During it’s brief stint as an original content creator, Netflix has proven itself to be a magnificent judge of character, providing audiences with shows that are exquisitely made as they are bingeably watchable. Whether it’s their beloved older fare, like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, or their newer hits like Daredevil and Master of None, Netflix has been able to churn out critically acclaimed, hit programming at a rate surpassing most of their cable TV rivals and equalling that of HBO. With that being said, even the most savvy network executives and adjudicators of talent put their money on a lame horse every once in a while. In Netflix’s case, that lame horse was Adam Sandler and, after limping through the opening straightaway with the star’s first film, a “comic” western called The Ridiculous Six, it’s a safe bet that the top brass at Netflix are wishing they could cut their losses and put their horse out to pasture.
The Ridiculous Six is a wretched movie for a variety of reasons, with the most notable one being the abundance of pointlessly offensive content that is spread throughout the film. If you’re familiar with the film, it might be because The Ridiculous Six made headlines back in April when a group of about a dozen Native American extras—most of them from the Navajo nation—walked off of the set during filming due to the film’s use of material that was deemed grossly inappropriate and disrespectful to Natives. One of the actors, Allie Young, a Navajo artist and filmmaker who started an online petition in protest of the film which has garnered over 108,000 signatures, points to a litany of obscenely racist issues within the movie’s production, ranging from bronzing the skin of Native actors to make them look darker and having white actors play Native characters to a surfeit of jokes around alcoholism, sexual assault and violence against women, all of which are deadly serious problems within Native communities.
With this as prologue, I came into The Ridiculous Six expecting it to be a bad film, but I don’t think I was adequately prepared for just how bad it would be. Within the first 5 minutes of the movie’s start, there were signs outside a trading post reading “no injuns allowed” and “maize munchers shot on sight”, a dead-eyed Adam Sandler co-opting some Native dress that looked so generic and half-assed I thought they may have stolen it from a local high school’s costume department, Steve Zahn talking about how “killing an injun” would make his day and Will Forte calling a young Native woman a “sweet piece of red prairie meat” and “Poca-hot-tits”. At this point, it might be useful to mention that Netflix signed Sandler to a $320 million, 4 film deal that gives the SNL alum full creative control and that The Ridiculous Six is the first of those 4 films. Oh, and in case you were wondering, that sound you’re hearing is Netflix chief content officer Ted Sandaros flagellating himself with old film stock in front of the company’s board of directors to atone for his sins.
Adam Sandler is many things. Culturally competent is not one of them
In case you had any doubts, the vast majority of the final 115 minutes of The Ridiculous Six are just as atrocious as the initial 5. As the film goes on, those who haven’t turned it off and started watching Jessica Jones will find out that the reason Sandler is dressed in Native garb is the screenwriters decided to use a variation of the tried and true great white warrior trope—wherein a lone white man is raised or captured and trained by a foreign civilization, only to become the greatest fighter they’ve ever seen—and make Happy Gilmore the “bravest of all braves” (I’m serious) after being raised by Apache Indians. Naturally, Sandler—whose character’s name is Tommy “White Knife” Stockburn, on account of him being white…and having a lot of knives—is set to marry the most attractive woman in the tribe, because what gorgeous Native woman could resist the charms of a flabby, 49-year old white guy with the personality of a plank of balsa wood?
While Sandler’s character name is painfully unfunny and literal, his Native paramour—played by Julia Jones (Twilight, Longmire)—was given the sophomoric name “Smoking Fox” because…she’s hot, I guess. Not content at making one cheesy, off-putting and racist name, the writers of The Ridiculous Six created two other minor Native female characters, giving them the names “Never Wears Bra” and “Beaver Breath”. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, both of the actresses playing those characters were non-Natives in red-face, with Sandler’s wife playing the role of Never Wears Bra. As for Native men, they were all but nonexistent in the film, with the only real speaking Native male role going to Sandler’s character’s surrogate father, who only appears now and again for vaguely mystical and sage advice and the odd one-liner.
Not content to stop at just denigrating Native Americans, Sandler & company brought their obnoxious brand of juvenile humor to bear on other racial and ethnic groups as well. Perennial Sandler co-star and former Deuce Bigelow star Rob Schneider took on the role of playing White Knife’s Mexican-American half-brother, Ramon. Schenider, who is very clearly not Latino, spends most of the movie astride the crossroads of simple racist stereotyping and scatological humor. In the film, Ramon has a borderline inappropriate relationship with his “burro”, which vacillates between the vaguely sexual and the familial, all while the burro has explosive diarrhea on a regular basis, most notably pummeling Chris Parnell with a pressure-washer speed spraying of shit. The other 4 of White Knife’s titular half-brothers run the gamut from actually amusing (Luke Wilson as an alcoholic who turns to drink after going to the bathroom at Ford’s Theater when he was supposed to be guarding President Lincoln) to downright stupid (Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner as Lil’ Pete, a developmentally disabled character who gets a blow job from a horse).
I would call The Ridiculous Six an offensive film, but that would be doing a disservice to offensive films everywhere, since there are plenty of offensive films in the world that also hold some sort of artistic merit or entertainment value. No, The Ridiculous Six belongs to that special class of offensive films wherein the repugnance of the film’s material is equal to both the laziness inherent in its production and the overall contempt in which its creators hold the audience. Somehow, likely through a combination of connections, cash and sheer star power, Sandler was able to get a truly phenomenal cast together for this movie, but there aren’t enough great actors in this world to turn this festering turd of a film into anything that could be considered enjoyable.