Apr 18 2013 10:45am

New Trailer For The Lone Ranger Hits Every Frontier Adventure Button Possible

The Lone Ranger trailer movie Johnny Depp

A new trailer for this summer’s movie adaptation of The Lone Ranger has debuted, outlining the general story for the new Johnny Depp vehicle. Take a look.

So far it looks like the movie ticks off nearly every frontier adventure story device box, from the well-armed saloon owner with the heart of gold, to the intrigue surrounding the construction of new railroads, to fights on top of said railcars, and more. Also? Explosions. So many of them!

We have a theory. It will turn out that Tonto has been dead the whole time. Just like us.

Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Stubby hopes that there’s a post-credits scene where Jim West and Artemus Gordon team-up with the Lone Ranger.

Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
& we're still supposed to be okay with a white guy playing Tonto?
2. RobertX
I will not see this. I like Depp but sorry, he is no Tonto. What were they thinking?!
3. LarryB
Q: & we're still supposed to be okay with a white guy playing Tonto?

A: In many of the early radio broadcasts, the Ranger calls Tonto "Kemo Sabe" and Tonto also calls the Ranger "Kemo Sabe."A scholar from the University of California at Berkley says that Kemo Sabe came from the Yavapai, a dialect spoken in Arizona and meant "one who is white,"

4. John C. Bunnell
I'm okay with seeing -- and in fact, have seen -- a black guy playing a Roman emperor (Denzel Washington, some years ago now, headlining a Broadway production of Julius Caesar). I've also seen a fascinating race-reversed staging of Othello (a few years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). I have not seen the film in which Helen Mirren plays "Prospera" in a version of The Tempest, but it's on my list.

All those being okay, I have no problem with Depp having been cast as Tonto.
5. Kemo Sabe
Ok if Iron Man can be a dude playing a dude pretending to be another dude who is black than Caption Jack can be a dude playing a dude pretending to be another dude who is Native American .....RIGHT?
6. xaaronx
I might be okay with Depp if he was actually playing a Native American rather than an insulting parody of one.

Here's a link for those who haven't read about this previously:
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
4. John C. Bunnell

Explicit gender & race flips are another thing entirely. & in fact underly the fact that the vast lionshare of roles are written for white men; the fact that they have to be flipped in order to provide roles for people who aren't white men is part of the point, often. Which is a major factor in the outcry when a white person is cast to play, for instance, a Native American.

In a world without an asymetrical context, the issue might be different. We do not, alas, live in that world. We live in a world where "straight white male" as the default is overwhelmingly the standard of our media complex.

5. Kemo Sabe

Tropic Thunder, of course, was satire, which is a horse of a different color. Not that, I should note, I think it worked or was a good idea, even in satire. But pointing to a think satirizing this exact sort of thing as an example of this sort of missing the point.

3. LarryB

I'm not particularly moved by attempts to justify it, especially not from obscure sources. That said, I'm guessing that the movie probably reveals Tonto to be like, 1/32 Native American Pinkerton working undercover or something like that...& I'm also not interested in that. They wrote the story; writing a story where the famous Native American is a white guy isn't all that better.
Mahesh Banavar
8. maheshkb
The first part looked a lot like a Jonah Hex remake.
Chris Nelly
9. Aeryl
@4, Putting POCs into the multitude of traditionally white roles is a completely different thing than putting a white person in one of the few iconic roles for POCs.

One is an attempt to expand minority representation in fiction(which is good), one marginalizes minority representation in fiction(which is bad).
10. Kemo Sabe
Is J D to white for you to play an Apache or is he to much Cherokee to be an Apache?
11. John C. Bunnell
Note that I said I didn't have a problem with Depp being cast as Tonto. I haven't commented on his actual portrayal (having seen only the above trailer), and don't intend to do so unless and until I've seen the film itself.

That's at some variance from the post to which you linked: Adrienne K.'s commentary is properly an indictment not of Depp's portrayal -- which she hasn't seen, any more than I have -- but of an artist on whose work Depp and the filmmakers drew to create his makeup.

Now as a criticism of Kirby Sattler's art, the post is decently reasoned. It establishes at some length that Mr. Sattler's work is not particularly accurate in any specific historical context -- which amuses me in that Mr. Sattler openly acknowledges this same point in one sentence.

