Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto, has talked a good game about delivering a more well-rounded version of his character, known to those familiar with the story as a one-dimensional sidekick. But many Indians who saw the first trailer were disappointed to hear Tonto speaking in the stereotypical Hollywood Indian-ese. This time around, Tonto speaks to Silver, the Lone Ranger's horse.
There are moments of humor in the trailer, which is in keeping with descriptions of the film as not a typical western but instead an action-comedy buddy movie. Moreover, the roles are reversed to some extent, so that the Lone Ranger (played by Armie Hammer) is more dependent on Tonto for his survival, a touch that is also reflected in the trailer.
So while the trailer gives us more of an idea of the tenor of the film, it does raise some issues. Combining humor and cultural heritage can be risky business, particularly when it's not your own culture. (Depp claims some Native heritage, which may be true, and he was adopted into the Comanche Nation, but he would hardly claim to have lived his life as an Indian.) Are the jokes funny because they're good jokes, or are they funny because non-Indians think Indians are funny? Will the audience be laughing at the clever writing and skillful acting--or just laughing at Indians?
That remains to be seen. For now, all we have are two trailers, and this is the second one:
Depp’s Native American-speak in ‘The Lone Ranger’ trailer is pretty awkward
By Alex Moore
If you want to make someone sound Native American, you apparently just mess up some case agreements and use very few articles, like when Johnny Depp says, “There come a time when good man must wear mask.”
Look, I’m not going to come out and call the “Lone Ranger” trailer racist, but when Mickey Rooney played the Asian-American neighbor in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” always yelling at Horry Gorrrrightry you know what people called it? They called it racist. At the very least it’s super awkward.
Maybe we’re supposed to supposed to live in a new post-racial time when we don’t have to be so uptight about our differences. Which sounds great. No one cared when Fred Armisen wore a little makeup and a kinky wig to do Obama on SNL. It was kind of refreshing that it wasn’t a big deal, like a new cultural fluidity was part of what we earned in the bargain of being willing to elect a non-caucasian president. Obama’s blackness wasn’t the butt of Armisen’s joke, which made it ok.
But things are a little murkier in “The Lone Ranger” trailer. I don’t know, maybe warpaintface still feels more uncomfortable because Native Americans still live on reservations. The film actually shot at least partly on a Navajo reservation and seems to have a favorable relationship with the tribe. Still, the trailer seems a little awkward—watch below and let us know what you think.
"There come a time when good man must wear mask" is a good example. It's not extreme; he doesn't see things like "Me no like-um" or "Ugh!" But it's noticeable.
Also noticeable is how Tonto talks slowly and portentously, which is a common speech stereotype. He looks serious too. He comes across as a stoic wise man, the role usually played by an elder. There's no evidence that he smiles or laughs like a real person.
So far, Depp's description of Tonto as a "spirit warrior" sounds about right. He's doing typical supernatural stunts, like talking to animals or resurrecting the dead or dying Ranger. But he's young enough to run, jump, and ride into action. So he's an "action shaman" or "spirit warrior."
And as always, he looks silly in his Flying Nun outfit.
For more on Johnny Depp as Tonto, see Depp's Honorary Tribal Certificate and Lone Ranger Trailer and Images.
P.S. It's the second Lone Ranger trailer, not the first.