February 13, 2011

Marty Two Bulls on Johnny Depp



Comment:  This is about how I feel about Depp's playing Tonto. How do we know his performance won't be a farce like his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow? How is having a non-Indian with a bit of Indian blood better than having a bona fide Native actor? Why should we settle for a "salute" when we could have the real thing?

For more on the subject, see New Approach to the Lone Ranger? and Depp Goes Native for Tonto.

7 comments:

Jaine said...

agreed, especially when there are really talented young Indian men who would be great in the role.

Rob, I'm sorry to put this next bit here, but I'm not sure where else to put it. I've only recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading it. I was just reading the page about Fighting Sioux vs Fighting Irish (as a non-American, it's all news to me). I agree with your stance on Indian mascots. I just want to correct a point you made about the Irish Famine. The famine was triggered by a potato blight, the Irish would have been okay if the English had stopped exporting other Irish grown food (under guard) for British profits. They had done this in 1790 famine but put the ledgers first and did not in 1840s. There were many famines in Ireland due to English exploitation. The Great Hunger was the worst but not the first or the last. Afterwards England went into political spin and blamed the Irish for the famine. They also put the cap out "to help the poor Irish", many countries donated and the English took and distributed the funds as they saw fit. Three Famines (Tom Keneally) is a good book that demonstrates how the “mindsets of governments, racial preconceptions and administrative incompetence were more lethal than the initiating blights, the loss of potatoes or rice or livestock or of the grain named teff”.

Anonymous said...

Someone should put it up on Racebending. This is exactly their sort of thing.

Especially since in the 40s, Silverheels played Tonto! Given how acceptable racism was in the 40s compared to today...

Rob said...

Okay, Jaine, but you probably should e-mail this type of comment to me. It doesn't belong here.

SK said...

I think Depp could DO it - Jack Sparrow to the contrary, he's done serious roles and he's done them well. (And don't think I didn't notice the gay-bashing in the cartoon, either.) I think he could take Tonto in some very, very *strange* directions, and it would be all the better for it.

HOWEVER, I would still rather have somebody with stronger ties to his heritage in a role that depends so much on tribal identity. Depp isn't billed as an Indian actor, and doesn't have ties to the Cherokee community as far as I know. The role requires Tonto to be Indian for the story to work at all, so I would think it best to have somebody whose tribal affiliation is obvious in all possible ways.

I'm not addressing Depp's genealogy or appearance in its own right because I've worked on some tribal genealogy and trust me, it ain't pretty any way you look at it. He could be unenrolled Cherokee, enrolled Cherokee, or descended from a ~legendary Cherokee princess~ for all I know. He could even be enrolled Cherokee if he were blond and blue-eyed, since at least one nation doesn't do blood quantum.

Jaine said...

yes, sorry, I couldn't find the email address

Jilvsgi said...

I thought Johnny Depp had always claimed his heritage, and as far as I've always read he is very aware of his Cherokee ancestors. No, he doesn't bill himself as an Indian actor, but he doesn't deny his ancestry either.

When I watched him in "Dead Man" he played a white guy. I had a hard time believing that actually and kept wanting him to turn to Gary Farmer's character and say something like, okay I'm really a Native, let's get out of here!

Rob said...

Your comments about Depp's heritage are more or less correct, Jilvsgi. I'd say that qualifies him to play a "mixed-blood" character who's vaguely aware of his roots. It doesn't qualify him to play Tonto, who's presumably a full-blooded Apache from the Texas area.

Do you have trouble distinguishing Depp from a recognized Indian actor like Wes Studi or Jay Silverheels? I don't. I think Depp looks about as Indian as anyone with 1/8 Indian blood.

In short, I agree with SK.