Noah Gittell: Lone Ranger "Like a Western as Told by Howard Zinn"Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
tags: Howard Zinn, The Atlantic, Noah Gittell, Lone Ranger
...In discussing the progressive politics of The Lone Ranger, most critics have focused on the depiction of Native Americans, and with good reason. Over the history of the American Western, Native Americans have often been depicted as faceless savages whose efforts to defend themselves were merely obstacles to America's Manifest Destiny. Some cinematic efforts have been made to subvert this convention (The Searchers and Dances with Wolves are probably the most famous examples), but The Lone Ranger takes things a step further, making Tonto and John Reid (who will become the eponymous hero) dual protagonists. There is room for debate on this; some critics still feel that Depp's performance, with its use of "red face" and halted speaking style, is dehumanizing, but the increased role for Tonto is at least a step in the right direction.
This depiction of Native Americans in The Lone Ranger actually serves an even deeper revision of the genre, as it posits war as the underlying oppressor in American society. Here's how it's done: In making Tonto and Reid equals, the filmmakers are able to give them a mutual enemy. This is Cole (Tom Wilkinson), a railroad magnate trying to lay tracks from Texas to California. A treaty between the U.S. and the Indian tribes has prevented him from building on tribal lands, so he makes it look like the Comanches--Tonto's tribe--have broken the agreement, thus opening up their land for train travel. The turn of events will lead to war--and Indian genocide at the hands of the U.S. Cavalry. But who could make a fuss over the survival of an indigenous people when there are American dollars to be made?
It comes across like a Western as told by Howard Zinn, a shocking change for a genre that has leaned conservative in all things. Unlike previous Westerns, in which Indians were seen as an obstacle to American economic expansion, the historical perspective inherent in The Lone Ranger shows the same story from the other side and suggests that American business interests were the driving force behind the Indian massacres. There may be a lot of professors at liberal arts colleges who agree, but you'll be unable to find that point of view in more than a couple of movies through the Western's long history...
comments powered by Disqus
- Should a slave-era song be used as a sports UK soccer chant?
- Black Georgetown Employee Found Out the School Sold His Great-Great-Great Grandmother
- E.U. Is Turning 60 and Searching for Something to Celebrate
- The Most Controversial Psych Study Is Repeated — Same Weird Result
- A new book explores the stunning revelation that Hemingway spied for the USSR
- Rick Perlstein is asked if Trump’s like Nixon
- Doris Kearns Goodwin Puts Trump's Health Care Defeat In Historical Perspective
- Christina Vella, Author of Sizzling Works of Narrative History, Dies at 75
- Christopher Lasch, the late historian/social commentator, is suddenly everywhere
- Harvard art historian’s interest in black history has roots in her grandfather’s question in high school