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The specter of cultural insensitivity has become the dominant narrative in what appeared to be just another sophomoric cinematic payday for Adam Sandler. Having already stirred controversy for supposed stereotype-enforcing dialogue, Sandler’s upcoming Netflix-exclusive film, The Ridiculous Six is now under fire for allegations that some actors were made to look Native American by way of makeup. It’s an insane escalation to an already absurd story.
Compounding recent reports of tumult on the set, The Ridiculous Six cast member, Allison Young told MSNBC (coming to us via The Hollywood Reporter), that cast members of the western romp of various ethnicities were approached by the makeup team to darken their skin tone, supposedly with the idea of giving them the appearance of being Native American. According to Young no one, even actual Native Americans, were safe from the skin-tone-shifting, as she states:
I'm full-blooded Navajo and they bronzed me. I was quite confused. That says something when the cultural advisor for the film quits because he's offended.
At this point, it seems that the production for The Ridiculous Six (perhaps, in line with the foresight of Warner Bros.), keeps careening aimlessly from one problematic publicity predicament to another. This latest development comes just after a dozen Native American actors, including, as mentioned, a cultural advisor, reportedly walked off the set, due to the film’s apparently offensive dialogue and character profiles. The idea that this production might have taken the initiative to have some cast members portrayed in a minstrel-like manner seems like the next step in a behind-the-scenes comedy of errors in its own right.
As of now, the allegations have yet to be addressed by Netflix, Adam Sandler or anyone involved with the film. However, Netflix did come out to publically defend Sandler and the project in the aftermath of the initial allegations of insensitivity, pointing out that the word, "ridiculous" in the title was simply living up to its billing. However, this latest story is so demonstrably absurd that it almost reeks of either misunderstanding or hyperbole. In fact, it so absurd and plays to the established narrative so perfectly, it might be best approached with a grain of salt in the interim.
The film, in a method utilized by Steve Martin in The Jerk, features Adam Sandler playing a cross-cultural confluence of a character as a white orphan raised by Native Americans in the Old West. Likewise, by virtue of this being an Adam Sandler film, it was destined to be innately juvenile, full of conventional comedic contrivances designed to get a smirk out of the connoisseurs of lowbrow comedy that have made him (for a time, anyway) one of the highest paid film stars in the industry. Thus, everything that we’ve been hearing about The Ridiculous Six, be it the offensive character names to the dated Indian references sounding as if they simply added dirty words to jokes from Merry Melodies shorts, has actually been par for the course for Sandler films.
Regardless of the truth of this latest accusation, it does seem that after walking the farcical field for some time, Sandler has finally stepped on the rake of racial tensions that keeps comically wobbling back for repeated hits to the face. Now, it seems that Netflix, who locked down a supposedly lucrative four picture deal with the actor, must bear the brunt.