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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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A Stranger Ranger
I hadn't heard of the remake of The Lone Ranger until about an hour ago, when it was reviewed (positively) on Radio 4. They mentioned that it had bombed in the States, though, and were at a loss to explain why.

I've not seen the film, but I'm curious as to whether one factor was that Tonto was being played by a white actor (a move even the 1950s serialization didn't make). A quick glance at the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't show this leaping out as an issue, but while Depp is famously versatile I imagine there would be outrage if he were to play a well-known African American character - shall we say, Jim from Huckleberry Finn? (There might well be outrage if there were to be a remake of Huckleberry Finn at all, of course.) Then it occurred to me to wonder whether the actor who plays Jacob in the Twilight series is Native American (he's not). I guess that giving Native American roles to white actors is just not seen as problematic - but I'm puzzled as to why. I'd have thought that a history of genocide (as of slavery) would make a crucial difference in these cases, these days.

By contrast, I sigh a little when I see that the villain in The Lone Ranger is yet again played by an Englishman, but while there is no doubt an element of racism involved it's mostly just a creakingly unimaginative cliché.

I have not seen the movie--but i heard a very intelligent review which may explain somewhat why it tanked. The reviewer thought it was too violent for kids, (in a realistic rather than 'Boom! Pow' sort of way, and yet the plot was too thin for real thinking about.

He was displeased that Tonto had once again been played by a white actor, but more displeased that the movie was just not much fun.

As for the English villain thing-- you guys just sound super evil/sophicticated/intelligent/sexy to us. Not sure why.

All of us, or any particular accent(s)?

Pretty much all. Don't know why.

It's mostly all. There is a great line in the TV show Frasier, where Frasier's not-stupid-at-all producer, a woman, hears a visitor's rough-side-of-London accent and gasps, "He talks like a prince!" That about sums up the way most Americans regard British accents.

(Because let's face it, English sounds better when spoken by the English.)

That's interesting, especially since Frasier is pretty much the only US show I can think of that features a regular character with an English accent that isn't either a) posh or b) Cockney. Does Roz think that Daphne talks like a princess? (Personally I love the Lancastrian accent, particularly in its female inflection.)

Although Daphne's accent is *fake* Mancunian.

She doesn't sound quite Mancunian to me - more like Bolton.

I don't think the fakeness is an outrage quite on the scale of Depp's playing Tonto - but perhaps in twenty years I will...


And I'm sure it's not as fake as JD!

Roz is used to Daphne; I forget how she first responded. But her reaction that I quoted above was to one of Daphne's horrible brothers!

Edited at 2013-08-07 01:49 pm (UTC)

She's from the north and her brother's from London? I suppose it could happen, but - it's odd!

I just threw rough end of London in as a comparison, as I have absolutely no idea what his accent is, except that it most definitely is not posh. He does all the glottal stops, etc, just short of Cockney, to make it REALLY CLEAR it's not posh even for our ignorant American ears, and yet apparently some viewers did not get the joke!

Edited at 2013-08-07 01:55 pm (UTC)

I just checked out Wiki, and if the one you're thinking of is Stephen Moon he's played with a Cockney accent by an Australian actor (so your ear is fine); while another of her brothers is Richard E. Grant speaking in Grant's own relatively refined tones! I'm afraid I must have missed the episodes with these brothers, so I can't comment from experience, but it does seem careless to have so many different accents among a group of siblings. Mind you, I've heard similar complaints about Game of Thrones.

Americans just don't hear it the way they would their own accents. Or they shrug it off--I remember being a kid, and watching the Parent Trap with Hayley Mills, and being a little puzzled why twins raised in California and Boston talked like Wendy in Peter Pan, whereas their parents didn't, but went with it.

I still remember my utter confusion upon seeing the Dune movie as to the gender-segregated accents in House Atreides - my memory is that Leto and Paul had American accents whereas Jessica and Alia had British accents. Brief research suggests that the actor playing Leto was in fact German and the actress playing Alia American, which makes me wonder if my memory is in fact correct, but if it is, then it seems it would have been a deliberate choice on somebody's part, which makes it even odder.

