JOHNNY DEPP DOES “TONTO”

JOHNNY DEPP DOES “TONTO”

Hey – What up Depp Head 🙂  Our man Johnny’s new movie starts today – YEA!  Although it’s called “The Lone Ranger” it’s all about Tonto — why?  Because it’s JOHNNY DEPP!  Happy that his adventures as a pirate have been successful, I’m all for the new role.  The trailer looks like we’re in for that old cheesy flavor accompanied with brand new technology — party favors and popcorn a must.

As much as I want to see Depp pull off Tonto — I can’t help but feel awkward about Johnny Depp playing Tonto lol, but it’s not funny…  Surely I’m not alone.  Mad props to fellow filmmaker and colleague Dr. Chyng Sun [pr: Soon] and Miguel Picker on their film “Latinos Beyond Reel: Challenging a Media Stereotype.”  A documentary, it discusses the stereotypes of Latino culture depicted through the cameras of Hollywood, as far back as the animated  “Speedy Gonzalez.”  There are several documentaries that precede this one regarding the same subject matter as it relates to Blacks depicted in film, as well as Asian, Jewish, Irish-American, African and Native American cultures.

My alternate titles for this blog were “FUNK TONTO” or “What The FUNK is Wrong with US”, because as much as I can see myself in the theater to see Depp’s new flick, I might just do “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain.”  I was really amped to do both, but when will it end?  As long as we as a people condone it, it will continue.  I’m not trying to get preachy, I’m just acknowledging my own imperfections as I encourage us all to consider the choices we make.  Johnny, who was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, has publicly stated that his great-grandmother and great-grandfather told him he had Cherokee blood.  Depp says, “But over there, could have been Cherokee, could have been Creek, could have been Choctaw.”  “It was always something that I always felt very proud to have.”  Additionally, in a recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Depp expressed that he was adopted into a Native-American tribe by way of noted activist LaDonna Harris of the Comanche tribe.

“We gave him a Comanche name: Shape Shifter,” says Harris.  “He’s able to change into all these different things he plays, from a Caribbean pirate to a Comanche.”  LaDonna Harris is the President of Americans for Indian Opportunity.  Noted as a remarkable statesman and a national leader, her works and accomplishments have affected the lives of thousands of Native-Americans for the better.  An advocate on behalf of Tribal America, she’s an activist in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, the women’s movement and world peace.  Harris was raised by her grandparents in Indian country on a farm near Walters, Oklahoma during the Great Depression.   She began her efforts in public service as the wife of U.S. Senator Fred Harris.  LaDonna was instrumental in the return of the Taos Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo and to the Menominee Tribe in regaining their federal recognition.

Tonto made his first appearance on the radio in the 1930s, voiced by a non-Native American actor, John Todd.  Jay Silverheels portrayed Tonto in the 1950’s TV series “The Lone Ranger.”  Michael Horse took on the character in the 1981 dud “The Legend of the Lone Ranger.”  Both these men were Native-American, so why didn’t Disney go with a Native-American for the new production?  Apart from the fact that they’ve contracted Depp to who knows how many movies to provide them with consistent block-buster status, I didn’t find any official statement from Disney — Depp has been the spokesperson regarding all things “Tonto” — of which there’s been no real controversy.  TontosDepp and Disney rolled up their sleeves working tirelessly to court Native-American organizations.  Proceeds of the movie’s world premiere were donated to the American Indian College Fund by Disney.  During production, a local Navajo elder blessed the set in Monument Valley.  In Lawton, the chairman of the Comanche Nation, Wallace Coffey welcomed Depp, presenting him with a beaded medallion necklace of his Tonto character.  Then they joined a gathering of Comanche VIP’s at a special screening of “The Lone Ranger” for tribal members.

Depp plays Tonto, the lead of the “Lone Ranger” is played by Armie Hammer.  To celebrate the release of the film, Ancestry.com investigated the two stars’ family trees and reported that Hammer is of Native American ancestry and the descendant of one of the earliest documented Cherokee leaders and known peace advocate, Chief Kanagatucko.  As for Johnny Depp, his eighth great-grandmother was Elizabeth Key.  Key was the first black woman in the American colonies to sue for her emancipation from slavery and won.

