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January 1, 2014

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Alex Jackson

On THE LONE RANGER, Tonto is an embodiment of the stunted/crippled identity of the American Indian. The character is played by the white Johnny Depp who gives a very attention-seeking self-indulgent Johnny Depp performance, but I think that the film is designed to roll with this and we are supposed to acknowledge it. The idea is that the identity of the "American Indian" has been completely destroyed and can then only be resurrected as an artificial construct. Supporting this is the fact that the character is introduced in a Natural History exhibit, that this framing device (and old man make-up) calls back to Arthur Penn's 1970 LITTLE BIG MAN which also depicts the genocide of the American Indian semi-satirically through the eyes of a white identifying as Indian, and that Tonto is explicitly described as "crazy" within the film. This aspect of the film, that Tonto is neither the colored sidekick and comic relief for the white hero nor is he a superhero himself, is possibly one of the things that alienated the mass audience but makes the film interesting for many of the rest of us.

The biggest dud on Walter's list, by the way (and so far as I have seen), is actually FRANCES HA. Surprised not to see more of a backlash against it; the writing (dialogue, characterization, and plot) reminded me of GILMORE GIRLS (a highly pejorative comparison, if it needs to be said). Compare and contrast with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, in what it says about the "starving artist", and get back to me.

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