Hannah Yoon/The Canadian Press via AP, File
In this Sept. 6, 2014 file photo, actor Adam Sander smiles during a news conference for "Men, Women, and Children" at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. (Hannah Yoon/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Dear Adam Sandler: I've Picked Your Indian Name

Marc Yaffee
4/27/15

Dear Adam Sandler,

First of all thanks for the very funny movies you made in the past. The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy are some classic comedies that I and many others have watched more than once.  Obviously, you don’t need to be reminded of this. You can log on to your bank account and see just how successful these movies were.

I 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.

RELATED: Native Actors Walk off Set of Adam Sandler Movie After Insults to Women, Elders

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.

We haven’t heard a peep out of you either since the controversy began.  Vanilla Ice has come to your defense.  When Vanilla Ice is running point to defend your comedy, then you are really in trouble.  We would sure like to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. In the meantime while you remain silent on this topic, I would like to propose an Indian name for you:

"Runs From Controversy." 

Sincerely,
A marginally funny, unfamous Native comedian,
Marc Yaffee

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Apparently this production believes that all Natives are interchangeable. How many White people are educated enough to tell the difference between Apache and Sioux? How many White people know the difference between Mohican and Pawnee? I figure it's because they see themselves as interchangeable. Why else would Adam Sandler send Vanilla Ice to smooth the bullshit for him? Maybe I'm wrong maybe he send Vanilla Sandler to speak for him. They can remain generic enough to be interchangeable if they really want to, but most Natives are proud of their cultural heritage (BECAUSE WE HAVE ONE!) and wouldn't dream of believing we are all alike.

Bee Beam's picture
Bee Beam
Submitted by Bee Beam on
Well done, Marc, particularly noting that this is also offensive to those who are not Native American. We need those who are not directly impacted by this racism to stand up and say it needs to stop. You were far too kind with the name you proposed for the perpetrator. "Wounds with Words" or "Debases with Race" are my choices.

bigwater's picture
bigwater
Submitted by bigwater on
I'm sincerely glad that the author of this opinion is speaking to raise awareness. Collectively, we the Indigenous peoples are feeling outrage and repulsion toward this blatant and unapologetic racism, sexism, and colonialism. There are many parts of this article I enjoyed. Especially "Runs From Controversy." However, I disagree with the author on two issues. When viewed closely from a decolonization lens, Sandler's films frequently use sexism and misogyny (degradation of the feminine) to make 'humor'. He frequently uses sexism --soft or overt--to get cheap, immature laughs at the expense of all females, of all ages. I'm disappointed that the author uses racism to make a critique of Sandler, in his "hire ... Mexicans to play them" line. This is so overdone in ndn country. As an Indigenous person, I expect better from ICT. This over simplistic idea of 'Mexicans' as not Native, or, the idea that Mexicans (citizens of Mexico) are all Europeans, is homogenizing and making 'foreign' all the numerous Native and Indigenous peoples with intrinsic, deep ties to Turtle Island. I'm glad other readers have pointed out, an idea that is questionable, given that a settler border and militarism continue to enforce the troubling idea that ndns in the U.S. and Mexico are not intrinsically inter-related on many important levels. But, it also allows this idea that it is ok to belittle, denigrate, and stereotype "Mexicans"--in the current period of death squads in Mexico which are carrying out genocide against mostly Indigenous Peoples. The author's line about "Mexicans" plays into white colonized thinking that has Othered Indigenous peoples of Mexico as somehow 'outside' North American Indian reality. That is false, dangerous, and a symptom of the denial and internal shame factors that have instilled and cemented violent borders between Indigenous Peoples. This thinking, if not called out, reflects a deep issue with internalized racism. To me, what it says is that the white man's military 'history' script ultimately 'wins' in this debate. The white man's views of Indigenous Peoples--and white man's settler border--gets to have the upper hand in saying who is 'American' ndn and who is 'foreign' Other. In this case, white man dominates over an opportunity the author could've used to decolonize that false and junk-history thinking. We need to take a major step away from the adolescent/stunted consciousness that Sandler's films represent--junkfood for the mind. Unfortunately, this author didn't take the high road that our Elders often invoke, and, instead, just went for the mediocre cheap laugh at the expense of Indigenous relatives (in a country such as Mexico where a large number of the national population are Indigenous, or have significant ties to Indigenous ancestry in ways that we still have a hard time getting our heads around, in the US and Canada). As we contemplate where we want to go collectively as Indigenous Peoples from this Sandler debaucle, I'm praying that we will also have the spiritual strength to hold ourselves accountable to the many acts of lateral violence we enact upon each other in Indian Country--beyond borders. The actors who took the steps to walk away from the degrading and demeaning toxic film set need our collective will to not fall prey to mediocrity. This is a moment to go higher and deeper into our knowledge systems, traditions, teachings, and will to be resilient and not assimilate further into white man's toxic thought. I doubt that the same old worn down thinking is the remedy that will effectively guide our Peoples to transformation and healing within. Again, I do appreciate the effort, though am hoping for more critical ways of utilizing humor, arts, technology, music, social media, and traditional knowledge that will take Sandler and all those in the corporate film industry--to task and hold them to account for acts of genocide that are harming Indigenous Peoples'. Yes, let's name this what it is in international law--acts of a genocidal society--that is in deep denial and is ignorant of the 8 Stages of Genocide. http://www.genocidewatch.org/aboutgenocide/8stagesofgenocide.html Peace to all

Sammy7's picture
Sammy7
Submitted by Sammy7 on
Adam Sandler and the Ridiculous Sick is another example of a flaming zionist ego hurling through the lower world at the speed of dark.
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