It seems like there is a new story breaking each week, usually coming out of the United States, where indigenous people are being objectified and humiliated by someone new. This week its Saturday Night Live alumni Adam Sandler.
Sandler’s current film in production is a ‘Netflix’ original called ‘Ridiculous 6’ and is described as being a “satire” on the western movies of the 1950’s and 60’s. The film called for indigenous actors to come in and play Native American characters, whom Sandler was raised by after being abandoned by his own family.
The film hired cultural consultants and “actual” indigenous people to play the roles of the Native Americans. However this is where “actual” consideration ended. Indigenous female elders were given character names like ‘Beavers Breath’ and ‘No Bra’. The script also reveals scenes where one unconscious native american characters was awoken by the smell of a beer, and numerous sexual inferences toward indigenous women that the cast felt were dishonourable and offensive.
Given the national stereotypes latent in North American pop culture about indigenous people – these satirical jabs were not funny. Especially to the Native American talent and cultural co-ordinators on the scene. So they cast got together and confronted producers on the set and raised their concerns. To say the least – they were not heard.
The worst part about the entire debacle comes from a cellphone video taken on the set by one of the Native American actors hired to be in the film. During the clip, one of the film’s producers is heard telling the Native American people that the points they raised are “not offensive” and that if they are “overly- sensitive” to the content in the script that they should just leave.
Needless to say, the cultural consultant and native american actors for the film walked off the set immediately and have not returned.
This raises huge concerns for any further Native American content in the American film industry. If consultants are brought in – and they raise concerns that producers brush off – why hire them in the first place? What are the ethical standards of the American film industry? And what is Netflix thinking?
A spokesperson for Netflix did release the following statement on the situation saying the film ”…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.”
Interesting is that the issue broke across national media the same time that Gathering of Nations – North America’s largest pow wow was taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico this past week. During the event, POTUS Barak Obama released a statement via video inviting indigenous youth to take part in his Generation Indigenous initiative this summer and promised that he will “do everything I can to honour the trust that we share – and do right by your nations and your future.”
The film is being produced by Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, is directed by Frank Coraci and stars Sandler, ‘Twilight’ heartthrob Taylor Lautner, and Rob Schneider.