There are many things to behold in the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new Netflix movie, The Ridiculous 6, coming in mid-December to a computer screen near you. Guns! Gun fights! Knives! Knife fights! A character named “White Knife”! A man kicked by a horse through a wooden wall! Explosions! More guns! More knives! Even more explosions!
It’s hard to tell what The Ridiculous 6 is actually about based on the trailer—contra Orr’s Law, this trailer does the very opposite of summarizing the movie it’s based on. Most of what we learn is that The Ridiculous 6 is a Happy Madison—i.e., Adam Sandler—production, that it is set in the time and place shorthanded today as the “Wild West,” and that it will either co-star or cameo a long list of celebrities and semi-celebrities. (Among them, per the surnames listed at the end of the trailer: Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Nick Nolte, Blake Shelton, Whitney Cummings, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, Dan Aykroyd, Will Forte, Nick Swardson, Terry Crews, Jon Lovitz, Vanilla Ice [Vanilla Ice!], Luke Wilson, Steve Zahn, Danny Trejo, Chris Parnell, and Lavell Crawford.)
What is mostly left out of all this, however, are the many other actors who don’t have surname recognition among Netflix audiences, or the reason you might know about The Ridiculous 6 in the first place. This spring, several members of The Ridiculous 6’s cast walked off the set in protest of the film’s treatment of its Native American characters. They were protesting names like Beaver Breath, No Bra, and Sits-on-Face. They were protesting costumes that didn’t bother to distinguish between the Apache and the Comanche. They were protesting a script that involved the direction, “Sits-on-Face squats down behind the teepee and pees, while lighting up a peace pipe.” They were protesting lines like, “Say, honey: How about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?”
As Allison Young, a Navajo actor who quit, specifically, after being asked to do a scene that required her “to fall down drunk, surrounded by jeering white men who rouse her by dousing her with more alcohol,” noted: “We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’”
Leave they did. And news of their quitting spread. The whole thing became a reminder not just of the power that protest can have in the age of Facebook and Instagram, but also of the severe limitations of Happy Madison’s particular brand of comedy. Which isn’t based so much on “slapstick” as it is on a kind of aggressively childish in-curiosity. How about we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee.
Given all that, it’s unsurprising that the film’s trailer only vaguely references the roles that Native Americans play in its plot. The trailer mentions the fact that Sandler’s character is “an orphan, raised by an Indian.” It features an older man who looks to be Native American saying, with no context whatsoever, “Ohhhh, I like that!” Beyond that, though, all that’s left is a merry band of gun-toting, chaps-wearing mischief-makers set to the most rousing parts of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.” There is no Sits-on-Face. There is no Beaver Breath. The film itself may well feature a typically Sandlerian mix of peepees and teepees; these, however, are mostly missing from the trailer.
Also missing, however, is any notion at all of the thing that Netflix had used to justify all the stereotypes in The Ridiculous 6: satire. When the controversy about the set walk-offs was playing out this spring, Netflix issued the following statement:
The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. 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.
But what, exactly, is being satirized here? The trailer isn’t at all clear about that. The only thing audiences learn from watching this bit of movie marketing is that there will be, if not blood, then guns and knives and explosions. There will be violence. There will be absurdity. There will be stereotypes. There will be Adam Sandler uttering the line, “Let’s saddle up; we’re burning daylight.” Which: Ridiculous? Certainly. Satire? From the looks of things, not so much.
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