The fact that this film was about Apaches yet the actors were Navajo is a problem. So the film crew basically implicitly insinuated that Apaches can’t adequately portray themselves enough to be Apaches in this film. If that isn’t a whole other level of twisted, I don’t know what is. And y’all went along with it. That in itself seemed like a yellow flag to me indicating a warning sign of what’s to come. Like a coyote crossing your path. *sips tea
The fact that Adam Sandler is a man of Jewish heritage, a culture with a history remarkably similar to Indigenous Americans. We are both descendants of a Holocaust. In fact, Hitler was inspired by the American government for its tactics used in the first Holocaust. The one launched against Indigenous people in present day America. Why? Because the American government wanted our land. The American government then hid this “dirty little secret” so well from the history books in American schools and around the world. Maybe someone needs to send Adam and his film crew to have a chat with someone’s Rez grandma, she’ll set him straight.
The fact that there is a movie requiring Natives only because its about the past, like we don’t exist in present day movies.
*The fact that there was a “cultural consultant” who probably wasn’t even Apache.
*The fact that this cultural consultant got the costumes wrong. I mean if you’re going to call yourself legit, get your life together and at least get the tribe regalia right. Dr. Keene might shake her head at me for this because the issue is more than getting it right, rather it’s about the fact that they are wearing costumes. All I’m saying is Google search images of Apache. Nothing more to say.
*Then the audacity of the producer to get upset and frustrated when the Natives tried to enlighten this ignorant cat of the historically misuse of the wardrobes. Get your life together sweetheart.
The fact that boundaries were violated. Boundaries are set to keep people and parities safe and respected based on agreed upon conditions. The terms in this contract were breached once the film crew violated and disregarded the boundaries.
The fact that the film crew ignorantly hid behind the film category of “comedy” to justify their disrespect of Native women and elders and a culture. There are a lot of modern day comedy films that do not violate the boundaries of respecting another culture so that argument falls flat on its face.
It is clear after only three months in production, this film has already managed to produce painful results. These ideas should have never made it past the writing room. This is an important thing to note as film makers- the impact of your work, especially as white people in a eurocentric, western society where the effects of colonialism still continue. It is necessary to think very carefully if you are to at all undertake how you present a culture that is not your own. The lack of First Nation input and oversight around content concerning the representation of their community in this film, regardless if it is a comedy, needs to be met with repercussions and correction. Media representation of Aboriginal people can have an impact on native people personal, but your film then feeds into the narrative of continued racism against indigenous people.
The following are links to provide you with more insight into the actor activists who boycotted this film.Read more at: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110 Read more at: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110
First Nation filmmaker Colleen Cardinal talks about damaging effects of medias disrespectful representation of Indigenous women.
Check out Here: http://www.media-action-media.com/representproject/
And Here: https://vimeo.com/55380927