I grew up listening to Adam Sandler comedy tapes. “The Severe Beating of a High School Spanish Teacher”was a favorite among my male friends and I. We were boys. Boys who played D&D, acted in plays, sang show tunes, and covered Nirvana songs. Adam Sandler’s moronic humor with a wink and a tinge of edgy social commentary was right up our alley.
It was not until later in life, later in my raising of consciousness that I realized Adam Sandler’s movies are a perfect example of white supremacy culture. To be sure, I am not calling Adam Sandler a white supremacist. Despite the fact that he has made some horrible, horrible movies of late, he has made some outstanding ones too. And I’m not just talking about the classics: Happy, Billy, Water, and Wedding. I’m talking Big Daddy, Fifty First Dates, Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love. He can keep making crap, and I’ll always love him for making me feel good literally hundreds of times.
But the fact is, Adam Sandler represents one of the problems with Gen X men and their attitudes toward race, gender, sexuality, and rape culture. One can engage in it, as long as one vehemently decries it in others. Think of Big Daddy: Sonny’s best friends from law school are gay, but the homophobic jokes don’t stop. Same with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Chuck and Larry make all kinds of gay jokes–and the supporting gay characters are all played as one-dimensional, effeminate queens–but they beat up people who use slurs towards them (the cis, straight, white guys using GLBT legal progress to benefit themselves, perfect symbols for whom the system was built). Almost every film has some sort of ethnic stereotype, but often with poor whites used almost as a way to point and say, “See!? See?! We make fun of our own, too.” As though that will make up for the horribly racist characters played by Rob Schneider. Almost each movie has some resolution with the underdogs being victorious because the white guys exposed the hypocrisy, but not enough to face their own.
Sandler also has a way of casting incredibly beautiful women–Jessica Biel, Joey Lauren Adams–as accomplished women, but manages to either reduce them to essentially sex objects, or to once again use the existence of a strong woman to justify misogyny and sexist jokes.
Again, not casting stones at Adam. But I am saying that it is a perfect example of many attitudes I encounter. White men who are so casual and insistent with their own racism and various phobias, but who don a “lighten up, I was just kidding” attitude whenever anyone calls them out. Often, these guys (and women too, I guess, but I’m kinda writing toward the white dudes here) are good, intelligent, well-meaning guys. They really don’t think they are racist, and they really don’t want anyone to be hurt. Yet, they feel that they have done enough of the internal work to be sufficiently enlightened, that everyone else needs to accept that, and they should be the final arbiters of what is racist, sexist, homophobic.
You get my point.
It really is the epitome of the White, male privilege many of my contemporaries just don’t get. They genuinely believe that if everyone just lightened up, treated each other well, and had a sense of humor, everything would be fine. They don’t understand that generations of oppression is literally written into DNA. They can’t see, won’t see, that it is not up to them (us) to decide what is racist and what is not. It is not up to us to decide what methods of protest are acceptable and which are not. It is not up to us to finally draw the line and say enough is enough. Sadly, though, it will take us doing just that for things to change.
Fellas, we don’t get to be Adam Sandler. There’s no cool, hip, well-meaning, unhurtful racism. There’s no way to jokingly treat women like less, but still be feminists. There are not acceptable Muslim jokes. We cannot be so casual about things that are literally deadly serious. And, Adam. You gotta do better, man. Seriously. It just isn’t funny.
We can’t tell people to lighten up. We’re gotta be as heavy as the times.