I recently went to the movies to check out the new MAN OF STEEL. I thought it was okay. Not great. Not bad. Just…okay. Before the movie got underway, there were the requisite trailers. There was a preview of the new LONE RANGER flick, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. I’ve always been disturbed by the way in which Hollywood depicts race and identity in film, but I find myself curious more so lately perhaps because I spent five years researching actors and actresses of color in the industry for my second novel. I knew Johnny Depp was catching some heat because of his rendering of Tonto. It seems the actor was fully aware of the dangerous history of the role and wanted to subvert it by portraying the Lone Ranger’s “sidekick” not as your typical run of the mill “Hollywood Indian.” He wanted to do something “different.” Except that Johnny Depp’s “different” isn’t as different as he thought. It’s more of the same BS. I mean he’s running around with a f**king dead crow on his head. And, as Gawker points out here, he based his Tonto on a white man’s painting of the character. Messed up, I thought. Let’s at least hope Depp doesn’t have the good sense to deliver his lines of dialogue in “Tonto Speak” (“Me skin them, kemosabe.”) Well, as the trailer I saw recently proves, that’s not the case. Why am I not at all surprised? I’m also not at all surprised to see the return of the Mexican “greasy bandido” (He makes his entrance at the 0:31 mark and delivers the line, “Buenas tardes, chiquitas.”). Has Hollywood learned nothing? Oh, wait…Now, to be fair, and to defend the filmmakers for a minute, I did read somewhere where someone (I don’t know who) said that, you know?, we really wanted to mess with expectations here. And that’s why the Texas Rangers in the film are, like, the bad guys and stuff. But, well, see?, if you know history the Texas Rangers REALLY WERE bad guys. They were awful. They killed innocent people. They murdered and raped and stole land. So, just like Johnny Depp, you really aren’t “confounding” expectations or subverting anything. People read something like that and think, “Oh, ok. The Texas Rangers really weren’t bad, but for the movie they HAD to depict them as the bad guys. Stupid political correctness” and then you get jackasses who think diversity is a big waste of time and “we’re already diverse.” True that, in this trailer, you can see plenty of white people doing all kinds of bad things and then there’s Helena Bonham Carter’s breasts. But they’re also doing good things, brave things (Lone Ranger himself, the great white hope who arrived to “help Tonto” fulfill his destiny. Because our destinies can’t be fulfilled otherwise.) But the one Mexican we see, the ONE, is a bandido, face dripping with grease, toting a gun, speaking in a strong Mexican accent (I wonder if he pronounces it, “Meester”). Sure, maybe filmmakers wanted to be historically accurate because there would have been Mexicans around then. But when have we known Hollywood to be particularly concerned with historical accuracy? Perhaps I’m over-reacting. But what troubles me nonetheless is this constant insistence of resorting to harmful stereotypes. After all these years. It’s just, well, maddening. Watch the trailer and tell me what you think. And if you’re as troubled as I am, boycott this pile of rubbish. Please.
Posted on June 20, 2013