Johnny Depp as Tonto: I'm still not feeling "honored"
I say all this to establish the "credibility" of Johnny Depp's source material. But Depp's descriptions of why he was so drawn to the piece are even worse. On the striped make-up representing the "separate sections of the individual":
What we have here is a case of an extreme mis-match between intent and impact. Johnny Depp might have entered this project with the noblest of intentions, hoping to "honor" his heritage, "re-invent" the role of Natives in Hollywood, give Tonto more agency and move him from his sidekick status--but he went about it in exactly the wrong way. I don't know what the right way would have been, perhaps going to talk to some Comanche community members (turns out Tonto is "full-blooded Comanche" in this version, not Apache as I had reported earlier) to ask how they would feel comfortable being portrayed on the big screen--or if they even felt comfortable at all. I know the right way would have been doing a little more research into Hollywood portrayals of Native peoples, and realizing that picking your costume from a non-Native painter who openly admits he has no regard for historical accuracy would probably be a bad idea. Many people have given Johnny a free pass because of his Native heritage, but I think that means we should hold him to a higher standard. If he is serious about honoring his ancestors and his past, he needs to realize that costuming Tonto like a fantasy Indian stereotype is not helping Native people, and his "intent" in the portrayal doesn't save him.
Johnny Depp might have thought his intent cleared him of any criticism. That we would stand back and say "well, he didn't mean to be offensive." Or "his heart was in the right place." But that logic ignores the impact of his statements and his portrayal of Tonto. Think how many policies in Indian country were done by people with "good intentions," and how all that turned out for us. The impact here is that millions of people will see this film, and they will walk away with this inaccurate and stereotyped image of American Indians burned in their brains.