Armie Hammer apparently talked to some Natives who love Lone Ranger

April 24, 2013 — 19 Comments

 armie hammer

Oh Armie Hammer. The guy who played twins in the Social Network, the guy who’s name sounds like baking soda. Now he’s playing the Lone Ranger opposite our good friend Johnny Depp as Tonto, and recently he said in an interview about the movie that all the Natives he talked to were SO SUPER STOKED that the film was being made. Guys, that’s the movie equivalent of “but I have a black friend!”

Tonto recap, if you haven’t been following along. My posts are here: my initial reactions, why you should care about Tonto when there are “bigger issues” out there, tearing apart Depp’s reasoning over his costume choices, and finally the controversy I dealt with for writing about Tonto.

So back to Armie. Here’s his quote in the LA times, defending the casting of Tonto, saying there were plenty Natives he talked to who loved it, and only white people were upset:

“They were nothing but excited about it. They loved it — they’re thrilled. It’s so funny, because every Native American we talked to was like, ‘This is awesome! I’m so excited.’ And every white person we talked to was like, ‘How dare you cast a non-Native American?’ It’s like, the white people are the one who have the problem, but the Indians — the Native Americans — are like, ‘This is great. We love it.’”

A few things.

So. The casting of a non-Native thing has kinda gone by the wayside for me. While I was initially super mad that they cast JD and didn’t give the role to a Native person (blah blah Johnny has Indian heritage blah blah he was adopted by the Comanche Naiton–Not the point right now. That doesn’t excuse anything.), the more that has come out about the film, the more I’m glad that a Native actor isn’t embroiled in this mess. So Armie, the casting is only part of the issue. The bigger issue is the mountain of stereotypes Depp’s portrayal of Tonto represents–from his hot mess of a costume with a freaking dead crow on his head, to the horrible stereotypical mystical warrior BS that we can see in the trailers, to the ridiculous and demeaning use of Tonto-speak broken English that has haunted Native communities since the first spaghetti westerns.

Also, let’s put this in perspective. You know how contemporary Natives are completely and totally invisible to the vast majority of the world? You know how we get ignored by all areas of mainstream media unless we’re doing something wrong or playing into stereotypes? Well let’s say one day a big fancy production company and really famous actors that we only see in the movies roll into our Rez and say they want to make a movie–and we can be extras in the background! and we can get paid! and our kids will be able to eat because of this movie!

Of course you’re going to say it’s awesome. Because it is. For a moment your community isn’t invisible, you’re going to be on the big screen with all those fancy white guys that get to walk around on red carpets all day. And most importantly, in a community struggling poverty and unemployment, you’ve got a job.

I’m not hating on these folks. Do I wish we lived in a society where Natives were more visible and it wasn’t such a freaking novelty that someone wants to make a movie with us? Do I wish we the resources and publicity to get the same amount of attention on our own media? Do I wish that we had other economic ventures on our reservations that could provide jobs without having to become a Hollywood stereotype? yes, yes, and yes. I think we deserve much more.

But back to Armie’s comments. The second part really bothered me as well–that only “white people” were complaining about the movie. I’m sorry dude, but I know PLENTY of Indians that are not happy with this film. Circling back to our invisibility, just because the white voices are louder and get more publicity, doesn’t mean that we aren’t pissed off too. And I’m sorry, if “every white person” you talked to had an issue with the film, you might want to listen. Additionally, if the only Indians that you talked to were the ones getting paid by your film or from the reservation benefitting economically from your film’s presence, you might want to rethink your sampling method there. The comment also just feels so patronizing–”but the Indians love it!”–and invited a host of comments on the LA times and others about the “whiny, overly sensitive, hyper ‘PC’” culture we live in. Which is nothing new, but still no fun.

This film is going to be a mess. There’s no two ways about it. Every picture that has been released, every trailer where we hear more of JD’s horrible Indian-pirate-I-don’t-even-know-what accent, I roll my eyes even harder. They’re clearly realizing that this was maybe not the best idea, given JD’s sudden interest in Indian Country and Indian causes, and all these super defensive comments coming out. I feel like they’re on a damage control tour.

So in conclusion:

Hey Armie Hammer–I’m an Indian, and I’m mad about this film. I think Depp’s choices around Tonto’s costuming and speech are demeaning, stereotypical, and set us back a bunch of years in the small gains we’ve made in Hollywood. I don’t feel “honored” that Johnny has decided to make Tonto less of a sidekick and more of a main character. I don’t appreciate that Native protest against this film has been all but ignored. I’m glad you chatted with some Indians, but I’d encourage you to chat with a few more. Because I can promise you not all of us are “thrilled” about the Lone Ranger.

LA Times: Native Americans on Set ‘Loved’ Lone Ranger

 

AK note: Thanks for all of your love and concern over the last week, it was so nice to feel love from all over the US and world. As you may remember from my last post about Boston, I live in Watertown–so things were a little tense here, to say the least. My apartment was outside the perimeter where the search was occurring  but not by much. I’m sure I have plenty more processing to do about the experience of being on lock down with a terrorist up the street, but right now I’m happy for a return to normalcy, and thankful for all of the (thousands and thousands of) law enforcement officials who kept us safe.  

