Despite his long string of hits, Adam Sandler was in a tough spot less than a year ago. As the actor approached 50, the movie that was to kick off his historic four-picture Netflix deal, a comedy western called “The Ridiculous 6,” courted controversy with its portrayal of Native Americans. The native characters were the butt of jokes that didn’t seem all that funny — ones that made Sandler seem stranded in the “Saturday Night Live” bro-mode that launched him to fame two decades ago.
“The examples of disrespect included native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee,” Indian Country, a news website, reported.
“We talked to the producers about our concerns,” a Native American actor on the film, Allison Young, said at the time. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry, but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”
Now, however, it seems this dustup’s dust has settled. Its questionable politics and terrible reviews aside, “The Ridiculous 6” is a certified Netflix hit. So said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos on Wednesday during a keynote at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“It’s also enjoyed a spot at No. 1 in every territory we operate in, and in many of them it’s still No. 1,” Sarandos said, as Variety reported. The publication reported the movie had “been seen more times in 30 days than any other movie in Netflix history.” This wasn’t the same as saying “The Ridiculous 6” was Netflix’s most watched movie ever, but many did think so — including the film’s co-star, Rob Schneider.
Even as “The Ridiculous 6” faced hordes of Twitter haters, Netflix did not back away from its unique relationship with Sandler — the first such deal the online video service has ventured into.
“The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” Netflix said in a statement at the time. “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.”
When the film was released last month, some weren’t laughing.
“Netflix can f— off with their ‘Tonto Speak’ in Ridiculous 6,” one Twitter user wrote. “It’s 2015 and media still serves as tool to subvert Native cultural/identity.”
Still, the success of “The Ridiculous 6” wasn’t just a victory for Sandler — a man who, despite the millions of dollars that his films make, sometimes seems a bit out of touch with the sensitivities of the modern age. (His response when his Netflix deal was announced in 2014? “Netflix rhymes with Wet Chicks … Let the streaming begin!!!!”) It was a victory for Netflix — a growing company with an eye-popping stock price and a stable of hits such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” that seem to be taking over our culture.
“You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network,” Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, said during the keynote, as the Associated Press reported.
He was right. Although China was not yet in its grasp, Hastings announced that the company is now available in 130 countries and 21 languages.
“The key in approaching the Chinese business is really working on relationships,” he said. “In the rest of the world, we are racing ahead.”
Although the future may be bright for a company once known for delivering CDs in red envelopes, not everyone was enthused that Sandler is coming along for the ride.
“The Ridiculous 6 is the most watched movie on Netflix ever, which supports my theory that people are terrible and humanity is doomed,” critic Nathan Rabin wrote on Twitter.