The Politics of Johnny Depp as Tonto

The Takeaway
Johnny Depp plays Tonto, a Native American character, in the new Disney film "The Lone Ranger." With Depp in the role, the long tradition of non-Native actors playing Tonto continues–it began back in 1933 on the radio and then continued on TV from 1949 to 1957. But it's not 1933 anymore–it's 2013. Why does Hollywood still struggle in its depictions of Native peoples? Though some film fans shrug over the casting decision, others believe that the tradition of "red face" is offensive and outdated, and should have no place in the new film. Adrienne Keene is a blogger and activist with Native Appropriations, a website that examines the representations of native peoples in media. Unlike Tonto, who is Comanche, she is Oklahoma Cherokee. Last year, Keene penned a article titled "Why Tonto Matters." In her piece she explained the significance of casting a white actor in this type of role. "Everyday we see millions of representations of white people in varied and diverse roles. We see white actors as 'real' people, as 'fantasy' characters, and everything in between," she writes. "But for Native people, the only images that the vast, vast majority of Americans see are stereotypical in nature." She joins The Takeaway to share her thoughts on the film, and the depiction of Tonto, along with  Rafer Guzman  and  Kristen Meinzer–the Movie Date team. In addition to hosting the  Movie Date podcast, Rafer is film critic for Newsday and Kristen is culture producer for The Takeaway. Stay updated on the latest from The Takeaway–become a Facebook fan & follow us on Twitter!