I recognize that no one cares about The Lone Ranger movie that is coming out on July 3rd because it is 2013 and who do they think they are kidding? I have not seen people less excited about a movie since 2011′s remake of Conan The Barbarian! While I understand the way in which name recognition is a valuable asset to any feature film struggling to find its place in a dwindling market, or something, I don’t know what half of the words I just wrote mean, but I’m not convinced that it can just be any name. (Also: there was one of those behind-the-scenes preview things for Lone Ranger ahead of Man of Steel last weekend and Gore Verbinski said it was very exciting because he was creating something “completely new,” which suggests to me that he is confused about what both “completely” and “new” mean.) So, you have this massive budget throwback western based off of a RADIO series from the 1930s starring “the guy from The Social Network.” Good luck! I mean it. Good luck. I wish everyone the best of luck in this world, because we are all going to need it. But can we talk about this Johnny Depp as Tonto thing? Again? I know that Armie Hammer set us all at ease when he said it was not a problem, but the more I keep seeing the trailer and now the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the more I am thinking that actually, Armie, it is for sure still a problem. LIKE. FOR REAL THOUGH? If you thought rebooting the Lone Ranger in these modern times was a weirdly antiquated idea, get a load of this STRAIGHT-UP “RED FACE” RACIST BULLSHIT! We are just going to sit around and let them get away with this? Are we for real? Johnny Depp is a good actor and I am sure he likes a challenge, but dude, TURN OFF THE POOL HEATER ONE DAY A WEEK SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THIS PROJECT. And shame on you, too, Rolling Stone. You put this on the cover of your magazine? There are almost 7 billion people on Earth and you couldn’t find a single ONE who wasn’t a racist caricature? There’s got to be ONE out there.

Do you know how hard it is, how much money and how may people and the many layers of beaurocracy one must successfully pass through in order to get any movie, much less a movie of this size, made? And at no point in that entire process did anyone suggest that perhaps, and bear with him or her on this because he or she recognizes that this is a crazy thought, but just perhaps in this day and age we DON’T dress up a white person as a non-white person because of the whole legacy of violent atrocities and institutionalized bigotry in this country? No? Just extra butter on the popcorn, huh? Extra butter on the popcorn, please, I am so excited to sit back and escape into this retrograde racist garbage nightmare wonderful world of imagination!

Comments (74)
  1. Two things, one of which flows into the other:

    1. I bet I have more Jewish ancestry than Johnny Depp has Native American ancestry.

    2. Even if I was granted Israeli citizenship, that still would not entitle me to wear a gag nose and go around pretending to complain about how expensive everything is. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, feels that his honorary citizenship in the Navajo Nation entitles him to do the redface version of what I have just described.

    • To speak to you second point, there is a difference between going around acting out ethnic stereotypes in public and portraying someone of a race other than your own as an actor in a film or what have you. It’s certainly a gray area, but I don’t see this as being THAT inappropriate in an supposedly enlightened society.

      • But I am sure there are many native american actors who would be willing to work for money playing a well-established, well-known native character.

        • Sure, but filmmakers constantly cast people outside of race. Is this really more off-base than, for example, casting Forest Whitaker to play an Ugandan dictator?

          • Yeah, because Forest Whitaker and Idi Amin are black guys.

          • The problem is that “casting people outside their race” always seems to mean “cast white people as everybody.”

          • All right, maybe I’m thinking more along the lines of nationality than race in the “Last King of Scotland” example. I guess I have faith that Depp wouldn’t take this role unless he thought he could bring some dignity to it (and yes, I realize he’s wearing a bird).

          • To expand, yeah, more than likely Forest Whitaker is an American descendant of people from West Africa while Idi Amin was a native Ugandan. However, most of the black ethnicities in the West have been collapsed into African-whateverian because of slavery (excluding recent immigrants from Africa and their families). Therefore, not as much a jump to have a black guy from the States portray Idi Amin.

          • LadyRainicorn nailed the point. When it’s just as common to cast non-white people as ethnically “white” characters, then we can play with casting white people outside races. Seems fair to me.