Where Adrienne K. and I part company is that she evidently thinks that viewers of The Lone Ranger will consider the movie a reliable historical documentary (which it clearly isn't) as opposed to an over-the-top genre Western movie about pulp adventure heroes (which it obviously is).

I am very fond of a much older Western film, The Hallelujah Trail, whose treatment of Indian characters was quite egregiously stereotypical. It's a funny, very well done movie -- but I recognize the stereotypes for what they are, and I don't confuse them with historical reality. So I will reserve judgment on the upcoming Lone Ranger till I've seen the movie, and we'll see how Depp's actual performance holds up in the context of the LR mythology.
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
Depp may have Native heritage, but he did not grow up with Native people. Most people in the state of Kentucky(*raises hand*), Depp's home state, have Native heritage, that doesn't give us the right to appropriate Native symbols as our own.

Tonto was a racist cariacature in the first place. To repair that cultural damage, and effort could have been made to portray Tonto better, by a Native American actor. Instead, he's been given the Depp treatment(wild hair, wild make up and tics), by a man who has been able to coast his whole life on his white privilege, regardless of how much Native heritage he has. That's wrong, and we are still seriously debating this in the year 2013?
13. John C. Bunnell
I think you've debated yourself into a corner here. How does one go about portraying Tonto "better" while still making a movie that's reasonably faithful to the Lone Ranger's equally iconic film and TV heritage? I'd submit that any LR movie that would actually satisfy politically sensitive Indian/Native commentators would alter the Lone Ranger mythology to a point that it wouldn't be a Lone Ranger movie any more.

Pulp adventure is not history. History is not and was not pulp adventure. And I think audiences are smart enough nowadays that they are unlikely to confuse the two.
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
Well, this movie looks like it's attempting to subvert that by making Tonto very competent, and seems to be portraying LR as this white savior/ bumbling idiot. That was Depp's intention in producing the movie, to help the NA guy be the hero. The only way that works as subversive though, is by having Tonto be a Native American.

Nobody is asking that pulp adventure portray history accurately. All that is being asked is that, until there is equitable representation of marginalized people in our media and culture, to not take away the few representations they do get. Depp's performance is the modern day equivalence of blackface.
James Whitehead
15. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@14Aeryl, how about we have two competent characters to work well together & need each other to succeed? Crazy I know, but having the 'hero' be the fool is hardly a stretch - hell! it has been done by Inspector Gadget for goodness sakes. ;-)

I never watched the Lone Ranger films/shows much as a kid so I don't know the 'history' of the show. I did watch the cartoon back in the day & thought Tonto was rather cool and able to hold his own. 'course that's a long time ago, so who knows.

That said, I like Johnny Depp as an actor & all but given the success of movies such as "Dances with Wolves," "Maverick," and "The Last of the Mohicans" you think someone would have had the 'lightbulb moment' that they could cast, you know, an actual American Indian.

If you wanted Depp's name added to the film for marketability, make him the Lone Ranger; his off-base acting style could have been used to 'subvert' the 'history' rather well. And you'd have a potentially new action star of American Indian heritage ready to steal lots of scenes.

Chris Nelly
16. Aeryl
Well Depp produced the film, and he specifically wanted to play Tonto, because of his "Native American heritage". So there's that. :^)

And two competent heroes? Where's the fun in that?
James Whitehead
17. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@16Aeryl, that I had forgotten about that; regarding his 'heritage.'

Ok, ok, that might be asking too much to have a movie with two competent heroes. Tonto would probably keep saying "I'm getting too old for this @#$#!"

Guess I'm influenced a little too much by the Bill cosby routine about listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio - ("Don't go to town, Tonto!" "Tonto, go to town." "You go to hell, Kemosabe!")

18. Alright Then
Apparently the Comanche have no problem with Depp.
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
The fact that one Native tribe has no problem with it does not make what Depp is doing acceptable.

People who belong to marginalized populations have a lot of varied and complex reasons for playing along with their own marginalizations, most of those having to do with the fact that this doesn't happen in a void, and they imbibe the same cultural garbage that we do. There are likely a lot of material benefits for the Comanche to do that, and I don't begrudge them that. But trotting that argument out is like saying, "Well, I'm married, and my wife says women are crazy bitches, so I can say that women are crazy bitches!"

