The Lone Ranger never had a chance as a movie. The Wild West setting is akin to Auschwitz in the eyes of educated opinion. The existence of the Indian sidekick “Tonto” is an embarrassing reminder that whites once assumed they would be in leadership roles, with the Other tolerantly accepted as helpers. The clean-cut eponymous hero is a symbol of everything that the post-Western world has pledged to destroy. The character of the Lone Ranger is the hero of a despised nation that no longer exists.
Of course, Disney might have spat in the face of the Zeitgeist and its directors by giving us a straight-up, old-fashioned Western adventure. That might have actually worked, and the sounds of dollars rolling in could have overwhelmed even the screeches of outrage. However, like everything else that Disney tries to do these days, The Lone Ranger tries desperately to subvert the very things that made it a cultural force. In its own way, it is the most anti-white, anti-American, and anti-Western (in both senses) movie of the year.
It didn’t work. It was still criticized as racist. The Lone Ranger tries to be clever and critique its own fans. The result is a confused mess which no one came to see, and expected losses of about $150 million are just part of the cost of political correctness.
We begin with a small boy entering a Wild West display at a San Francisco fair in 1933. Mercifully, as this is 1933, the kinds of fairs they had in San Francisco are the sort of things you can bring children to, unlike today. The boy is wearing a mask, a cowboy hat, and even a toy gun, which would cause him to be arrested and sent to counseling now.
In any event, he encounters an aged Tonto standing as a kind of living wax piece, complete with a display sign that says “The Noble Savage.” Addressing the boy emotionally as “Kemosabe,” Tonto begins telling his story – which begins with the Lone Ranger and Tonto robbing a bank. “But they were good guys!” says the boy. Tonto explains that good men must occasionally do these things to fight evil. See everyone? They are being subversive and outlaws and changing your expectations. How clever.
Backing up, we meet District Attorney John Reid coming in to on a train filled with singing Presbyterians. Prim, proper, and bumbling, he is the stereotypical spoiled “college boy.” When asked to join in prayer, he raises a copy of John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government and explains “This is my Bible.” This is the first of many takedowns of the Christian religion over the course of the film, a notable departure from the source material.
Tonto is imprisoned on the train along with Butch Cavendish, a disfigured villain plotting his escape. When Cavendish makes his move, Tonto attempts to foil him. Cavendish’s accomplices raid the train to free him but not before Tonto has a chance to kill him. However, Reid stops Tonto, putting his faith in the judicial process. Predictably, Cavendish escapes.
Most of the train’s passengers are eventually saved by John’s brother Dan, the very picture of a grizzled Western lawman. It’s also revealed that John is still in love with Dan’s wife Rebecca, and she is still in love with John. Dan and his posse ride out to apprehend Cavendish, and John tags along. Though he refuses to carry a gun, and wears a civilian style white hat, he is deputized an official Texas Ranger.
The mission ends badly, as the entire posse is betrayed by their tracker. Dan is shot and John attempts to pull him to safety, while Dan tells him to take care of his wife, who “always loved him.” Of course, John is simply shot himself. He awakes only briefly to see Cavendish literally eating the heart of his older brother, and then dies.
Tonto appears to bury the dead men but is stopped by a “spirit horse,” a white horse that is pawing at John’s body. In the first of several amusing interactions between Tonto and the horse, Tonto tries to convince the animal that the “great warrior” Dan is who he needs, but the horse is insistent. John is reawakened and told he is a spirit walker – a man who cannot be killed in battle. Though John keeps his faith in the law and the judicial process, he joins with Tonto to hunt down Cavendish, though Tonto has no confidence in him. In this film, we are told, Kemosabe means “wrong brother.”
Here, the Lone Ranger is essentially created by Tonto. The transformation of the Indian “sidekick” to the center of the plot is an important point in the movie’s defense against the charges of “racism,” notably by Johnny Depp. Some of the film’s marketing has even gone so far as to make Tonto the actual hero. This “Lone Ranger” is prissy, clumsy, and incompetent. When he makes an incredible shot, or accomplishes some feat of riding, it’s suggested that it is the result of luck, Injun magic, or the horse. When he is wounded in the shoulder by an arrow, he gives a cowardly scream akin to Jim Carrey in the comedic farce Ace Ventura 2. The Lone Ranger is simply along for the ride – the white hero as social construct.
The bulk of the plot is almost identical to, of all things, 1987’s Robocop. The obvious criminal baddies are only a smokescreen for the true villain – a rogue official within a powerful corporate interest that the hero ostensibly serves. Here, it’s the railroad that is trying to build across Comanche territory. The peace treaty is supposedly breached by Indian raids on white settlements, and we even see an “Indian” raid on Rebecca’s house, as the tough frontier woman fires a rifle in defense of her son (and the “Indians” kill and scalp the family’s de rigueur friendly black worker). Of course, because Indian raids are just a racist myth, it’s revealed that it was actually Cavendish’s gang disguised as Indians. Furthermore, the gang is being supported by the railroad’s villainous owner, Mr. Cole, who is also interested in taking Dan’s widow and son for his own. Thus, capitalism, patriarchy, and whiteness are all united in a triumphant trinity of villainy.
Nonetheless, Depp’s interpretation of Tonto is genuinely interesting. He plays with our expectation of Tonto as the stoic Indian warrior by mixing it with moments of deadpan humor and outright madness. Tonto constantly “feeds” a dead bird that sits on top of his head. He loots corpses but “trades” with them by leaving a small item on the body. His pronouncements alter between the seemingly profound, the obvious, and the nonsensical.