      • I guess my point is that even with my more recent Jewish ancestry, I’m still not Jewish and to portray myself as a member of that ethnicity (using popular anti-Semetic stereotypes) would essentially be Jew-face. Are you trying to say the fact that Disney is paying Johnny Depp millions of dollars to do essentially that more problematic? Because I could get behind that.

        • That depends. If you were an actor, would you have an ethical problem with playing a Jewish character?

          • If the character was a giant kike stereotype? Yeah, I would. Again, this is essentially what Johnny Depp seems to be doing here.

          • Fuck me, but I do seem to love the word “essentially”.

          • Fair enough. On a related note, how do you feel about “straight” actors playing LGBTQ characters, like Sean Penn as Harvey Milk?

          • Hm, that is a pickle. My thought on this falls into the gray area that Messica has described below: something like that, you can do it as long as it isn’t a stereotype. Upon further reflection, non-Jewish actors in movies like The Debt also falls into that category. That is, as long as they’re not being stereotypical.

          • The only problem is this; due to the history of Western racial relations, there is absolutely no way for an actor, particularly a white one, to portray someone of a different skin colour without it looking like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (i.e. stereotypical).

      • Well, even if we did agree, this “Tonto outfit” is pretty much the most inaccurate and stupid thing you could wear. It’s based on a painting a white guy did who chose not me be tied down with “historical accuracy” or “research” but which is sort of based on maybe this one tribe of American Indians that is completely unrelated from Tonto’s supposed tribe. So no, not at all.

        I mean, different ethnicities that share racial coding in the US being cast-able interchangeably but what can you do because at least they didn’t hire Jim Sturgess to be Korean is an ethical gray area. This is a delusional rich guy who saw a painting and thought it was rad.

  2. Counter point: the bird hat.

  3. On a related note, we still have professional sports franchises called “The Redskins” and “The Indians” and people go crazy if you suggest that, hey maybe those are ridiculously awful names for things. This Johnny Depp things is weird and off putting because it is happening in a context that we aren’t used to, but in the sports world (which is a big part of our culture) this shit is going on every single day.

    • And why is it people seem to think being racist towards the native americans is a great and awesome thing to do? I mean, this, the aforementioned sports team names, dumbasses wearing fashion war bonnets – ugh. I know there are better, smarter things to say in response to this but still, ugh.

    • There has been a growing backlash to the Redskins name lately (about a century late, but still). Unfortunately, their POS owner Dan Snyder* and the POS commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, insist on writing letters to Congress defending the “proud heritage” of the name.

      *for you non-sportsball people, all you really need to know about Snyder is that he’s besties with Tom Cruise and you can fill in the rest of his charming personality from there.

      • Also he had the brass balls to sue a journalist for defamation for calling Snyder greedy just because Snyder had been caught reselling bags of expired peanuts from a defunct airline to fans at games.

        Actually everyone should read this because it is hilarious and because Snyder, who owns a team called THE REDSKINS, would claim that the scribbley devil beard & horns picture on this article was evidence of anti-semitism. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/40063/the-cranky-redskins-fans-guide-to-dan-snyder/

      • The vehemence with which people defend racist sports mascots is astounding. A few years back when they finally got rid of the “Chief Illiniwek” University of Illinois mascot people were OUTRAGED to the point that multiple foundations were formed to try to stop it from happening. These people always insist that they’re honoring Native Americans, as though no person on earth could ever hope for a more touching tribute than a bunch of college kids cheering on a white guy in a headdress doing a “tribal” dance on a football field.

        • That’s what’s most disheartening about stuff like this–so many people get more passionate about defending offensive crap than fighting it.

        • I am baffled REGULARLY that the Redskins are still, like, ALLOWED. It’s BAFFLING, period, do not understand. However, I think Florida State pulls it off, in respect to the Seminoles. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/2005-08-23-fsu-mascot-approved_x.htm
          Like, the tribe is involved? It’s respectful? In theory, it’s not much different than having a mascot like a Trojan or a Spartan, I guess?