In an item posted on npr.org…  Johnny Depp who helped create Tonto’s character for the new movie, says he grew up watching reruns of the TV series, which he says was pure entertainment.  “But even at the ripe old age of 5 or 6 or 7, watching that on TV, I had the very distinct feeling that there was something very wrong,” he says from a hotel room in Lawton, Okla., before a special screening of the new movie. “Tonto never deserved to be called a sidekick.”  Depp wanted to play Tonto as the Lone Ranger’s equal partner.  “In my own small way, it was my attempt to right the wrongs of what had been done with regards to the representation of Native Americans in cinema.”  Depp says the character is meant to be humorous — the Lone Ranger even kids him about the word Tonto meaning “dummy” in Spanish.  Depp’s Tonto is a deadpan spirit warrior from the Comanche tribe…

Hanay Geiogamah, a Kiowa tribe member and UCLA professor is offended.  He says Depp joins a long list of white actors playing Native Americans in the movies, including Burt Lancaster, Robert Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Burt Reynolds.  “He could have, had he wanted to, cast himself as the Lone Ranger, and put a qualified, capable Native American actor … of whom there are quite a few now, in the role of Tonto,” says Geiogamah, who used to head UCLA’s American Indian Studies program.  Geiogamah doesn’t like the way the 2013 Tonto talks.  “That sort of monosyllabic stuttering, uttering.  Hollywood Indian-speak.”  And he doesn’t like Tonto’s new getup, either.  “We’ve got Johnny Depp with a taxidermied crow on top of his head and painted to the nth degree with paint, and he looks like a gothic freak.”  Geiogamah says no authentic Native American goes around wearing war paint outside of ceremonial pow-wows, and certainly not day and night in the Wild West frontier…

Geiogamah

Geiogamah

In the 1990s, Disney called on Geiogamah as a consultant for its two animated Pocahontas movies. He advised the filmmakers how to authentically present American Indian life in the 17th century, even though the purported romance between Pocahontas and a white settler was pure fiction.  Geiogamah says he is shocked that Disney would turn around and present old cliches again with The Lone Ranger.  “After all these years and all this effort to try to get Hollywood to understand their portrayal of Native-Americans, and some real good work having been accomplished, to see it all sort of pushed aside because a big star wants to play Tonto…”  “You know, I presented Tonto with, I hope, a dignity and a pride and with respect. And as far as Tonto being eccentric and at times considered aloof, he’s a very wise warrior. To me, [he] always deserved to be what he is: a warrior,” says Depp.  “If I can get kids to understand how proud they should be of that heritage, I feel I’ve done my job.”  END npr item.

Ultimately, although we love Johnny, don’t our recreational actions affect what continues to happen in society?  Hats off to my brother John Gill who posted this picture on his Facebook page that points out all the Supreme Court Justices that recently redacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  As a result, North Carolina and Texas, have already made changes that lend to racial profiling being legal.  Oh yes my friends, racism is alive and well: http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2013/05/15/the-funk-of-the-past-is-ever-present-words-from-mlk/

The Supreme Court

Sign the petition against this nonsense here: http://restoreourvotingrights.com/?code=menendez

Wait, hold-up… let me throw this in — the theme song for “The Lone Ranger” is a composition by Richard Wagner.  Who? some may be saying… in short, his memory is tainted by his visceral anti-Semitic views, which later found favor with the Nazis.  This past May 22nd, Germany celebrated the 200th birthday of Wagner.  During the 19th-century, the composer’s music was hailed as “sublime art”, at the pinnacle of Western culture.

As long as we indulge ourselves through entertainment condoning images we know are damaging, doesn’t it just lend to the existence of more handkerchief heads like “Justice” Clarence Thomas?  We could just say “it’s only a movie” and simply dismiss the image as a fictitious character, sure that’s easy, but after all the superficial aspects… isn’t it just plain Funked Up?  I’m just having a real moment and wanted to share that I’m admittedly a victim, and doing my utmost to avert hypocrisy as an imperfect being, I think that’s enough.

See a review from the Hufington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ryan/the-lone-ranger-review_b_3530610.html?utm_source=concierge&utm_medium=onsite&utm_campaign=sailthru%2Bslider%2B

“The Lone Ranger” hit theaters today – in efforts to really Keep It Real – Happy 4th

c-dub

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