Native Actors Walk Off Set of “Ridiculous Six”
“The movie has ‘ridiculous’ in the title for a reason — because it’s 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.” (Netflix response to Native actors walking off the set of Ridiculous Six)
Netflix makes a good argument, absolving themselves of any possible wrongdoing related to the film Ridiculous Six. In their view, it isn’t plausible for someone to find a film offensive when they are in on the joke. But, when ethnic actors feel like the joke is “on them” – as opposed to being “in on” it, some serious implications arise.
It seems Netflix has missed the point of what made about a dozen Native actors walk off set, along with the film’s cultural advisor for the Netflix production. The Ridiculous Six team is suggesting it knows what a “Native American” is, what the stereotypes are, and how to parody them.
Do they? Or do they merely reflect mainstream culture’s definition and perception of Native America?
What led the Native American actors to leave the set were things like female characters named Beaver Breath, Smoking Fox and Never-Wears-Bra, as well as a scene in which a female character urinates while smoking a “peace pipe,” not to mention actors of various ethnicities (including Native Americans) having darkening makeup applied to appear more Native.
Perhaps of greater concern is how mainstream audiences will respond to the supposed satire in Ridiculous Six. Considering how the film may reinforce stereotypes through its attempt at parody, I’m left wondering whether its audiences will be in on the joke.
The film Ridiculous Six starring Adam Sandler has been pitched as a parody of the Western film The Magnificent Seven and the Western genre as a whole. A well-done satire of the genre and the stereotypes it perpetuates would be a good thing as Western films have been anything but authentic in representing Native Americans. (See my earlier blog topic: Not a Reel Injun.)
Instead, Ridiculous Six is most likely going to give audiences more of the same. Despite whatever role the Native American cultural advisor played in the film’s development, Ridiculous Six is still a product from outside the Native American community – the authority and power in representing Native Americans remaining with Netflix, Sandler, and other key players. The film has the potential to fuel a continuing ignorance about Native Americans in Hollywood and throughout America.