Native Americans Dispel Stereotypes in Response to Adam Sandler Movie

The actors who protested Sandler’s ‘The Ridiculous 6’ speak out in a new video.
Dec 11, 2015·
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

The actors who walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie in April to protest its portrayal of Apache culture are back on screen together for a new project, but this time, they’re telling their stories. In a nearly three-minute video shot in New Mexico and released this week, four Native American actors who ditched Sandler’s production speak about their pride in their heritage, the importance of positive representation, and why they want to set a good example for the next generation.

The clip coincides with the Friday release of The Ridiculous 6, Sandler’s Netflix-produced Western that drew production boycotts because of what many actors saw as offensive, outdated stereotypes: characters named Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, and cartoonish images of peace pipes, teepees, and feathers. In a statement to TakePart at the time of the protests, Netflix defended the movie, writing that it’s “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.”

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But Loren Anthony, a member of Navajo Nation, wasn’t amused. “Comedy is about laughing together, and believe me, Native Americans, we love to laugh. We enjoy it. It’s good medicine,” Anthony says in the clip above. “But when you tear down someone else, it is not funny.” None of the four Native Americans featured in the video directly addresses the controversy with Sandler, but actor and activist Allie Young says that’s not the point. When her friend Roj Rodriguez approached her about making the video, she was drawn to the idea that it would be a tool for raising cultural awareness—not a smear piece.

“I liked the direction he was going in—that this wouldn’t be a video attacking or protesting against Adam Sandler, but rather a video that educates, informs, and asks others to please respect our culture and our dignity,” Young wrote in an email to TakePart. “We felt that it was important to voice our heartfelt concerns and that we are doing this for our Native American youth and future generations of Native Peoples, who are still trying to overcome hundreds of years of marginalization.”

More than 5 million people—less than 2 percent of the American population—identify as Native American or Alaska Native, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Native Americans face disproportionately high poverty rates compared with the general population, and their high-school dropout rates are nearly double the national rate, according to an op-ed President Barack Obama penned in Indian Country Today Media Network ahead of his visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota last summer. “These numbers are a moral call to action,” Obama wrote, pledging to answer that call.
Young says she was motivated by her family to take to a stand against the film’s portrayal of her culture. “I want to be an example for my nephews, for all of the young Native American youth,” she says in the video. “I want them to be proud of who they are. Because with that strong cultural foundation and that strong identity, there’s only one way, and that’s up.”