Pondering the headlines, I asked the following on Twitter:
Has Johnny Depp become a real or an honorary member of the Comanche Nation? I'd say "real" if he can vote in tribal elections. Anyone know?
This led to a Facebook discussion with a couple of people:
Does Depp think the "adoption" will shield his portrayal of Tonto from criticism? Did that even enter his mind? I'd love to know the thinking behind this move, and how it came about.
Here's another take on the adoption--from writer Gyasi Ross on Facebook:
Why Can Johnny Depp Play Tonto, but Ashton Kutcher and Sacha Baron Cohen Get Slammed?
By Leslie Gornstein
—Hella Johnny, via the inbox
Indeed, Johnny Depp has been adopted as an honorary son by a member of the Comanche Nation, essentially making him a part of that group. However, you are not alone in your line of thinking; not everyone is thrilled at the new matchup, or Depp's chosen approach to his Lone Ranger character:
In fact, Depp has been fielding criticism for months about his upcoming turn as Tonto. His exaggerated Marilyn Manson face paint, the dead bird he wears on his head—none of that has sat particularly well with many Native Americans.
That said, yes, Comanche LaDonna Harris did go ahead and ceremonially adopt the 48-year-old actor in her backyard on May 16. Per tradition, Depp was given small gifts, such as pottery, to then redistribute to the people who were honoring him.
Harris, who is president of the Americans for Indian Opportunity, told me that she has no worries about Depp's portrayal of Tonto. In fact, just the opposite.
"I don't share that concern for one reason," she told this B!tch. "Tonto is a role reversal this time. He's the hero in the movie, the brains. And the sidekick is the white guy, so to speak."
I had a long discussion with someone on Facebook about Kutcher's playing a stereotypical Asian Indian. I said it was wrong for the same reasons as Depp's playing Tonto. Sacha Baron Cohen's characters are also problematical, but at least he's attempting some serious satire.
Harris's comments here are just as ridiculous as calling Depp's portrayal "historic." As I noted before, this take on Tonto is boringly unoriginal. It's noteworthy only if you're ignorant about the Lone Ranger's long history in pop culture.
Harris hasn't seen the movie, so she doesn't know if Depp's "role reversal" works. If Tonto is a stereotypical "spirit warrior," it's more of a problem if he's the main character. Tonto as the central character works only if the portrayal is free of mistakes and stereotypes, and that's in grave doubt.
Meanwhile, Harris has nothing to say about Depp's fantasy costume, which will influence perceptions regardless of anything else in the movie. So Harris is unconcerned because she doesn't know or care about the main thing that concerns everyone else. Something about an ostrich with its head in the sand comes to mind.
For more on the subject, see Depp's Intent Doesn't Excuse Stereotypes and Depp Admits Tonto Costume's Origin.