Cultural appropriation in ‘The Ridiculous 6’

Cast of "The Ridiculous 6." (Photo courtesy of The Wrap)
Cast of “The Ridiculous 6.” (Photo courtesy of The Wrap)

“The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous.” This was the statement released by Netflix after dozens of Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s upcoming movie The Ridiculous 6.”

The film contained various forms of offensive and racist material, including stereotypical costumes, degrading female character names such as Beaver Breath and skin darkening makeup for native Navajos. After Bruce Klinekole, who had been hired as the cultural consultant for the film, was denied a talk with Sandler about alterations to the production, he and several others called it quits.

Sandler, who is known for his crude humor, has sparked controversy with his upcoming project. In light of this, the question now arises for comedians, ”what is the thin line between comedy and offensive racist material?”

DePaul freshman Veronica Osei believes the connection centers around awareness, and Sandler’s lack thereof is a smack in America’s face.

“You should be aware of what peoples’ cultures are, especially if you know that these are stereotypes that are housed amongst these specific tribes,” Osei said. “As an American I feel that Sandler should feel some sort of shame because these are people whose ancestors were the real inhabitants of this land.”

Sandler utilizes many racist Native American stereotypes in his film, one of those being “the drunken Indian.” In one particular scene, a Native American woman is appeared to be passed out, while several white men pour liquor on her body. Osei notes that when films decide to perpetuate these stereotypes they overshadow the bigger issues these cultures face.

This is not this first time Sandler has done an offensive film, nor is it the first time other directors have done the same. The cultural context in which these portrayals were made is the key factor. DePaul professor in the College of Communication, Dana Kaufman, believes directors need to take notice of this and be aware certain tactics that worked in the past might not fly anymore.

“In terms of the Sandler film, he’s working in a specific genre that is all about broad comedy and offending everyone. However, he may be working in a mindset that is no longer working with the culture. Times change and so does the public’s taste. Possibly Sandler needs to change with it,” Kaufman said.

In addition to realizing that we’re in a different time, DePaul student and film major Theresa Ferrell said, “I think people just need to listen more. Sandler hired a cultural adviser, but didn’t listen to the cultural adviser… People have a right to be angry.”

Listening, is only the first piece to solving this issue of cultural appropriation. What actors, such as Sandler, need to realize is the extent to which their films have an impact on culture. Sandler not only has adult fans, but he also has a large children fan base. By encouraging the degredation of a culture, he’s influencing these adolescent minds that this is appropriate behavior. These minds aren’t able to dissent and choose what is appropriate and what is not, and it’s vital for people in the film industry to be aware of this.

Ferrell, whose goal as a film major is to present better media representation, hopes to give a platform for oppressed voices.

“I’m a feminist. I’m bi. Those are the two communities I feel I have a say in, and then there’s hundreds of communities I don’t feel I have any say in…because it’s not my struggle, but I can provide them a platform for them to have a say,” Ferrell said.

Realizing everyone is not in on the joke, and speaking on it, is the path we need to follow in order to get cultural appropriation out of the media.