          Redskins though? Are we serious??? Do not understand.

        • Thank goodness. The Illini are no longer a mascot. Now, we can get back to ignoring the existence of Native Americans, and shove them further into the margins of history.

          Let’s all hope there can finally come a day when there is no mention, representation, or allusion to Indians anywhere.

  4. I had other things to say but the Kelly Clarkson shoutout made me laugh 5ever.

  5. Between this and all of the whitewashing going on (looking at you Argo/The Impossible/Star Trek Into Whiteness), I feel like Hollywood really needs to go to a racial sensitivity seminar. Can somebody call HR?

    • It makes me sad that I was pleasantly surprised that they cast Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, and not like Matt Damon or something. Because that would not have surprised me.

      In short: yes, you are very right. As a prize, you can be depressed about the state of affairs! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

      • If Idris Elba doesn’t get selected as the next Bond because something something Bond isn’t black, I am going to burn this motherfucker to the ground.

      • I remember when Neil Gaiman wrote about how movie execs were interested in adapting Anansi Boys, but wanted to make all the characters white, and that they were incredulous when he wouldn’t agree to it. Besides just being gross and racist and dumb, Anansi is a WEST AFRICAN god. How would that even work? They’d either have to make an African god a white dude and explain that somehow or basically scrap most of the story all together, in which case, why even bother with an adaptation?

        So, yes, it’s scary how I wouldn’t put Matt Damon as Nelson Mandela past them.

    • I feel this way about the late night talk show scene. Sure, E has Chelsea Lately, but I was dying to see NBC put someone other than a white guy in the Late Night slot when Jimmy Fallon left. It’s like Jess Williams on The Daily Show was joking about how she couldn’t break through the glass ceiling but all she could see above it was white penises.

      • I loved that comment, and it was a reminder that The Daily Show is the only late night offering out there (SNL aside) featuring people of different races. Granted, its formula lends to a more diverse group, but I still think it’s great to see Al Madrigal and Aasif Mandvi and Jessica Williams alongside John Oliver and Jason Jones. Yes, they could use more females, but think about how great the women have been over the years (Beth Littleford is a national treasure, probably). They’re doing it right. Everyone should do exactly what TDS does.

  6. The burning question though, is how many pictures of Native Americans does Johnny Depp have in his wallet?

  7. This all relates back to my thesis that everything is the worst always

  8. The only upside to this is that I have always disliked Johnny Depp but never had a reason, and now I have one hell of a reason.

  9. Lena Dunham’s tweet (“Can someone tell me whether we’re supposed to be offended by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto or not? Must know for dinner parties/twitter.”) about this: Also offensive?

    I’m asking because I don’t actually even know any more. Like, is it trivializing a history of oppression or subtly registering the problem?

    Like, someone just tell me I just don’t even have the energy to think it through.

    • I actually saw a Twitter conversation with her and Evan Rachel Wood where they both said Yeah, let’s be offended. With Ms Dunham, though, it could go either way.

      • Yeah, I just looked now and saw the full conversation. I’m glad they came to that conclusion but liiiiiike still a suspicious way to get that conversation started.

        I can NOT believe I am actually devoting thought to Lena Dunham’s tweets.

        Also: I already saw someone post a whole essay about the tweet on tumblr (ugh) and just scrolled right the fuck past it.

    • Eh, she doesn’t have the best track record with such things, so even though it could arguably go either way, I’m not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    • Oooh, I kind of like that, actually? Maybe I’m not understanding it. But it feels like a nice little jab at the way in which liberal white people (hi!) respond to serious issues of discrimination etc by being disgusted at parties or on Tumblr or a blog (sorry, Gabe!), which doesn’t probably do a lot to actually help anyone, and there is maybe some kind of social or performative aspect to it all on top of that.

      Not that I know what else we would do, but still.

