Even to this day, Blazing Saddles remains the smartest indictment of American racism. The film clearly re-imagines the western genre in light of the civil rights movement and also the Vietnam War, which cast accusations towards the United States as a nation of white imperialist conquerors. To be fair, much of the re-imagining of the western genre had already begun through films like The Wild Bunch, Little Big Man and Buck and the Preacher – this last film a true revisionist piece directed by and starring Sidney Poitier as a scout leading former slaves into the west. Yet Blazing Saddles, perhaps freed from the constraints of authenticity, sends a message about bigotry and prejudice that still resonates. Perhaps this is because the film’s message is so damn funny. The liberal use of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite word, especially when spoken by stock characters like the sweet old lady, is both jarring and hilarious, forcing us to consider how deeply embedded racial ideas have been in our culture. In fact, it was co-writer Richard Pryor who pushed for the explicit overuse in order to shock the audience and make a point about widespread racism. In another classic scene, the protagonists lure a pair of Klansmen with Sheriff Bart asking where the white women are, turning the idiotic racists into victims through their own prejudice. Even the film’s most shocking scene, in which Bart, disguised in a Klan robe, reveals his true identity when his hands stick out of the sleeves, becomes another barb against the inherent stupidity of the Klan’s terrorist rituals (which were still definitely alive in the minds of those who had lived through the Jim Crow south). Comedy is tough without making prescient observations about the shortcomings of human beings, but when a film can be so ridiculous yet so on the mark, it’s definitely worth taking notice.