8 Native American actors quit set of ‘offensive’ Adam Sandler Western satire

Eight actors leave the set of an Adam Sandler spoof of Western movies after complaints about stereotypes, spurring debate in the industry

Associated Press in Albuquerque

Eight Native American actors quit the production of Adam Sandler’s (above) The Ridiculous Six following complaints over stereotypes and offensive names. Photo: AP

When a group of Native American actors and actresses walked off the set of Adam Sandler‘s film this week, the decision generated praise and scorn on social media.

Yet everyone agreed on one thing: despite growing awareness, outdated Native American stereotypes in Hollywood remain. And more Native Americans are voicing their opinions.

The eight performers quit the production of The Ridiculous Six – a spoof of Western films including The Magnificent Seven – over complaints about offensive names, such as “Bad Breath” and “Wears No Bra”, and religious scenes. They said they could not be in a film that depicted a Native American woman urinating while smoking a peace pipe.

California writer Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, founder of Natives in America, an online publication for Native American youth, said the walkout sparked praise among American Indian advocates because people were tired of the images and now had ways to express their outrage.

“In the past, Native actors did speak out, but they didn’t have the technology to share their views widely,” Red Shirt-Shaw said. “It’s different now.” On social media, activists used the hashtag #NotYourHollywoodIndian to denounce Sandler’s film and to thank the actors for their “bravery”.

Yet other Native Americans said more actors and writers were needed in media to tackle hurtful stereotypes; they argued that the actors should have stayed on set.

A spokesman for Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, was unavailable for comment. But Netflix, the streaming service that will distribute the film, said: “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 popularised, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of – but in on – the joke.”

In recent years, Native Americans have been more outspoken. In 2013, some Native Americans criticised Johnny Depp‘s portrayal of the Native American Tonto in Disney’s The Lone Ranger.

He spoke in broken English, chanted prayers and wore a stuffed crow on his head. But after a campaign by the film to improve its image with Native Americans, Depp was eventually embraced by Navajo and Comanche Native Americans.

Allison Young, a Native American actress who walked off the Sandler film set, said: “We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave’.”

Goldie Tom, another female Native American actress, said she knew the film was not meant be historically accurate, but had expected it to be tasteful.

“I don’t regret my decision to be in the movie,” Tom said. “But after this experience, I’m reminded that we still have work to do.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Native Americans fail to see film’s funny side


PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 April, 2015, 7:40am

UPDATED : Sunday, 26 April, 2015, 10:25am

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