Thanks - that's more the sort of reaction I would have expected!

I have heard a lot of anger about Depp's casting online, yes. I think it makes a difference that it's a long-established franchise which people remember vaguely fondly-- the reaction I recall to the Twilight casting was 'well what do you expect from something which has never had a brain in its head'. Whereas the reaction to this new Lone Ranger film has been a) why is this even being revived in 2013 and b) well if it's being revived shouldn't they at least fix and/or subvert some of the more problematic aspects of the original.

To which the answers seem to be, respectively, a) no one knows, and b) apparently not. Which is an issue because it taints whatever a person might get from the nostalgia trip. So it's problematic, unnecessary, and aggravating-- triple threat.

It also sounds as though it simply isn't very well done on a basic entertainment level, in that the reviews I've seen and the little word-of-mouth I've heard have boiled down to 'boring'.

As I was writing the entry I was thinking about the ways that the various problems inherent in the enterprise (casting a white man as a Native American, but also Tonto already being something of a caricature) might intersect. Is casting Depp less or more offensive because it's a role that many Native American actors might not relish anyway? Perhaps that was actually a clue that it shouldn't be made at all. Anyway, I'm rather relieved to hear that this was indeed commented on.

There's also been a lot of aggravation about Johnny Depp's attempts to deflect the people who are annoyed about his casting by mentioning that he was adopted by the Comanche tribe last year. It's kind of a step forward that the film portrays Tonto as Comanche, because that's geographically appropriate, and previous iterations have theoretically been Potowatomi, making one wonder about the backstory of the character migrating from Michigan. But were there really no Comanche actors who could do it or would have been interested? Really? I am fascinated by the political motivations and ramifications of making Johnny Depp an honorary member of the tribe, but the stories on the internet about it have been puff pieces about how this makes the casting totally one hundred percent okay for all time, so I don't actually know what the Comanche train of thought there was or how okay or not okay the casting is with them.

Yes, it is a big deal and probably not all of why it tanked, but it's definitely part of it. (The way the role was written was also a problem, IIRC. I haven't seen it, just been unable to escape all discussion.) Giving native roles to white actors is definitely problematic, though not necessarily uncommon; I'm not sure whether people know that the kid from Twilight isn't. I haven't followed anything about that franchise though, so really couldn't say.

It's a relief to hear that it was an issue, at least.

As a kid, I assumed Tonto looked like a normal Indian of his culture. Which I pictured as, well, not very picturesque. The Ranger and the horse were described as somewhat remarkable in appearance, but I don't recall Tonto being described so, or any plot point being made of him having an unusual appearance.

A clean stetson, black mask, silver bullets, and a beautiful white horse are remarkable only in their colors. Their shapes are still perfectly functional. Wearing a dead bird on one's head and a lot of dangly stuff, is not.

Wearing a dead bird on one's head and a lot of dangly stuff, is not.

True, that sounds more like the state opening of Parliament...

The locus classicus of this kind of casting is The Searchers, with Henry Brandon as the Comanche chief.

But then, in 1956 blackface was still mainstream. It's strange how one died out but the other lingers.

I can't speak about anyone else, but I know that when I saw the trailer for the movie, having never heard about it before, my immediate reaction was, Johnny Depp is playing Tonto? I have absolutely no desire to see this movie.

If I'd had any such desire, it would have quenched it.

You know, come to think of it, though, I had an active desire not to see the movie, which almost never happens (I guess I didn't want to see The Talented Mr. Ripley in my adolescence out of an intense loyalty to Plein Soleil, which I loved). I generally enjoy watching movies with friends enough that I will say yes to pretty much any movie I'm asked to see, which is why I've seen all sorts of things like Revenge of the Sith, the first Transformers movie, or Terminator Salvation that I had no interest in seeing and did not particularly enjoy. And yet, when, recently, a friend (who herself was not white) asked me to see The Lone Ranger, and that was the only option besides not seeing a movie, I said no. This is sufficiently unusual for me that it suggests I felt more strongly about the issue than I might have expected.