The Lone Ranger – Telling It Like It Is

The Lone Ranger – Telling It Like It Is July 4, 2013

I liked The Lone Ranger.  I didn’t leave feeling immensely entertained, much less inspired.  But I liked it, because it presented an accurate assessment of the way things are.

I seem to be the only person on the internet who did like it.  Reviewers from the Right complain about trashing American institutions and the lack of an unambiguously good hero for kids to emulate.  Reviewers from the Left complain about racial stereotyping, the lack of female characters, and the choice of a white man with one Indian far back in his ancestry to play one of the most famous Native American characters in Hollywood history.  Both sides complain about excessive violence and inaccuracies in history, culture, and geography.  If you go expecting to see the world presented as you think it should be, you’re going to be disappointed.

Those who criticize The Lone Ranger for its filmmaking also have a valid complaint.  It recycles shots, scenes and gimmicks from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, The Mummy movies, and countless Westerns from the 1930s forward.  The story development is slow, making the 2½ hour running time seem even longer.  It could have – and should have – been better.

With all those negatives, why do I say I liked it?

Unlike many recent theatrical remakes and reboots, I have no emotional attachment to The Lone Ranger.  My parents grew up listening to it on the radio, but it was gone from TV before I was born.  I saw it in reruns occasionally, but I was never a big Western fan anyway, so it was just another TV show.  I went into the theater with no expectations other than those created by Johnny Depp in the odd makeup and costume.

I seriously doubt the screenwriters approached The Lone Ranger with any intentions other than to bring the characters of Tonto and the Lone Ranger into the 21st century and create some new adventures for them.  But screenwriters live in the same world we do – it’s inevitable that current affairs and societal trends will make their way into the scripts.

You don’t watch villain Latham Cole for long before you start thinking of Rupert Murdoch or the Koch brothers.  John Reid is the idealistic liberal naïve to the harsh realities of life.   Substitute oil for silver and the misuse of the military by powerful civilians looks a lot like Iraq.

And Tonto?  Fellow Pagans, Tonto is us, dressing funny, talking to animals and chasing spirits while some very evil but still very human men rape the land and pillage the commonwealth.

The idealistic liberal and the damaged pagan manage to do some good in their adventures.  The villains receive justice, the damsel in distress is rescued, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto set themselves up to right more wrongs in the future… though if the early box office results hold up, they won’t be doing it any time soon.

The problem – and the reason why there was no way to end the movie feeling good – is that we know how it turns out.  Whatever good Tonto and the Lone Ranger accomplished ultimately wasn’t enough.  The treaties with the Native tribes were broken.  Real industrialists and financiers built real empires using the sweat and blood of the poor, empires that continue to pull political strings to this day.  The train of “progress” has never been stopped, no matter how many lives have been ruined, no matter that we know “progress” can’t go on forever.

That’s why I liked The Lone Ranger:  it accurately portrays modern America as it really is.

And what of us?  Is righting a few small wrongs all we’re capable of achieving?  Are we ultimately powerless to alter the course of “progress”?  Will we end up as museum exhibits, forever out of place in a changing world?

The Lone Ranger is a Tarot reading with The Devil and The Tower in conjunction.  Bad things are coming.  Big bad things.

Divination reveals what will be, not what must be.  If we don’t like what the oracles tell us, it’s up to us to take action to create a different outcome.  And this is where The Lone Ranger ultimately falls short:  it shows us how we’re headed for trouble, but it doesn’t show us how to make things better.  I suppose that’s too much to expect from a bunch of movie makers who specialize in entertainment spectacles.

Showing the world a better way to live?  That’s our job.

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