April 29, 2015

Native actors denounce Sandler

'Our Dignity Is a Right' Say Native Actors Who Quit Adam Sandler Film

By Vincent SchillingWhat are your thoughts about bringing up Native rights in the context of the entertainment industry?

David Hill: I hope more people get on board for championing Native rights not just in movies or TV but wherever our rights are challenged. We have a non-Indian culture that complains about the rights that we do have. We have a non-Indian culture that pretty well complains about the rights we have that are different from theirs but the right to respect is something that exists through all cultures.

Our dignity is a right that we have to fight for. When you consider the suicide rates of our children, that is a direct result of destruction of culture, dignity, self image, and those things that make a person complete. We have to stand up somewhere, and what we did that day may not be much but it may have a butterfly effect to get people motivated to start and think that they can make a difference.

What do you say to the people who have expressed that this is a comedy and Native Americans are being too sensitive? Or to Netflix's statement that the movie is supposed to be ridiculous?

David Hill: When we were talking to them they said if you don’t like it, leave. We told them we will leave but this is not going to be the end of this. Them saying that this is a comedy and that this is a joke, that is nothing more than an excuse to perpetuate racism. It is a cover word to allow racism. The director said, "Adam Sandler makes fun of himself." But there is a difference between making fun of yourself and making fun of the people that are oppressed.
Dear Adam Sandler: I've Picked Your Indian Name

By Marc YaffeeI was very excited to hear you would be working in New Mexico to produce the first movie in your four-picture Netflix deal. The fact that you were casting a large group of Native actors and extras for The Ridiculous Six was a good sign. Diversity in films is always good and we have plenty of good Native actors willing and ready to work. Hell, your production company even hired a cultural advisor. I believe his name was Bruce. I’ve never heard of an Indian named Bruce. Was he actually an Indian or your cousin who had taken a Native American studies class? I don’t know but on the surface it appeared you were trying to do the right things.

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). It stinks. It’s not only offensive to Native Americans, it’s offensive to ALL Americans. Okay, especially Native Americans. Not every Native actor or extra walked off the set but I have a feeling that when it comes out on Netflix, the rest of them will wish they had.

If you want to lampoon and stereotype a people for laughs, at least be satirical and brilliant, instead of ignorant and unfunny. And next time you really want to Insult Indians, go old school and hire Italians and Mexicans to play them. At least no Indians would have to feel embarrassed about being in your movie. After all, our people have already suffered enough.
A letter to Adam Sandler

By Jon Santaanta ProudstarI am ashamed at your action or lack thereof. I am Hasidic Jew on my father’s side and take great pride in that as well as my Native and Hispanic heritage. You bring shame to the Jewish people. You, who belong to a race who faced a genocide, and relocation, theft, rape, indignation. These things our people share in common. What you have done is shown your ability to act as your oppressors once did.

I promise you we will have words someday Mr. Sandler.
As a Native Actor, I Applaud Those Who Walked off the Set of Adam Sandler’s Racist Movie

By Tyson HousemanWhen I was younger, I acted in some of the Twilight movies. I played a shape-shifting werewolf who was a member of a fictionalized version of the Quileute Tribe, a real Native American tribe in Washington. In light of the media coverage that Adam Sandler's newest racist pile of shit is receiving due to some Native American actors walking off the set because it's a racist pile of shit, I felt compelled to offer some insight up for public consumption from my own experiences as an Indigenous actor who has dealt with racism in the film industry. First of all I should note that I am fully aware of The Twilight Saga's problematic portrayal of Native Americans and the appropriation of real Quileute myths and traditions into fantasy. I say 'problematic' because these films offer the image of Native Americans basically as mythical creatures, but they are also some of the few Hollywood blockbusters depicting contemporary Native characters as opposed to fake historic relics of a romanticized early American frontier.

I knew that the character I was playing was problematic and I still did it because it was a huge opportunity. This problematic portrayal was never discussed on-set between actors or writers—it was kind of an elephant in the room. It's easy to take a moral stance on something but as we all know it's a lot fucking harder to stand by your morals when they are put to the test, which is why I have nothing but praise for the group of actors who were able to stick to their guns and walk off the set of Sandler's ridiculous shitpile. Indigenous actors face struggles of misrepresentation all the time, from racist typecasting to insensitive and false historical research, and I know from experience that it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to this. Unfortunately, the majority of the roles in film and TV for Indigenous actors are for characters like "the brave" or "the savage," one-liner characters that do nothing but add some colour to background shots or get killed when they foolishly attack the (white) protagonist (all of this comes from personal audition experience). So the attention this story has received over the past week goes to show that a good deal of people are ready to break free from the perpetuation of these ancient stereotypes. Regardless of that, this film will still be made.

So why have these stereotypes been allowed to persist in the Hollywood machine for so long? Why, in 2015, does Adam Sandler think it's okay to write female characters named "No Bra" and "Beaver's Breath" and to reduce an entire group of human beings into caricature? The "Hollywood Indian" stereotype has been allowed to endure because the image of an oppressed, colonized culture looks better from the perspective of the colonizers before that culture started being oppressed. Hollywood prefers its silent, stoic noble savage to any real modern day depiction of indigeneity in film. Colonial North American society is still more comfortable with their romanticized image of a proud race of people who once graced an untouched landscape and have since subserviently and willingly disappeared into the shadows to make way for the "rightful" owners of that landscape to manifest their destiny. This idea of the "vanishing Indian" has been vital to the relieving of colonial guilt because if we don't have to see them then we can just pretend their culture must be gone. Hence shoving us on tiny plots of land called reservations.
Comment:  For more on Adam Sandler, see Vanilla Ice Defends Ridiculous 6 and Natives Brave to Protest Sandler.

Below:  "Actors David Hill and Loren Anthony walked off the set of Adam Sandler's latest project."

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