Entertainment Weekly just posted the “first look” of Johnny Depp as Tonto in the new Lone Ranger movie. I’m really at a loss for words right now. I…can’t.
There was a bunch of controversy over the casting of Johnny Depp to begin with–and I was right on board, mad that they hadn’t cast a Native actor in the role. The Johnny defenders note that he has Indian heritage that he’s proud of…so proud that he says it probably started with a rape:
“The interesting thing, if you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or [John Ehle's] Trail of Tears, you have to think, somewhere along the line, I’m the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup.”
“I guess I have some Native American (in me) somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”
That’s a whole ‘nother post. But I think it gives you some context as to how “connected” and “proud” Johnny is of his ancestry. Always the Cherokee great-grandma, amiright?
Every article since the casting decision has stressed how this version of the Lone Ranger is going to be much more about Tonto, and he’s going to be given a bigger role, and that Depp hopes to “reinvent” the relationship between the two characters:
“When the idea came up [for the movie], I started thinking about Tonto and what could be done in my own small way try to — ‘eliminate’ isn’t possible — but reinvent the relationship, to attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans, not only in The Lone Ranger, but the way Indians were treated throughout history of cinema, and turn it on its head.”
If this horrific image is “an attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans…and turn it on it’s head”, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.
He looks like they just took the Captain Jack Sparrow costume and removed the pirate hat, put a bird on it, and added some menacing facepaint.Or wait, they already did that:
The Tonto costume is a mish-mash of stereotypical Indian garb, a Plains-style breastplate with a southwest-style headband (minus the effing bird), random feathers and beads–but the face paint that makes him look evil, forlorn, and angry all at once is a nice touch. Then, the fact that the publicity photo shows the “wild” and “unruly” (ok, I’ll say it, “savage”) Tonto behind the clean, polished, (and white) Lone Ranger is a great “honoring” to Native people too, and shows how much agency Tonto has, right? (/sarcasm)
You guys, I’m pissed off. Like for real. I had a teensy-tiny bit of hope that this wouldn’t be another othering-stereotype-filled-horror, but clearly I was so wrong. This movie has a budget of like $215 million. That big of a budget, and you couldn’t have hired a Native consultant, or shoot–even asked a Native person from the community you’re purporting to represent (Tonto’s Apache, right?) what the character should look like?
Yeah, I know this is *fiction* I know it’s not supposed to be *real*–but 99% of audiences aren’t able to separate images like this on the screen from real, live, Native peoples. History and every other stereotypical hollywood portrayal has taught us that.
But if the movie comes out and I am totally, totally wrong. I’m prepared to eat crow. Starting with that hideous one on Johnny’s head.
Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer as Tonto and The Lone Ranger — FIRST LOOK
Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp wants ‘The Lone Ranger’ to back off Tonto: ‘Why is the f–––ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?’
UPDATE: here are the other blog posts in my “Tonto series”
3/16/2012: Why Tonto Matters
7/16/2012: Real Indians Don’t Care About Tonto