Why Adam Sandler’s Netflix Western Caused Actors to Walk Off the Set

The Big Picture

  • Adam Sandler’s partnership with Netflix on original films has positioned him for success as the streaming service dominates the industry.
  • The Ridiculous 6
    marked a new era for Sandler, allowing him to showcase his comedic style in a Western satire.
  • The film sparked controversy due to offensive jokes about Native culture, though reports of mass walkouts may have been exaggerated.



Although Netflix now dominates the film industry with its monopoly over movie stars and award season, the streaming service first took a risk in making original film projects with Adam Sandler. Sandler’s contract to produce and star in original films for Netflix may have seemed odd in 2015. In hindsight, the “Sandman” appeared to have more insight than anyone into where the industry would head. He has positioned himself to have even more success in the next few years, as Netflix has produced all sorts of projects for Sandler: they’ve even gotten behind Sandler’s unusual dramatic turn in Hustle, his animated family film Leo, his daughters’ breakout acting roles in You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah, the emotional stand-up special 100% Fresh, and his newest sci-fi drama, Spaceman. However, Sandler’s history with Netflix isn’t without its controversies. In fact, Sandler’s first Netflix film, The Ridiculous 6, earned both him and Netflix some bad press when several actors walked off set due to a series of offensive jokes.


ridiculous 6 poster

The Ridiculous 6

An outlaw who was raised by Native Americans discovers that he has five half-brothers. Together the men go on a mission to find their wayward, deadbeat dad.

Release Date
December 11, 2015

Director
Frank Coraci

Runtime
1h 59m


‘The Ridiculous 6’ Started a New Era for Adam Sandler

The Ridiculous 6 was Sandler’s first original film on Netflix, and one of the first films that the streaming service ever produced; Netflix had debuted its first original acquisition title Beasts of No Nation to significant critical acclaim only a few months earlier. Although Beasts of No Name was intended to be a major award-season contender (particularly for supporting star Idris Elba), The Ridiculous 6 catered towards a more family-friendly audience that would have supported Sandler’s films in theaters. Although Sandler continued to be popular, his last few theatrical films hadn’t pleased critics: Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, Blended, and Grown Ups 2 had earned him some of the worst reviews of his entire career, and critics had never been particularly kind to his work in the first place.


On paper, The Ridiculous 6 looked like it had the potential to be the next Sandler classic. The film hailed from director Frank Coraci, who had helmed some of Sandler’s better films, including The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer. Rather than force Sandler to appear in a family-friendly adventure that forced him to be sentimental, The Ridiculous 6 allowed the former Saturday Night Live star to channel some of the anarchic bizarre comedy that he had used so often during his early career. The Ridiculous 6 was a comical take on the Western genre that attempted to satirize the clichés within gunslinger movies. Netflix conveniently timed the film’s release to the debut of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which took a similarly subversive (albeit less goofy) take on the genre.

‘The Ridiculous 6’s Jokes About Native Culture Caused Actors To Walk Off Set


However, subversion had a cost for Sandler when it appeared that some of the film’s jokes came at the expense of Native culture. The Western genre already had a fairly checkered history when it came to the depiction of Native people, and so it makes sense that Sandler would want to commentate on it in some way in The Ridiculous 6. However, jokes made about Apache culture and tribal traditions reportedly inspired dozens of Native actors (including the film’s cultural advisor) to walk off set in protest.

In an interview with The Guardian, Navajo Nation tribal member Loren Anthony and film student Allison Young stated that they had walked off the set due to the film’s lack of sensitivity. Young said that she broke down in tears; she had thought that the film was “supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh,” and that “a film like this should not make someone feel this way.” Anthony reported that when she raised her complaints to Coraci, the director simply told her that the disrespectful jokes were intended to be comedic, and that anyone “sensitive” to the film’s humor could leave the set.


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Although the controversy certainly painted the film in a negative light, the reports of “mass walkouts” may have been overstated. The New York Daily News reported that only four of the over 100 Native actors working on the film had actually left the set, and that many Native performers came to Sandler’s defense. Ricky Lee, a Native actor who had stayed on set, said that while the detractors had raised “legitimate issues,” criticizing Sandler and the film’s writers was “the wrong battlefield.”


A Netflix representative came to the film’s defense as well, stating that the film “has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous.” Netflix cited the film as “a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized,” noting that The Ridiculous 6 featured “a diverse cast that is not only part of, but in on, the joke.” While the notion that the Native cast was “in on the joke” is up for debate based on the conflicting reports from the film’s stars, it certainly did not impact The Ridiculous 6’s viewership numbers. During its initial release, The Ridiculous 6 was the most viewed new release title in Netflix’s history.

‘The Ridiculous 6’ Influenced the Future of Netflix Original Movies

As odd as it may seem now, The Ridiculous 6 ended up becoming surprisingly influential. The film established the precedent that viewers would seemingly watch anything if it was available on a service that they already subscribed to — despite horrible reviews, The Ridiculous 6 seemed to have no issue with attracting both average Netflix subscribers and fans of Sandler’s comedies. This is a trend that Netflix would continue to use to its advantage in the following years.


Other Netflix original films that earned significant viewership (but terrible reviews) included Bright, Bird Box, The Gray Man, Red Notice, and future Sandler vehicles, including The Do-Over, The Week Of, Sandy Wexler, and the Murder Mystery series. That being said, the offensive jokes in The Ridiculous 6 are one of the many reasons that the film has little rewatch value. Beyond creating a stir upon its initial release weekend, The Ridiculous 6 (like many of Netflix’s original productions) had little lasting effect on pop culture.

The Ridiculous 6 is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

WATCH ON NETFLIX


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