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"Here hat. Me wash in stream. Dry in sun. Make whiter," Tonto says in an early episode setting up his relationship with the Lone Ranger. "Here gun to kill bad men."
That Tonto has been criticized as being generic and subordinate — a character with no individuality and no life beyond helping the Lone Ranger.
Tex Holland, executive director of the 600-member Lone Ranger Fan Club, defended the portrayal.
"I felt the Indians had their own language and in doing so, anyone learning the language is going to speak it broken, whether the person is from Japan or Mexico," Holland said. "I did not look down on him. All of us thought that’s the way the Indians at that time communicated with us. Did we speak Indian fluently? We’d speak it broken too."
Holland and his fellow fans, however, were taken aback by Depp’s new look.
"Yuck. I can’t believe that he’s wearing a crow on his head. And he’s looking like some type of medicine man," Holland said. "Disney chose [Depp] for one thing: box office draw."
Reportedly costing more than $200 million, plus yet-to-be-added marketing costs, Disney’s "Lone Ranger" is the type of film that can make or break a studio’s summer. It’s already been plagued with budget woes. The movie’s release date in 2013 was recently pushed back a month.
Having Depp in the cast assures more eyeballs will be on the screen. Depp led the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and anchored "Alice in Wonderland." Three of those movies surpassed the rare billion-dollar mark at the worldwide box office.
Back on Suquamish land, Ross, doesn’t mind having Depp as Tonto. In fact, the 36-year-old said he would have been more troubled had an American Indian taken the role, knowing its history.
But he’s worried the movie, which certainly will attract a large audience, will cement a stereotype for years to come because Hollywood doesn’t make many movies with American Indians protagonists. The popular ones stick in people’s minds.
The first "Lone Ranger" did that, as did "Dances with Wolves" decades later, said Ross, an attorney who also writes a column for Indian Country Today.
"I’m not sure how much redefining I’m going to expect, not sure how much of the movie will be something I can show my son," he said.
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