I was colorblind until I went to high school.
No, not literally. I went to a Catholic school where most of my classmates were predominately white; or, in reality, Filipino, neither of which I am. I’m of mixed heritage–African American, Hispanic, and Native American. If we were to meet at a party, one of your first questions may be about my ethnic background, because I’m pretty ethnically ambiguous.
But my race didn’t make a difference because we were all treated exactly the same when we entered through the preschool doors at 4 years old.
At 14, when I left that sheltered institution for the mean, hard, hallways of an inner city public school, it became evident to me that the small Utopia I was raised in was an anomaly.
I’ve only experienced blatant racism once–and it was in high school from a
butt hole boy that happened to be African American and didn’t consider the way I dressed or spoke to be “black enough”. That’s another story, though.
When I moved to LA, it was even more evident that the playing field is not level in Hollywood, either. 9 out of 10 casting breakdowns (or listings) are for caucasian men and women. After that, comes African American, followed by Hispanics, trailed by Asians.
At the tail end–not even a blip on the radar–are Native American actors.
Hollywood’s attitude towards the First American ethnic group is much the same as America’s general attitude: we often forget they exist.
We stole their territory, killed them with smallpox, and dumped them onto tiny patches of land and said “Go at it”.
We remember them at Halloween when we dress in shambley-faux imitations of their traditional garb, or when we’re kids playing the politically incorrect “cowboys vs. Indians”.
Ever since the dawn of film, Native Americans have been misrepresented as violent, unfeeling, bad guys (take a look at almost any early spaghetti western) who require elimination in order for the good guy to prevail. (For a great documentary on this topic, head over to Netflix and watch “Reel Injuns”.)
For them, the chances of landing a role with a positive outlook on their people, or any role in film and television, is slim to none.
[SN: a big shout out to Parks and Recreation on NBC for featuring an ACTUAL Native American actor, Jonathan Joss, in a role that doesn’t mock their entire existence. That show is all kinds of awesome.]
ANYWAY, my point is, roles are not readily available for Native American actors.
No co-starring, guest-starring, or even bit roles.
So when a movie re-make as monumental and iconic as “The Lone Ranger” comes out, why the hell is Johnny Depp, by and large A WHITE DUDE, bestowed the privilege of being Tonto?
For freak’s sake, people!
And to mask the fact that Depp is, indeed, A WHITE DUDE, and not a Native American, they paint his face WHITE as if it’s some kind of tribal paint.
Even the TV version cast a Native American (Jay Silverheels). And that’s back in the early 1950’s when casting was even more whitewashed than it is today!
Yes, Johnny Depp is a chameleon, he’s played lots of different roles, but this is too much. He’s effectively stolen this opportunity from hundreds of actors who get little to no opportunities at all. Okay, okay: he claims to have distant ties to a tribe; so do I (as do most people–it’s the “romantic” thing to do) and I can respect that; but, I’m not going to submit myself for those roles. There are actors in Hollywood that were born and raised in a tribe and would be much better suited to represent the “people” onscreen.
I would argue that casting Depp this way just further exacerbates “Main Stream America’s” attitude towards completely ignoring the existence of this subset of people. They’re so invisible, that we’re not even going to cast them to play their own people in a summer blockbuster. EVEN THOUGH, they are banging down the doors to gain entrée into Hollywood.
I’m not-so-secretly happy that the movie is getting panned by a majority of critics.
This casting misstep is egregious.
And I’ll be showing my displeasure by refusing to spend my money on it.