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • rightojibwe

    Thank you a great post. Yes, I would be happy as well to hang with some of the big wigs, be part of something big. In the end though you are right. Not only about having role in film but in life in general. Why is it a big deal to see an Indian on a city worker crew or on the film set? Because it is out of the ordinary. Indians in society are unseen except for when you want to focus on the negative or the social ills. Then we are front and center. Want a shot of people being fed at the soup kitchen, well there’s an Indian. Generally we are ignorant of the lives of other people and what is important to them. Not being seen in a vacuum of time (whether the view is distorted or real) and seen as a people that exist today is something most don’t comprehend. Still I love to see Indians in film. Even glimpses of them. There will be always someone playing the role of Indian, Chinese, East Indian, Russian, and Black in the movies, regardless of their own background. I guess it is part of the industry. On another note, Slum Dog Millionaire a great movie, various aspects of life in there. I don’t really know how that was received by their community, but it was entertaining. You think? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/angela.noenbrige Angela Jumbo-Wild Semple

    glad to see you that you haven’t let them get your spirit and that you’re still posting about Tonto. -from one “real indian” to another.

  • kittylu

    I agree. I saw that stupid trailer with that stupid accent and his overdone makeup. He would have done much better toning it down. A tan would have been good enough. In the trailers the focus is on the white people and Tonto still seems very peripheral to the central story. Disney tends to smarm up everything and maybe Johnny is trying to runout his contract.

  • FX

    You know, I’m so sick of people yelling about the people who are offended because they’re too scared or ignorant to say anything to the offending party.

  • TN

    P.S. Armie Hammer is the heir to the Arm and Hammer franchise.

    • EGfromIA

      Well, there is kind of a connection, anyway. Armie is one of the great-grandchildren of the late Armand Hammer, a businessman whose best-known enterprise was Occidental Petroleum. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda was around well before he was, and was the principal business of a company called Church & Dwight. Armand Hammer owned some stock in Church & Dwight later on. I remember an interview show with him years ago, maybe 60 minutes, and he said he really wanted to buy the whole company because of the name connection, but the majority owners didn’t want to sell. His story is rather interesting because of his extensive ties to the Soviet Union; he lived there from 1921 to 1930. His Wikipedia entry has some of the facts and some good references.

      • Brian

        And that is why business relationships based on puns are bad ideas.

  • EGfromIA

    Great post as always Adrienne. I’ve really missed you not posting for a while, but I do realize that you have a life! ;) Just yesterday, a friend on Facebook made a post about schools using “Indian mascots” — it wasn’t really pro or con, just a question related to it and asking what people thought. I told her and linked to one of your pieces about FSU, saying that you could put it far better than I ever could. She commented back telling me what great links they were. I’m pretty sure a lot of other people saw that because she has quite a few FB friends, but so far, I’m the only one that shows up in that thread. Anyway, glad to hear you are doing OK and I look forward to your next post.

  • http://krowface.com/ Jason Thompson

    As a Native American, I’m offended that you’re offended.

    Now what?

    • Brian

      Well, you could give some actual reasons for it, and explain yourself as she did. Or you could just be a whiny jerk, that works, too.

      • http://krowface.com/ Jason Thompson

        Yeah I could but unfortunately I’m too busy making frybread to feed my kids. I don’t have time to write a toss of a blog entry because I was offended by something that really doesn’t matter.

        • Brian

          But you do have time to come and complain about it on Internet. So since your ‘offense’ doesn’t matter to you and you don’t think it’s worth defending, it can be dismissed out of hand. The author of this post thinks cultural appropriation and use of harmful stereotypes in major films is offensive and should not be done, and has taken the time to explain her reasons for that, and therefore criticism of it should amount to more than a snarky one-liner if it’s to be taken seriously. And fry bread takes like fifteen minutes.

    • FOREST RANGER

      Oh…criticism can be a good thing sometimes. Especially when it’s things like this by a skeptical Native American who has studied in college ^_^

  • http://www.facebook.com/angela.wood.165 Angela Wood

    Personally, I am looking forward to being entertained by my fav. actor.

  • Brian

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on Brett Matthews’ comic book adaptation of The Lone Ranger, which took great pains to use Tonto in a way that was accurate to the older versions, but not offensive and stupid. In order to make him a ‘loner’, he was depicted as an outcast from his tribe, dwelling on the bottom rung of society. As a result, he was stripped of his stereotypes and became a more rounded character, but also lost a lot of his cultural identity. Anyway, there’s collections available, and I’d love to read your take on it.

  • FOREST RANGER

    I personally find it weary that the film associates Monument Valley with cowboys and Indians. Now I’d love to hear some opinions from the local residents and other people of the Navajo Nation about this film.

    Anyway, awesome criticism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.kuiper Jonathan Kuiper

    I am so not pc in any way shape or form and when I saw the trailer I was ashamed and baffled. I have only recently really started to understand the crimes and scope of horrors that were committed against Native Americans. I’m not sure what I am going to do about yet, but the way my blood is boiling has to be put to some good use. Thanks for your insight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamkhouse Pam House

    At least JD wasn’t talking like “Cap’n Jack” . . .

  • Juniper

    I’ve spent a moment reading your website. I was somewhat surprised. The difference between native americans of the US and those of South America are tremendous. One enslaved (in the US) the others did not. One threw the Africans they enslaved and exploited out of their tribes once money kicked in and their propensity to think like the white men who infiltrated their tribes kicked in. Again, the other did not.

    You seem offended over a lot. However, where is your outrage over the “offense” your people carried out against other “marginalized people”? You talk about “native appropriation”. However, I’ve seen an enormous amount of appropriation among the so-called native populations of the US. I use the term loosely.

    I could get into that here, but I will refrain.

    If you want to be outraged over something that actually goes against Native values, be outraged by that. The people who nursed your children when you were too weak or dead on the trail of tears were cast from the very tribes they labored in and fought to defend.

    Your people are a DISGRACE and you have the audacity to be here whining about what next great “offense” has your panties in a ruffle.

    SHAME ON YOU. You so-called natives in the US are a disgrace to natives in the Americas. You’re just as guilty and culpable as your white counterparts.