The remake of The Lone Ranger is out, and this picture tells you all you need to know about why I'm not going to see it, and why you shouldn't either.
If this were a movie made in the 1950s, you could look back today and say, "Yeah, that's kinda racist and stupid, but that's just what it was like back then, just like how they got John Wayne to play Genghis Khan and so on." But this is a movie coming out in 2013. I cannot believe that no one involved in the making of this movie did not see the huge problem with this.
"Oh, but he's part Native American," I hear you say.
Listen, the dude is maybe 1/16 Native American or something. Maybe. He thinks his great-grandmother was Cherokee. I'm not an expert on what qualifies someone as Native American, but fuck it, I'm drawing a line - Johnny Depp is not Native American.
Now, hypothetically if Native Americans were some sort of extinct race of people like the Neanderthals and thus we had no Native American actors alive capable of representing what a Native American looks like, then I'd say fine, why not, let Johnny Depp play a Native American, 1/16 is about enough.
But there are a lot of Native Americans still out there, and some of them are actually actors trying to make it in the business. In that context, no, he's not sufficiently Native American.
Yes, there are Native American actors out there. None of them are big names on par with Johnny Depp. But then again, when they can't even get roles playing Native Americans, how are they meant to become big names?
There were a whole bunch of dudes in Twilight who would make a decent Tonto. I'm not talking Taylor Lautner, because his Native-ness is about as dubious as Johnny Depp's, but sheeeeet, he at least kinda looks the part so I'd even take him and his washboard abs at this point.
There's also Benjamin Bratt (Law and Order, Miss Congeniality), who's part-Peruvian rather than Native North American, but that's still a whole lot better than Johnny Depp. Plus he's kinda hot.
"But the film needs a big star," I hear you say, "and there's no Native American actor who is a big star comparable to Johnny Depp."
Hold up, the titular role in the movie is being played by Armie Hammer. Who the fuck is that? I had to google him, and it turns out that he's been in one movie that anyone's ever heard of (The Social Network). No disrespect to him, I'm sure he's a good actor. But let's keep it real here: no one, apart from those within Hammer's circle of family and friends, is going to be all, "Oh snap, we gotta go see The Lone Ranger, because Armie Hammer is in it!"
So think on this: the producers of this movie would be happy to give a huge break to a relatively little-known actor in the title role of The Lone Ranger, yet were not willing to give a similar break to a Native American actor in the other lead role.
You want a big star? Cast Brad fucking Pitt or someone like that as the The Lone Ranger, and give a Native American actor who people haven't really heard of a breakthrough role.
"But Johnny Depp is a great actor," I hear you say, "so shouldn't it be about who can give the best performance, rather than race?"
In that case, imagine if they gave the role of Abraham Lincoln in the movie Lincoln to Chow Yun Fatt, or Morgan Freeman, rather than Daniel Day-Lewis. Sure, that would be ridiculous, but those are two pretty fucking awesome actors right there, and that's all that counts, right? Right? But everyone just accepts that only a white guy is going to play Lincoln. And I totally agree with that, not just because Lincoln obviously was a white guy, but the whole narrative would not make sense if he was played by someone who wasn't white. Even if they pretended to be white by use of makeup and traditional white clothing.
In racial terms, there are two types of roles in film: ones where the race doesn't matter, and ones where race does matter. You could take the movie Flight and replace Denzel Washington with Tom Hanks, and it wouldn't really make any difference. But you couldn't get Tom Hanks to play the lead role in Malcolm X. (Though let's be honest, I'm sure someone in Hollywood would try.)
The role of Tonto is pretty much defined by him being Native American. Casting a white guy - even a slightly exotic-looking white guy with distant Native ancestry, maybe - is downright insulting.
There are very few roles available to Native American actors in the movie business as it is. No one is asking that any such actors be elevated to Will Smith-status if they don't deserve it. But in the one blockbuster flick in pretty much forever to feature a Native American lead character, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski had the opportunity to do something that wasn't even boundary-pushing, just logical... and they fucked it. With a stick. So fuck them.
So that's why you should not go and see this piece of shit movie. That, and the fact that it's got a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
By the way, if you think the questions in this argument are ones that I just imagined, go read the comments here.