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Tuesday, 28 April 2015 07:02

There's Nothing Funny About Adam Sandler's Demeaning Portrayals of Indigenous People

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nasandler(Photo: Shinya Suzuki)

According to an April 23 Indian Country Article, "Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six."

Allison Young, a Navajo woman and former film student from Dartmouth, protested the film's demeaning portrayals of Indigenous people. She talked with Indian Country about the situation:

"When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted," she said. "I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.' I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."

"Nothing has changed," said Young. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."

"Just Hollywood Indians" is a resounding lamentation, considering the Tinseltown legacy of disseminating negative images of Indigenous people. Think of all the movies that have historically come out of Los Angeles that demonize Indigenous people as "uncivilized" enemies of US "Manifest Destiny," - or the present-day films that portray them as one-sided characters (often alcoholics). The impact of these degrading images, as they embed themselves in the minds of movie viewers, does incalculable harm to the original inhabitants of what is now called the United States.

The debasing of Indigenous people goes back to the myth that "America" was "discovered" by Europeans, and that the Indigenous population was a sub-human population that needed to be killed or placed in so-called reservations. This toxic narrative - used to justify the colonization that created the United States as it exists today - is alive and well, thanks in part to Hollywood's generally insidious portrayals.

An open letter to Adam Sandler appeared in Indian Country on April 27. The text is blunt:

Unfortunately, there was just one problem with the whole movie: you wrote it. I only read a small portion of the script but it was like taking one bite of tainted meat or one sip of rotten milk (hey, wait, I’m not eating meat and I’m lactose intolerant)....

After all, our people have already suffered enough.

Hollywood should repent its disparagement of Indigenous people, rather than continuing to perpetuate inexcusable defamations in the name of so-called "humor."

Not to be published without permission of Truthout