Friday, March 9, 2012

Not Your Daddy's Lone Ranger and Tonto

We live in an age of movie realism where Batman can't have Robin, Wolverine can't wear yellow, and now I guess the Lone Ranger and Tonto can't look like the Lone Ranger and Tonto anymore.

The above is the first officially released image of Armie Hammer as that famous masked man and Johnny Depp as his Native American sidekick from Gore Verbinski's Lone Ranger film set to be released by Disney some time next year.  Now before whatever I have to say gets filed under fan-boy gripping let's put this in perspective.

#1 Johnny Depp's bird-hat ... IS REALLY COOL!!!

Avian headgear makes everything better

And #2 - We All Knew This Was Going To Be A Departure From The Original Source Material

... and if you didn't know that, then compare what's above (the cowboy and the indian, not the immortal mistress of Grayskull) with this pick of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels in the roles they immortalized!

In summation, The Lone Ranger looks like he's wearing long-johns and Tonto's a walking Hollywood cliche.  Like it or not, the new versions posted above actually look a whole lot closer to a real Native American and a real Texas Ranger!  What we seem to have is a reversal in visual styling.  The OLD Lone Ranger and Tonto looked visually interesting but starred in stories that were basic western fair: They fought cattle rustlers, crooked bankers, and rogue Indians.

The NEW Lone Ranger and Tonto look about as real and thus about as unimpressive as possible.  Yes, I know it seems hard to take a glance at Johnny Depp sporting Jeremy the Crow as a top hat and call THAT visually unimpressive but it is what it is.

See, very little fashion is made to stand out visually.  That's not to say certain clothing designs aren't made to accentuate certain body types and our choices in the color of our clothing can make various features such as legs, chest, eyes, faces, ect. stand out, but all in all a large majority of people would rather blend in than stand out (which why goths or people who insist on dressing like crew members of the Enterprise in their daily life get such odd looks).

For the time period, both the Lone Ranger and Tonto are pretty much blending in and that's my main gripe.  See, the Lone Ranger mythos essentially spun out of the pulp fiction movement; a glorious period from the turn of the 20th century that was populated by daring crime fighters!

... half naked Ape-Men!

and rough and ready heroes like, well, like The Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Even though most of these characters originally appeared in books or on Radio Plays, none of which were visual, they were often described as being oddly clad (or in some cases barely clad at all) because it added to their exotic appeal.  These were not ordinary men and women!  They were brave, courageous, challengers of impossible odds and mysterious lands!  It was escapism in its purest form and IT!  WAS!! GLORIOUS!!!

Today we seem to have gotten away from that.  Now don't get me wrong, the strange and bizarre are still a part of our cinematic life.  At one stage in the script for this movie LR and trusty Tonto were supposed to be fighting werewolves, and despite some rumors that those effects scenes were cut to save costs, they still might before this all over!  The movie's being directed by Gore Verbinski for crying out loud and with him, ANYTHING can happen!

The problem however is that if the strange and bizarre to encroach on our movie going experience, there's an expectation to keep it as grounded and as real and as ... well, I'm just going to say it, AS BORING AS POSSIBLE!!!  Everything has to be explained in torturous detail, nothing is left to the imagination, and the dress code has to be as monochromatic as possible, and honestly I'm tired of it.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto look fine.  They honestly do.  Nothing in the picture of Mr. Hammer or Mr. Depp is going to keep me from seeing it at the movies.  What does bother me is the basic philosophy behind the changes that is plaguing this film and so many others.  Pray for an end to the sanity.  That's never been what pulp, sci-fi, or crime fighting has ever been about!


  1. How is that closer to looking like a "real" Native American? Note that there are literally hundreds of tribes/bands of Native Americans living in the U.S., all with different cultures and customs. The painting that inspired this costume was painted by a non-native painter who admitted that it was never meant to convey any sort of historical accuracy. My family is Muscogee (Creek) and I can say with certainty that we would never wear smelly dead crows on our heads. Do your research! I'd highly reccomend starting out at

  2. I did research this article when I first wrote it and what I read said that that Tonto's look was based on an actual ceremonial dress. Obviously I got a hold of a bad source for which I deeply apologize. I actually am a history buff but my expertise is The Civil War, not Native American history. I will check out your link and update this article as soon as I am able. I try to be as accurate with my information and actually do a lot of research for each article.

    Thanks for pointing out my goof. That's how I learn and learning is what this blog is all about.