July 09, 2013

Tonto = Captain Jack Sparrow

More reviews and analyses of The Lone Ranger--focusing even more on Tonto and its other racial problems:

‘The Lone Ranger’ Is an Epic Train Wreck

By Anne HornadayA draggy reboot of the franchise Western that started as a radio series before it became a movie serial and then a hit TV show, this mishmash of styles, genres and tonal shifts makes for a dizzying pastiche best described in terms of the many movies it references throughout its nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time, from Little Big Man, Buster Keaton’s The General and the Monument Valley-set canon of John Ford to Dead Man, Rango and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Those last three, of course, starred Depp himself. And it turns out that The Lone Ranger may best be understood and appreciated as one long, baggy homage to Depp, who addresses the myriad personae that have made him the world’s biggest movie star, especially the tattooed, bejeweled bohemian primitive that defines his off-screen look as well as the punched-up version when he plays Jack Sparrow.

As Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s perennially stoic and monosyllabic sidekick, Depp both challenges and indulges in the caricatures that made Jay Silverheels’ TV character such a lightning rod for Native American outrage. Depp plays Tonto as a sly, sarcastic spirit warrior, continually mugging and making with subtle put-downs of his earnest but dim crime-fighting partner. But his guttural pidgin English, elaborate war paint and the ridiculous dead crow he wears as a headdress suggest that, for all his desire to give Tonto the dimension and dignity he was robbed of for decades, Depp owes his own dubious debt to the Noble Savage stereotype he claims to critique.
Movie review: Wild, wild mess

By Chris WilliamsDepp's Tonto is basically Jack Sparrow with less drunken poetry and more racist subtext. Initially, it appears that this Tonto is going to be a skilled warrior, but it's soon revealed he's an outcast from his tribe, thought to have a screw loose as he talks in halting, stereotypical speech, feeds a dead crow on top of his head and tries to make trades with everyone. Only when he shuts up and Depp has the opportunity to display his talent for physical comedy does he earn a chuckle; for the rest of the movie he's either doing wide-eyed double takes or setting race-relations with Native Americans back 100 years. There was a time when Depp was one of our most respected actors, but lately he surrounds himself with directors he feel comfortable with, and that insulation makes his formerly lovable tics feel stale.The Lone Ranger

By Ilan Preskovsky[T]hen there is the Tonto problem. The film has a number of notable actors providing solid, if undistinguished, support throughout but the film's main "actor in a supporting role" is obviously Captain Jack Sparrow. Tonto, you see, isn't played by the amazingly versatile Johnny Depp who, over his three decades in the business has amassed at least a dozen truly spectacular performances, which have in turn established him as one of the very finest actors of his generation.

No, he's played by Captain Jack Sparrow who may have been a breath of anarchic fresh air in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film but wore out his welcome within minutes of turning up in its first sequel. You can paint him white, put a dead bird on his head and give him an "Injun" accent but, make no mistake, this is Captain Jack doing his best to further wreck the reputation of the man we once knew as Johnny Depp.
Johnny Depp’s Tonto Isn’t Offensive, Just Weird, Says the Director of the American Indian Museum

By Kevin GoverMr. Depp chose to have his Tonto speak in a rather solemn baritone that is too reminiscent of Tonto as played by Jay Silverheels in the television series. Though Mr. Depp’s Tonto engages in complex dialogue at times, he inexplicably reverts to Pidgin English at other times. It was unnecessary and rather annoying.

And there are problems with many of commercial accoutrements to the film. The “Lego Lone Ranger Comanche Camp” includes a Tonto figure, a canoe, and a “scorpion launcher.” Children are unlikely to discern that real Comanche villages had none of these. Also troubling is the Tonto costume for boys. Though the film makes clear that Tonto is eccentric and does not dress like most Comanches, a child will not likely understand. These are not trivial matters, and I hope that Disney will stop this sort of thing. Children get very little accurate information about Indians in their formal educations, and Indian people seem always to be fighting a wearying battle against lies and stereotypes in the popular culture.
Tonto: A Misguided Friend of the Indian

By Chris EyreJohnny Depp's "Tonto" resembles nothing that is Native American in reality, not his talk, not his crow on his head, not his face paint or his Potawatomi language "Kemosabe," spoken by a fictional Comanche character. Depp's Tonto is an entertaining farce. It's an idea audiences world-wide own through Hollywood invention and appropriation. The Lone Ranger's storyline, its characters and its ideas are not based in historical fact or related to Native America or its contemporary progressive people. Period.In 'Lone Ranger' Times, There Were No Female Indians. Wait, What?

By Nancy Marie MithloIf you want to move the dialogue on race forward, even and especially in the entertainment industry, you’ve got to include women–behind the scenes and on camera. For all of his apparent good will to erase stereotypes, Mr. Depp is not the individual who can change centuries of bias, hate and discrimination. In fact, no one man can accomplish this, but I’m pretty confident a Native woman could. Why? Because the male warrior in conflict with Western civilization simply supports the values he apparently challenges. But that’s another article.Comment:  Oops! Critics are blue-faced and Disney is red-faced because Depp is white-faced in The Lone Ranger.

Maybe Johnny Depp misheard Disney. When they said they wanted another Sparrow, he thought they meant a bird on his head.

For more on Johnny Depp and Tonto, see Ilsa in a Bird Hat, Depp Justifies Tonto's Stereotypes, and Geronimo in a Crow Headdress?

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