Or to use a more recent examples, just because LL Cool J doesn't have a problem with the Confederate flag, doesn't mean there isn't still a problem with the Confederate flag.
20. wizard clip
I'm not sure what the ultimate solution to the "Tonto problem" is, but in this specific case, it's almost certainly Depp's involvement that got this movie greenlit in the first place. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.....

The larger question, I think, is why aren't Indian actors more regularly cast as, you know, regular human beings? Outside of Westerns and other historical dramas, Indians are rarely seen on the screen. Black actors and Asian actors have made progress in this area, so why can't we have an Indian actor portray a character other than a sidekick, noble savage, innocent primitive led astray by corrupt white men, or wise old sage whose every appearance is accompanied by that damnable ethereal flute music?
21. Alright Then
Better to let the Comanche speak for themselves. There's nothing more empowering than someone being heard with their own voice, rather than those self-appointed people who feel they must come to rescue them from their own perceptions.

As a Cherokee, I find that more offensive.
Chris Nelly
22. Aeryl
Because Native American tribes in the US and Canada are the most oppressed class. Native American children have the lowest life expectancy, lowest education levels, lowest access to affordable health care, they are the highest percentages living in poverty.

Black and Asian actors have made some progress in this area, but that's because they have white people advocating for them, and creators are starting to make a dedicated effort to correct this problem.

Not so with Native Americans. In addition, there is a lot of pressure on Native tribes to not make waves about this stuff, because it could jeopardize what gains they have been able to make. And there exists a lot of casual marginalization of Native peoples that perpetuates this problem, like every college age white girl who thinks "Indian" is a great Halloween costume. And as soon as they begin objecting, along comes the anti-"PC" crowd to explain why it's "OK", or "ironic", or "honoring your people" which all really boils fown to "Stop making me feel bad about liking problematic things".

@21, Again, I said I have no problem with what the Comanche are doing, it is their business. But it is also NO defense of Depp's actions here, no matter how much you may like to be.
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
12. Aeryl
Tonto was a racist cariacature in the first place. To repair that cultural damage, and effort could have been made to portray Tontobetter, by a Native American actor.

13. John C. Bunnell

If your statement is that the Lone Ranger is too racist to be made into a movie that isn't racist then...well, then okay? Maybe you shouldn't make a racist Lone Ranger movie?

20. wizard clip

Right on.
Brent Longstaff
24. Brentus
As @20 pointed out, it's probably true that Johnny Depp wasn't an optional casting choice for this movie to get made. A more progressively-minded rendition of the Lone Ranger would certainly have used an actual Native American actor, but it looks like they were going for "Jack Sparrow in a western" instead of that. It's like Argo, where they missed an opportunity to use an actor of the correct race. The best you can say was that they weren't actively discriminating (choosing actors because they are white), since the motivation for Affleck was to play the role himself and here it's to be a spiritual spin off of the Pirates movies. But any responsibility Hollywood has to bring about change is certainly not being fulfilled either.
25. John C. Bunnell
This may end up being a couple of posts, in the interests of keeping the length manageable. Specific responses first:

You've made a number of statements in the course of this discussion that I'm finding difficult to reconcile. You argue that the Tonto character was (and has always been) "a racist caricature in the first place" (#12), yet you don't want that character "taken away" from the culture(s) you say it maligns (#14). I can't follow that combination of premises to anything resembling a reasonable-sounding conclusion. You also make considerable reference to "marginalized populations" (#14, #19, implicitly in #22); at the same time, you state in #12 that "most people in the state of Kentucky, Depp's home state, have Native heritage", yet that "he did not grow up with Native people". I don't think you can have this both ways, at least not as the statements are formulated. I have a fair idea of what you meant, but it's not what you said (and having said that, I defer further analysis in that direction).

Well, no, that's not my statement; rather, it fuses elements of my comments with elements of Aeryl's (in particular, none of my prior comments so much as mention issues of racism). I think it's entirely possible to make a Lone Ranger movie that (a) is a decent pulp adventure, and (b) avoids portrayals of Indian/Native characters that would be offensive to general audiences. But I suspect Aeryl disagrees with me about that, and that making a commercially viable Lone Ranger movie she'd approve of probably isn't possible.

