Eight native actors and a cultural advisor walked off the production of the Adam Sandler comedy The Ridiculous Six last week, saying the script was insulting to native women and to elders.
One of the actors, Loren Anthony, wrote the following on Twitter about his day working on the movie.
Today work was no bueno, my native women were disrespected and i walked off set.
Most of the actors who left the film’s set were from the Navajo nation. They were playing Apache warriors, women and elders in the Adam Sandler comedy western, the first of four movies Sandler agreed to produce for Netflix.
Portions of the movie’s script were leaked online after the walkout.
One scene involves three women named Smoking Fox, Beaver Breath and Never-Wears-Bra.
When one of the women appears unfamiliar with the white man’s “toilet paper,” and when Beaver Breath explains what it’s for, the third replies — in stereotypical broken English — “That what dead squirrel for!”
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw is a writer and activist living in California, and founder of NativesInAmerica.com. She found this scene particularly offensive.
“I think especially being a Oglala Lakota woman, there’s so many issues about portrayals of who we are,” she said. “And I was especially disappointed, much like the actors were, about the portrayal of women in this film.”
Another scene that made its way online involves a native woman squatting and urinating while smoking the peace pipe.
“To me it was especially disappointing that they were desecrating our sacred peace pipe, which is very much a part of my community,” said Red Shirt-Saw.
While few people would expect high-brow humour from an Adam Sandler flick, the portrayal of Apache culture and the insulting script were enough for the film’s cultural advisor to leave.
After that, about a dozen actors confronted the producers of The Ridiculous Six over the script, and one of them, Goldie Tom, took a cellphone video of the conversation.
The Indian Country Today Media Network posted the video to YouTube.
“If you are overly sensitive about it, you shouldn’t be in the movie,” says a man identified as a producer on The Ridiculous Six. “We don’t want to offend anybody.”
As news of the walkout spread, Red Shirt-Shaw began posting about it on Twitter under the hashtag #NotYourHollywoodIndian, which was inspired by some of the actors’ comments.
“I logged into social media and saw that a ton of people were talking about it, but that the ideas weren’t consolidated, so I decided to try to push it out there,” she said.
“I’m just moved by how it has grown and seeing the people come out and support it, and seeing news articles reference it,” said Red Shirt-Shaw. “I think that we have to stand as a united front.”
She also co-founded a petition on Change.org urging Netflix to cancel the production of The Ridiculous Six.
“We’re really hoping that we can build up the signatures that are on there and present this to Netflix in a way that will say ‘We’re not going to support you. People have already cancelled their subscriptions. You guys really need to evaluate whether or not this is a project you want to move forward with in the future,'” she said.
So far, Netflix remains committed to the movie.
It released a statement about the walkout and The Ridiculous Six, saying, “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.”
The petition is more than halfway to its goal of two thousand five hundred signatures.
“Ultimately, I think that we’re hoping, again, much like #NotYourHollywoodIndian, this will be a consolidated effort for Netflix to be able to see how many people truly care about this issue,” said Red Shirt-Shaw.