The film achieves its one moment of absolute genius when the Lone Ranger and Tonto are captured by the Comanche. A relieved Reid thinks that Tonto’s people will help him, but instead he is told Tonto’s real story. Tonto found two white men and took them back to the village to be nursed to health. When the men heal, they notice Tonto has a rock of silver, and trade a cheap pocket watch for the location of the silver. Tonto returns to his village to find that the whites have slaughtered his tribe. His mind breaks, and he concludes that the silver is “cursed” and that the men are evil spirits. Rather than coming to terms with his gruesome mistake, Tonto loses himself into a world of magic, fantasy, and religious imagination. Though the film gives hints that he does indeed possess a kind of deep wisdom and terrible power, it’s also clear that he is at least somewhat insane.
Of course, even the one thing the movie does right has to be mixed with cliché. Tonto’s real mistake was not killing the white men when he found them. As you might expect, the man who gave Tonto the watch turns out to be the local head of the railroad. All the whites in the movie are grasping, evil, and venal. Tonto repeatedly expresses his contempt for the Lone Ranger when angered, calling him a “white coward” when he puts his faith in the law rather than vengeance.
When Reid knocks out Tonto to prevent an extrajudicial killing, Tonto awakes to find Chinese laborers staring at him. “Stupid white man,” he mutters and the Chinese nod sagely. Whites practically start a riot when Tonto enters a town, calling him a “heathen,” Army soldiers savagely berate “Chinamen,” and railroad officials are quick to praise drunken white workers that we rarely see doing any work, unlike the noble Third Worlders. Reid eventually breaks with Tonto, saying “I have a tribe.” Of course, once he realizes the corruption of the railroad and the government, he comes back. Not for the first time, abandoning the white “tribe” means cinematic salvation for the hero.
As for the Army, Barry Pepper plays a Custer-like officer who leads the counter-attack against the Indians. When he is informed that he has killed Indians for no reason, he quickly determines to save his skin by aligning with the railroad and Cavendish and going along with the lie. The film features an Indian attack on Army troopers that begins almost exactly like the downhill charge at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. Of course, now white American soldiers are cast in the role of orcs. The pseudo-Custer cries “For God and Country!” as the whites prepare to defend themselves, a sentiment we are supposed to sneer at. The Indians are defeated, not through martial valor but through Gatling guns, just like the Samurai are defeated by the Westernized Japanese in The Last Samurai.
The person who will finally give the soldiers of the racist entity what they deserve is the Lone Ranger himself. When we finally hear that famous overture, it’s the Lone Ranger destroying the railroad to prevent the villain from getting away with his loot. This involves various maneuvers so Gatling guns can open up on the soldiers. So much for the Lone Ranger’s hatred of guns. The final scene is exciting and what we’ve come to see, but somehow boilerplate – at two-and-a-half hours, by the time the climatic train scene shows up, everyone is ready to go home.
Disney should consider itself lucky they even showed up. The Lone Ranger is a bomb of legendary proportions. Perhaps more importantly, it has been condemned as an overt product of white supremacy, with the formerly cool Johnny Depp a target of condemnation. After all, even the old “Lone Ranger” had a real Indian in the role of Tonto. The filmmakers obviously intended to insult whites, America, and the franchise they were exploiting, but it didn’t work.
As America becomes more explicitly anti-white, the propaganda grows less subtle, less intelligent, and more hysterical. We are only a few short years away from jargon heavy denunciations of whites as the running dogs of privilege or some other kind of pseudo-Stalinist boilerplate. On university campuses, we are already there.
The result is that even when a film tries to be anti-white, it can’t help but be criticized as white supremacist if it shows white people (either as actors, directors, or characters) literally doing anything other than being killed. Django Unchained was racist and controversial, not because it showed the graphic slaughter of white people, including women, but because it had white characters saying taboo words and white audiences may have been laughing at parts they weren’t supposed to. Similarly, The Lone Ranger fails because it has a white hero, even one that is mocked, and a white guy in a role as an Indian sidekick, Johnny Depp’s protestations of Indian heritage notwithstanding. As far as educated (read “controlled”) opinion goes, anything other than the forthright portrayal of Indians slaughtering whites simply isn’t good enough. As far as the Rachel Jeantels of the world, who are the targets of our consumer economy, they simply can’t understand social criticism any more than they can read cursive script.
One of the last scenes of the movie is the Lone Ranger triumphantly rearing his horse, and waving his hat, with the trademark cry, “High ho Silver! Away!” Prominently featured in the marketing as part of the hero’s image, here it is played for sarcastic, ironic laughs at the Lone Ranger’s expense, as Tonto lectures him, “Never do that again!”
And yet, outside there was a display was set up with Lone Ranger merchandise. As if from another world, a small boy appeared with grandparents in tow, looking at the toys. To my utter astonishment, the boy was wearing a cowboy hat and looking with great excitement at the symbols of a bygone age, while his grandfather pointed out favorites. It was a scene in direct opposition to the hours of nonsense I had witnessed.
It is the symbol itself of the Lone Ranger that wins the hearts of very young boys and old men, the legend of the American hero on the frontier who always does right. Disney seeks to exploit this, even as they trash it. This is also the reason those who hate our race hate the film, even though the film is an offering and contribution to their creed.
Looking at an innocent boy who has to look two generations back for heroes, I felt a terrible sadness – and anger. For the studio executives attempting to profit off the people and values they despise, Butch Cavendish’s tactics would be too kind. I’d gladly rip out and eat the black hearts of those who are deliberately poisoning the culture. But I guess I’ll just have to settle for gloating over the box office receipts.