Have you heard about the new The Lone Ranger movie? Chances are you have, and chances are you noticed that Johnny Depp will be playing the role of Tonto. Do you feel a little uneasy about that? Yeah, us too. The original Tonto character was created for the radio in the '30s, a time that was not necessarily known for its sensitivity to race and to cultural appropriation.
But today, a bit shy of a century later, things don't appear to have changed much — at least when it comes to this adaptation. It should also be noted that the film follows in the footsteps of an early TV series, in which producers cast Canadian Mohawk actor Jay Silverheels (his stage name, which, as Jezebel points out, allowed him to be more easily typecast for Native American roles than his real name, Harold Smith, might have done) as Tonto.
Now, we understand that one of the pillars of Spaghetti Western cinema is to purposefully rely on hackneyed stereotypes and extremely standardized characters and tropes, be they Cowboy, Indian, or bustier-clad Wench. And yet, the feeling remains. There are obviously multiple issues with this character, not to mention the fact that the Disney film will still feature the typical broken English originally written into the TV and radio scripts. Johnny Depp acknowledges this: "I started thinking about Tonto and what could be done in my own small way to… 'Eliminate' isn't possible — but reinvent the relationship, to attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans, not only in The Lone Ranger, but the way Indians were treated throughout history of cinema, and turn it on its head." It should also be noted that Depp was officially welcomed into the Comanche Nation, in addition to reports by Disney that Native American response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive.
Can a Disney movie accomplish all that? We're not sure. And while we still get a queasy feeling watching the trailer (above), we're at least glad it's being talked about, although does feel like a case of too little, much too late. But what do you think? Tell us, or better yet, tell the men in charge. At 1:00 p.m. PST (4:00 p.m. EST) today, Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer will be engaging in a live Yahoo! Q&A. Join in by sharing your questions on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #LoneRanger, then see how it plays out in the livestream below — you'd better believe we'll be watching!