      • Well I’m not going to see the movie. I mean, I wasn’t gonna see it anyway, but still…

      • Are you implying that there’s something else that liberal white people possibly do to deal with issues like racism or inequality except write indignant and outraged blogs and post tweets and maybe even take an instagram selfie of themselves looking sad? I mean, do you want me to text a dollar to the latest disaster campaign so that we can all forget about it by next weekend? I will do that for you because I love you, but only if in return I get a banner for my Facebook wall so everyone knows how altruistic I am. “You’re welcome world!” -liberal white people

    • While it’s definitely valid to explore any trivialization of serious social issues expressed in the cultural zeitgeist, I still can’t get past that we now live in a world in which we dissect tweets from Lena Dunham.

  10. Related: I actually watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time this past weekend, and HOLY WOWZA. Mickey Rooney as the Chinese guy. My girlfriend and I were actually surprised they didn’t show him sleeping on a bed of fried rice or something. Or hungrily scoping out neighbors’ dogs to cook.

  11. This is from the Atlantic Wire:

    For his part, Depp hopes Native American kids embrace his Tonto as a hero: “I wanted to maybe give some hope to kids on the reservations… They’re living without running water and seeing problems with drugs and booze. But I wanted to be able to show these kids, ‘Fuck that! You’re still warriors, man.’”

    • But see, that’s bad too, because the whole “warriors” stereotype plays right back into the idea that Native Americans were uncivilized, barbaric, etc. Ugh. Go away Johnny Depp!

  12. I should be upset about this but I still can’t stop thinking about Bono’s self-portrait.

  13. It’s almost comical, in a terrible way, that they are reusing a show/movie concept from an era where racism rant rampant in film, particularly in Westerns, and here they are using the same racist model of what is referred to here as “red face”. Of course it was particularly striking for Native American characters, who were often played by white people or sometimes by Hispanic persons, but also for the occasional Mexican or Chinese characters in these films/shows that were also more often than not played by white people! Red/Brown/Yellow face is a very real issue in film, and totally inexcusable in an era where there are bound to be more actors and actresses of all races and types that are more than capable. I have no issue with the costuming, as film is after all an art with lots of creative/fantastical liberties, but if you are portraying a supposed character or type of character that really existed in history, like a Native American, maybe you should…I dunno this is kinda crazy…cast a Native American actor?

  14. Oh and thanks for asking about my day Johnny Depp/Gabe, so far I have lived up to my awkward expectations by spending my birthday on a recess yard (shooting photos for work) in East Harlem getting hit on by little kids. Nothing like being macked on by a third grader on your birthday to make you feel young again!

    #justkidding #itwasawkward

  15. If you look at the painting that Depp’s costume is based on, I’m pretty sure they mistook a bird flying right behind the guy’s head for a hat. It’s really not supposed to be a hat.

  16. You can force me to look at this racist garbage, Rolling Stone/Hollywood, but you can’t force me to pay money for it, so I kind of feel like I win this round. You can throw good money after bad all you want, but the fact still stands that I haven’t talked to a single living human who has expressed any interest in paying ticket office prices for your stupid movie that looks terrible and also is hateful.

  17. RELEVANT: Did anyone here know that Johnny Depp has written and recorded songs under the band name “Tonto’s Giant Nuts”?

  18. If you think Thelma`s story is unimaginable…, last pay cheque my friend’s dad basically got a cheque for $6767 grafting a fourty hour month from there apartment and they’re roomate’s step-sister`s neighbour was doing this for five months and brought home over $6767 in there spare time from there laptop. use the information from this address. wwwExit35.com

  19. Taylor H. Brunwald  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2013 +1

    Good morning, Enraged White People. Johnny Depp was adopted into the Comanche Nation last year. A red carpet advance screening of The Lone Ranger happened this past Friday in Lawton, OK, the home of the Comanche Nation. The event began with a ceremony in traditional dress by Comanche dancers. The tribe is proud of Depp and his portrayal of Tonto, and Depp is honored to be a part of the tribe.

    http://www.kswo.com/story/22659514/johnny-depp-was-in-lawton-for-a-special-screening-of-his-new-film

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