More generally, I'd reiterate that it is not possible as yet to judge the quality or appropriateness of Depp's portrayal of Tonto, because (so far as I'm aware) none of us have actually seen the complete film. On that point, we'll have to wait and see.

And that looks like a good place to pause between rocks....
26. John C. Bunnell
As for the proposition that the role of Tonto (or any other Indian/Native character) must necessarily be played by an Indian/Native actor in order to maintain cultural integrity -- I continue to disagree.

Here's why. An actor's job, by definition, is to assimilate the qualities of the character he or she has been assigned and to convey the essence of that character to an audience. Both aspects of that task are equally important: understanding the role, and getting the character across to the viewer.

Obviously, this means that an actor who belongs to a given culture will have an easier time of playing a character whose origins are in that same culture. But by the same token, that actor may find it very difficult to get the nuances of the character across to viewers unfamiliar with that culture, precisely because that job involves communicating across cultural lines -- something that's not easy even in one's own persona, let alone while playing a fictional character.

So it seems to me that from an actor's and director's perspective, there may be an advantage to casting across ethnic lines -- because if (for example) a Caucasian actor successfully and honestly immerses himself in an Indian/Native role, he may have a better chance of conveying the nuances of that character's identity to other Caucasians than a Native actor might, because he has more in common with that audience than the Native actor does.

This obviously doesn't address the legitimate but separate issue of finding quality work for minority actors (which isn't helped by the fact that, as is the case with genre writers, the pool of actors looking for living-wage work is very large while the pool of living-wage acting jobs is very small). The one observation I'd make is that the theatrical stage community is arguably ahead of Hollywood on this front; I'm thinking in particular of a locally mounted musical, Ghosts of Celilo, produced a couple of years ago here in Portland and featuring a largely Native cast, and of the stage version of Kurosawa's Throne of Blood presented in 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (and subsequently in New York) with an Asian cast.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
Have you never heard of reclaimation? Where people take a term or idea that has been used to marginalize them, and instead embrace it in an attempt to turn it around? Feminists have attempted to do this with the word "slut" to some degree of success.

So yes, it is entirely possible to do a pulp adventure that inverts that racist cariacature, if you have any imaginiation. I can think of a few ways, like portraying LR as a bumbling idiot while Tonto is the one that saves the day, and then all of that is lampshaded by the fact that LR gets all the credit. From all I've read about this film, that is exactly what it intends to do. Where this send up fails, is by denying Native American actors the opportunity to embody this reclaimation.

Depp may feel his Native American lineage(that's the word I meant to use earlier, you are correct in that) qualifies him, but I've read a bunch of ink by Native American advocates and activists on the issue of white people with Native lineage who have no lived Native experience who try to appropriate a Native heritage, and trust me, it's a problem.
28. wizard clip
As Brentus points out above, Depp is clearly going for the Jack Sparrow vibe here.

I think it's worth noting that Tonto has, in fact, been played by actual Indian actors in the past. We have Michael Horse in the largely forgotten early 80s "Legend of the Lone Ranger," and, most famously, Jay Silverheels in the 50s series. Many admire Silverheels' characterization (the cringe-inducing broken english dialect he was forced to employ notwithstanding). His Tonto was always extremely competent and indispensable to the Lone Ranger's crusade. I think there's even an argument to be made that he was at times able to subvert stereotypes by playing on assumptions about Indians as a way of gathering intelligence.

I wonder if others here are familiar with recent comic book versions of these characters. The Joe Lansdale-Tim Truman comics of the late 90s confronted some of the very issues brouht up here (and, incidentally, gave Rush Limbaugh coniption fits, which is always a good thing). There's also the current series published by Dynamite Comics.

The number one question I have about this movie--and the concern that trumps everything else--is, where the hell is the William Tell Overture?
30. iceman1
'Tbe Lone Ranger' looks awecome. It is also one of the more original films being shown during the summer that features a lot of sequels and 'sure things' (whatever they are). Unlike the awful 'Wild Wild West' (with Will Smith and Kevin Kline), 'The Lone Ranger' looks and feels like a fun and exciting movie that not only features a very likeable lead with Johnny Depp, but also another likeable actor in Armie Hammer. Can't wait to see this.

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