Johnny Depp as Tonto
By Nikky Raney
The media coverage of Johnny Depp playing the role of Tonto in the remake of the Lone Ranger is mostly intriguing due to the things that Depp has to say about playing the role. The media covered this by headlining that Depp would be taking over the role of Tonto in the remake, but the quotes from Depp are really what makes the media coverage interesting.
Depp wants to completely reinvent Tonto; he wants Tonto to be the star, not the sidekick.
The Telegraph posted an article in October titled “Johnny Depp: I will make Tonto Interesting.” In the article he is quoted as saying, “Tonto is like the Aunt Jemima of Native Americans.”
Entertainment Weekly interviewed Depp, as reported by Ace Show Biz, and he tried to justify being chosen for the role with his Native American Heritage. He says:
“”I guess I have some Native American (in me) somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”
With the same interview he says something a bit outlandish:
“”The interesting thing, if you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books (on the subject)… you have to think, somewhere along the line, ‘I’m the product of some horrific rape’. You just have that little sliver in your chemical make-up.”
The media was so fascinated in the fact that Depp was chosen to play Tonto that all the focus in every article was about how Depp was going to change it and make it “better.”
In an article for ComicBookMovie.com titled “Johnny Depp wants Tonto to Change Hollywood’s Negative Portrayal of Native Americans,” where he says that this is an “opportunity to salute Native Americans.”
There were not any interviews done with Native Americans to see how they felt about Depp playing Tonto, and I think that the media should have interviewed Native Americans. It would at least have been interesting to interview a Native American and find out what he or she hopes that Depp will bring to the role that may not have been done so by the previous actor. The only interview that could be thought of to fit that category is the interview with Mary Silverheels, the wife of Jay Silverheels who originally played Tonto in the 1950s. She tells that her husband didn’t like the dialogue, but he overcame it with his acting.
What the media did right in its coverage of Depp playing Tonto was interviewing Depp. All the headlines that I saw were straight and to the point, none of them were really controversial other than the one previously mentioned about Depp changing the negative portrayal of Native Americans. The articles just gave headlines that said Depp wanted to make Tonto better and be the boss of the Lone Ranger.
The media didn’t necessarily do anything bad, but what the media could have done better was interviews with maybe the directors and like mentioned before, Native Americans. Perhaps fans of the previous Lone Ranger could have been interviewed and included. Granted – the articles and story was about the fact that Depp was chosen to play Tonto, but that doesn’t mean that the publications need to limit themselves to just interviewing Depp. Every article and every interview is basically him saying the same thing.
We as media representatives can learn from this by taking a lesson from the news sources with the headlines that were straight and to the point. We can also learn that articles would really benefit from more interviews. There really weren’t many different angles taken with this story, and as a media representative I would have tried to cover the story from a different angle, maybe about how Native Americans would like to see the portrayal, or what the director thought when he casted Depp. All in all, the media did a good job by not editorializing, but it would have benefited had there been more interviews provided.J