May 05, 2013

Depp's Tonto: true or false?

Here's a predictable debate on whether Johnny Depp's Tonto doesn't matter because it's "just a movie." It began with this Photoshopped image from Deep's greeting to the Gathering of Nations:

There's a good point here. Namely, if Depp thinks his crow-head portrayal is honest and respectful, why doesn't he wear a crow-head today? When he appeared in the Comanche Nation's parade, for instance. Wouldn't that have been a great way to honor the Comanches he's portraying in the movie?The crow head was a movie prop, no? Like the Capt. Jack Sparrow pirate hat? Which, come to think of it, Tonto and Sparrow being movie roles of imaginary characters, would look great with a crow on it! Sparrow? With a crow? Get it? Har har.It's a movie prop that Depp chose under the guise of giving fans a more honest and respectful portrait of Indians. If it's a pure fictional fantasy, he doesn't get to use language that implies honesty and respect.

In short, you either portray Indians respectfully, or you admit you have no respect for them and their cultures. You don't get to have it both ways.

Incidentally, a genuine pirate might legitimately be offended by Capt. Jack Sparrow, too. But there are no pirates left. Just as there are no Vikings or Trojans or Spartans to protest those sports mascots.

Tonto = truth or fiction?There are so pirates Rob! Don't be silly saying there's no pirates, off the cost of Somalia anyone, hello? To pirate is a profession, so to speak. They don't dress like Jack Sparrow anymore, but you see, that's what makes movies and plays fun--creating the depiction, the animation, the costumes, writing fantasmical story lines and characters. Imagination, dude. I'm not one for name-calling, but I think you're being a fuddydud, Rob, putting expectations of what "portrait" means in a fantasy adventure story of fictional characters. Did I emphasize *fictional? It's not a documentary, it's a fantasy. You're a writer, you do comic books, you should know this.There are no traditional pirates of the kind we're talking about. Corporate pirates, music pirates, and software pirates also don't count. Duh.

You emphasized "fictional," but I addressed that point with my comment:

It's a movie prop that Depp chose under the guise of giving fans a more honest and respectful portrait of Indians. If it's a pure fictional fantasy, he doesn't get to use language that implies honesty and respect.

Now go ahead and address my point, since repeating "fictional" doesn't do it."Of Indians" plural, Rob, c'mon, how does ONE person in ONE role give a "portrait" of... back to that plural again. People, Rob. Diverse, over thousands of miles of land in 4 directions, countless thousands of years and languages and customs, oh and "Traditional" BAH!(haha our sound effects hilarious!) WHOSE traditions buddy?? Your idea of traditional? All in one character huh? Your expectations are off. Maybe Depp did give a more honest or respectful or whatever portrayal of the Tonto character than the old Lone Ranger series it was based on. Thou doth protest too much, me thinks. You'd look cool in this hat!!Have you read a single interview about what Depp has claimed? Because you sound woefully ignorant on the subject.

Unlike you, I've read them all. Here's one of a dozen examples:

Under the New Mexico sky, 'The Lone Ranger' rides again"We were focused more on the true Native American aspect instead of interpreting this artificial version that was a mash-up of make believe and [stereotypes]," Depp said, "and that became the way they've been represented in film for 100 years or more."The true Native American aspect. Not the aspect of one Indian, the "true" aspect of Indians in general. And the way they've been represented, meaning Indians in general, again.

In other words, he's not saying that his portrayal is unique and unrepresentative, he's saying the opposite. He's claiming to give fans a more honest and respectful portrait of Indians (plural).

Stereotyping 101

Also, you're apparently ignorant about how stereotyping works. Are you aware that people learned about Indians, all Indians, from old movies? Even though these movies portrayed only one Indian or tribe of Indians at a time?

Go ahead and explain how Native stereotypes arose from these old movies. How audiences generalized from a few movie Indians to all Indians. That'll tell you how Depp's performance will do the same thing.

And if you can't or won't answer my challenge, this is a waste of my time. I'm not explaining Stereotyping 101 to someone who has never studied it.

If you want to discuss this, fine--then answer my questions. The more ignorant person doesn't get to interrogate the less ignorant person as if she knows best.Rob, there is no "true Native American aspect...of Indians in general." Too many people, people are variables, and you or anyone trying to stereotype that there's any acceptable-to-all way of depicting a people, a culture, any group, you know, 'wherever two or more are gathered' as the old saying goes. Don't be so bitter. Social change takes time, and the most uncanny things remain popular, that even fly in the face of what people seemingly stand for. Stand for at Johari's window, you know... ticket to the theater in hand, keys to the motorbike in hand... people are inconsistent, face it.We're talking about a historical reality here: the Comanche people of the late 19th century. The choices for the portrayal are 1) historically accurate or 2) historically inaccurate. That permits a broad range of interpretation, but not a fabrication of the facts. Not if you want to present Indians honestly and accurately.

There is no "true Native American aspect...of Indians in general"? No duh. That's a restatement of Depp's position, not mine. He's the one who claimed he was presenting the "true Native American aspect" in The Lone Ranger. I'm the one who said he has no business saying that.

If you think Depp's portrayal is pure fantasy, tell it to him, not me. His claim that he's giving us something "true" is the problem here. He's basically lying to audiences by promising something "true" but not delivering it.

Repeat: You either portray Indians respectfully, or you admit you have no respect for them and their cultures. You don't get to have it both ways.

Get the point yet? How many different ways do I have to explain this to you?

P.S. It's silly if not stupid to say someone's criticism is "bitter." Any "bitterness" you sense is in your imagination.

For more on Johnny Depp, see Hammer Says Indians Love Depp and Little Criticism of Depp's Tonto?!

1 comment:

Andre said...

I remember when I saw Depp in his Tonto costume I was "I hope that is a joke", sadly it isn't, he iss serious. But... you know lets say it thiss way:
When I pointed out that this red face is racist, I was often accused of being racist and discriminating against white people. Some people were actually convinced that Depp got it because he was "the best" and all that no Native could have done it ever, and that thi was supposed to be proven because supposedly none was ever in a comedy.
Do I need so say more about how fucked up all this is?