Maybe it’s the comedy. Maybe it’s the lack of seriousness. Maybe it’s that fans don’t need to take notice. Whatever the case may be, to most people Mel Brooks' classic western spoof is completely devoid of message. Yes, there’s a lot to Blazing Saddles besides its racial slurs, fart jokes, Warner Bros parking lot brawl, and stampeding cattle. There’s a deeply rooted message about the ignorance and stupidity of racism that’s the centerpiece of the film, yet no one seems to notice.
Blazing Saddles could never be made today. In an overly politically correct society where everyone is offended by the slightest slip-up, no one would even take the time to notice. The first time Burton Gilliam utters the dreaded N-word in the opening scene, the audience would leave in droves.
There’s a purpose to that dialogue, and it’s worth far more than simple shock value. The quick-witted Bart, played by Cleavon Little, is quick to retort and make Gilliam’s Lyle look like an idiot before he even stops to think about how ridiculous he looks prancing about to “Camptown Lady.” If the movie is racist, it’s only against those who look at color in the first place.
Yes, there’s no question it's played purely for laughs. This is, after all (arguably), Mel Brooks' finest hour, and one of the great American comedies. What the script does is work its message in via subtle sight gags and its characters' interactions. The bad guys never quite get it, and the townsfolk of Rock Ridge who realize the error of their ways finish them off in grand scale… even if they have to do it down a modern day Main Street somewhere in Hollywood.
It’s hard to believe any film can still push boundaries 34 years after its release. While some of its jokes may be lost on younger viewers, Blazing Saddles can still offend with the best of them to this day. It’s also still relevant and important to some of society's larger ills, which is also in a way a depressing statement on how little progress has been made.