The Lone Ranger, WB-Style
- Indian Comics Irregular #96
The WB Network, home of "Gilmore Girls" and "Smallville" (ICI #90),
premiered a new Lone Ranger movie February 26. This "Lone Ranger" was
politically correct toward Indians, at least; Tonto taught the Ranger
everything he knew and was an equal partner. But it was filled with
enough stereotypes, anachronisms, and other howlers to qualify it as a
comedy. Some examples:
The movie began with MTV-style camera shots and a hiphop theme that
immediately suggested the WB's "Dawson's Creek." Ironically, the
actor who starred as the Ranger previously appeared in "Dawson's
The first action featured white ruffians assaulting a beautiful Indian
maiden, Alope, who wore a revealing buckskin dress. Luke Hartman, the
future Ranger, tried to save her before her brother Tonto intervened.
This set up a predictable "white man lusts for Indian woman"
theme--which Tonto explicitly labeled "forbidden love" later.
Tonto was one of a band of Apaches who lived in tipis (!) a day's ride
from Dallas. The Indians looked young and healthy, with long
windblown hair, but were otherwise unremarkable.
Tonto was the son of the tribe's chief, making Alope the classic
Wes Studi played a medicine man or "shaman" who provided bits of
wisdom. Among his tricks was throwing powder into a fire to make it
While Hartman recovered from a wound, Alope rubbed his naked chest.
Later, Hartman was soaking in a spring inside a lodge (!). Alope came
in, disrobed, and joined him in the pseudo-hot tub...until Hartman
woke up and realized he was dreaming.
Hartman begged Tonto to teach him how to fight. Tonto agreed but said
he'd have to "break our laws" to do it. The "illicit" training
included a generic vision quest (done "before any battle"), a kind of
Indian kung fu (satirist Joe Bob Briggs would call it "Indian fu"),
and archery. They got in shape by sparring and jogging, like
Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky," and rock climbing. (The movie didn't
explain why physical activities such as archery or jogging would be
against Apache law.)
Hartman's spirit guide turned out to be the horse Silver, who appeared
out of nowhere. Later Silver prevented him from killing a villain,
teaching Hartman a valuable moral lesson: "Not even hate is reason
enough to kill."
Tonto also showed a superhuman ability to leap a dozen feet through
the air like the combatants in "Crouching Tiger, Flying Dragon." It
was clear Hartman would emulate this feat when he needed to.
Studi painted his face in a mask-like fashion and told Hartman to wear
a similar disguise--to fill wrongdoers with nightmares. In the
time-honored tradition of heroes, none of Hartman's relatives
recognized him in his mask, even though he looked the same.
As a proto-Indian activist, Tonto rallied his people to fight the
villains. "Let's show them we're not savages," he exhorted.
As a Sherlock Holmes-like tracker, Tonto found a bit of matter on a
boot and immediately identified where it came from.
Before the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off into the sunset, Alope
appeared once more--this time in an off-shoulder blouse with a bare
In short, "The Lone Ranger" established Tonto as the strong,
independent warrior he would have been. Almost everything else about
its portrayal of Indians was dubious. For more on the movie, go to
Blue Corn Comics
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