Study Guide

Blazing Saddles Themes

  • Race

    You're probably going to hear the "N" word in this movie more than in any other cinema this side of Quentin Tarantino. That's because, when Mel Brooks made Blazing Saddles, he wanted to make sure that no subject was taboo or off-limits.

    Even today, you'll find lots of people arguing over whether this movie helped race relations in America or if it made them worse. But one thing that's certain is that Mel Brooks doesn't really care about hurting anyone's feelings: he wants to make you laugh, and he wants to make you think about uncomfortable subject matter.

    Questions About Race

    1. What are the main racist stereotypes that this movie makes fun of?
    2. Does this movie accomplish anything productive in the way it deals with race? Why or why not?
    3. How does Bart get the people of Rock Ridge to accept him? Try using direct examples from the movie to support your answer.

    Chew on This

    In Blazing Saddles, we find that racism is total nonsense when you look at it from a humorous angle.

    Blazing Saddles is a funny movie, but its attitude towards race is callous and outdated.

  • Violence

    Anyone who's ever seen a Western movie probably knows that the Wild West was a pretty violent place. The only people keeping order in most towns were sheriffs… who often got killed by outlaws who would just ride through and bully people into doing whatever they wanted.

    That's why the figure of the sheriff is such a symbol of bravery even today. And who better to show this bravery in Blazing Saddles than our hero Bart, the black sheriff who's hated by the villains he's trying to stop and the townsfolk he's trying to help?

    Questions About Violence

    1. Who is the most violent character in this movie? Why?
    2. Can you give one example of clever violence in this movie? How about one example of dumb violence?
    3. Why do Hedley Lamarr's attempts to use violence always fail? Try to be as specific as possible in your answer.

    Chew on This

    In Blazing Saddles, we find that violence never achieves its goal unless there's cleverness to back it up.

    Blazing Saddles is a story of brains over brawn.

  • Cunning and Cleverness

    Bart is just one man who's been sent to protect a town that hates him from an army of outlaws who hate him even more. So yes, it's going to take some cunning and cleverness if he's going to pull off the whole sheriff gig.

    Luckily, Bart is by far the smartest character in Blazing Saddles, and he comes up with all kinds of ways to keep the people of Rock Ridge safe and even get them to accept him as their sheriff. His clever antics include everything from building a replica of Rock Ridge to sending an explosive box of candy to a dude named Mongo.

    Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

    1. What's the cleverest thing Bart does in this movie? Why?
    2. Why are Hedley Lamarr's clever schemes always destined to fail?
    3. Do the people of Rock Ridge appreciate Bart's cleverness right away? If not, when do they start to?
    4. Who's the least clever character in this movie and why? Is the lack of cleverness good or bad?

    Chew on This

    In Blazing Saddles, we learn that cleverness will always triumph over all other strengths.

    Blazing Saddles reminds us that cleverness isn't worth much in the Old West… unless you have some friends with guns.

  • Politics

    If you're not jaded about the corruption that often happens in politics, you probably will be after watching this movie. Mel Brooks takes a lot of shots at a lot of people in Blazing Saddles, but he saves some of his most crushing satire for politicians who care way more about protecting their jobs than they do about the people who've elected them.

    And we see this attitude most in Governor Lepetomane, who is literally a cross-eyed buffoon who has no clue what bills he's signing or what his lackeys are doing while he's busy having sex with his secretary. So yeah, let's just sum it up for now by saying that Mel Brooks doesn't consider politicians to be the noblest people in the world.

    Questions About Politics

    1. When do we first get the sense that Governor Lepetomane is incompetent at his job?
    2. What does Lepetomane like to do instead of his job?
    3. What does Mel Brooks say about politicians by making Lepetomane cross-eyed?
    4. Are the parts about seizing Native American land in this movie actually funny, or are they just plain sad?

    Chew on This

    In Blazing Saddles, we learn that politicians can be way more interested in looking good than in actually being good.

    Blazing Saddles reminds us that politicians are just like anyone else—some are bad and some are good.

  • Community

    In Blazing Saddles, the people of Rock Ridge are simple folk who are stuck in their ways. And by "stuck in their ways," we mean that they're racist and not all that interested in becoming more modern in their views. But whether they like it or not, they'll have to rely on their new black Sheriff Bart if they want to stay in their town.

    As soon as Bart has defeated the threat from Hedley Lamarr, he'd rather move on to some other adventure than keep hanging out with these backwards hicks. And considering how many times they've called him the "N" word, you can't blame the guy.

    Questions About Community

    1. When do we first get a sense of what kind of community Rock Ridge is? How?
    2. Do you think Rock Ridge is worth saving? Why or why not?
    3. How does Gabby Johnson's incoherent speech help convince the people of Rock Ridge to stay and fight for their town? Why is it funny?

    Chew on This

    In Blazing Saddles, we learn that community goes deeper than greed… but not deeper than racism.

    Blazing Saddles reminds us that just as a lot of good things can come from community, a lot of bad things can too.