December 14, 2015

So-called humor in Ridiculous 6

As with almost every instance of racist entertainment, some suggested that critics should "lighten up" because The Ridiculous Six is "just humor." Here's what's wrong with that attitude:

Adam Sandler may never be funny again: Another unending parade of half-baked, offensive stereotypes disguised as comedy

A donkey-romancing Mexican is just a taste of the stupidity in the comedian's controversial new western spoof

By Matthew Rozsa
While reviewing the comedy “Jack and Jill,” critic Jay Bauman came up with a list of stale tropes that predictably appear in all of Adam Sandler’s movies. Nestled between entries like “general whorish product placement” and “scenes of forced sentimentality to trick the audience into thinking the movie has a heart,” there was one that applied perfectly to the inherently problematic nature of his comedy–namely, “jokes at the expense of physical abnormality or ethnicity,” or as Bauman puts it, “jokes at the expense of people who are different.”

In other words, Sandler movies contain lots of jokes that punch down.

Even before it premiered on Netflix today, “The Ridiculous Six” managed to incur controversy for punching down against Native Americans, who feature prominently in the film’s story. As I discussed last April, several Native American actors walked off the movie’s set to protest what they considered insensitive jokes about Apaches (more on those in a moment). Later a cellphone video leaked in which producer Barry Bernardi told the actors they “shouldn’t be in the movie” if they’re “overly sensitive” about those types of jokes. Shortly after that, another Native American actor from the picture spoke out in Sandler’s defense, observing that there were 150 other Native American extras who happily participated in the production and claiming the leaked video omitted Bernardi’s promise to include a disclaimer noting that the movie is historically inaccurate. He even noted that during a private meeting “the last thing that [Sandler] said before he got up was that the thing that made him feel the worst is that four people got their feelings hurt.”

Watching “The Ridiculous Six,” it’s easy to see how the filmmakers–including director Frank Coraci and co-writers Tim Herlihy and Sandler himself–could believe their movie was harmless. The Apache characters are depicted in unambiguously sympathetic terms, and while there are plenty of racial jokes, the movie seems determined to be an equal opportunity offender, even by occasionally putting white people in its cross hairs. Indeed, numerous white characters are depicted as vicious bigots (and as such worthy of being robbed or in other ways receiving karmic punishment), and one early joke shows an American Indian doing his white people impression by shouting, “Hey, guys, let’s play with our chest hair and eat potato chips.”

Nevertheless, when it comes to its underlying racial message, “The Ridiculous Six” still grates, and there are obvious moments when it appears to be punching down almost without realizing it. To understand why, it is necessary to briefly analyze the kinds of jokes that appear in the movie. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

The difference between telling a decent joke about historically marginalized groups and simply punching down is simple: While both expect the audience to laugh at sensitive subjects, the latter hold no meaningful social insight and go no further than laughing at someone else’s expense for being different.
The Ridiculous 6 Movie Review

By Brian Tallerico[T]hen there’s the broad racism and misogyny of the piece. After the controversial walk-offs, Netflix claimed that this was “satire.” It’s not. There’s nothing satirical about Sandler’s bad Native American accent (which totally comes and goes, by the way) or Schneider’s Hispanic caricature. Saying that this is satire is like the drunk guy at the bar telling you how many black friends he has after telling a racist joke. Don’t fall for it.Comment:  As this image suggests:

you don't need a joke to convey a stereotype. Regardless of her name, Julia Jones's character is the epitome of a "Pocahottie" or Indian princess. Adam Sandler's character is the epitome of the stoic and supernatural Indian. Their buckskin clothing is wrong; most Indians switched to Western clothing during the 19th century.

These things aren't jokes. They're false or misleading stereotypes. Beyond the alleged humor, they convey an erroneous picture of Native people. They're wrong for that reason, not because it's offensive to make fun of minorities.

For more on Adam Sandler, see Video Response to Ridiculous 6 and Scathing Reviews for Ridiculous 6.

No comments: