With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hi-Ho, Silver!", The Lone Ranger rides again! (cue: "cavalry charge" finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture)It can't be denied: the reason I grew up to become a pinko libtard pantywaist and socialist fuck-knuckle can be laid at the door of television. Everything I know about truth, justice and fair play I learned from The Lone Ranger.
-- opening of The Lone Ranger television series, 1949-1957
That and the importance of having your horse dry-cleaned on a regular basis.
Continues beneath the Boehner Orange® tumbleweed of saddle-sore rectitude
Perhaps I'm exaggerating a little but The Lone Ranger, the first television show that I'm aware of seeing and the seed of my life-long love of Westerns, was my introduction to a clearly moral universe.
I've been reminded of the seminal role The Lone Ranger played in my personal evolution by recent news of a new Lone Ranger film; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp, wearing a stuffed crow on his head, as Tonto (making explicit the hitherto unremarked connection between taxidermy and vigilante justice). I can't pretend that I'm expecting great things from the film.
I guess I must have been 5 or 6 when the masked rider of the plains (played by Clayton Moore) and his second-banana Tonto (played by the incomparably wooden Jay Silverheels) first rode into my life.
Everything about The Lone Ranger enchanted me, from the stirring introduction (until the day I die, the finale of The William Tell Overture will mean only one thing to me: the thunder of hooves and a masked man in a white hat) to the show’s unvarying ending (“...who was that masked man?...cain’t say but he left this here silver bullet..."). The show utterly absorbed me.
Watching it now one can only laugh. Clearly meant to represent our view of ourselves in the 1950’s--just, egalitarian and heroic--it (presumably) unwittingly nods approval to a subtle (-ish) racist, misogynistic and imperialist agenda. More obviously, the whole premise was laughable.
Week after week, the show followed a formula as rigid and preordained as a Japanese Noh play.
Every episode would open at The Lone Ranger’s campsite. The LR, who presumably subscribed to some sort of wire-service for heroes, would inform Tonto that nefarious doings were afoot in Putzville but his information was vague. In every episode, The LR would instruct Tonto (which means ‘fool’ in Spanish) to:“...ride into town and see what you can find out.”
Whereupon Tonto would gallop into Putzville or Scum City and take up position outside the saloon. Standing immobile and expressionless, he would await developments. They were never long in coming.
Within minutes, the villains would congregate roughly 2 feet from Tonto’s flapping ears and outline their dastardly scheme.
Now, given that they were surrounded by millions of square miles of empty Old West where a man could, if he chose, recite the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe at the top of his lungs without being heard, the choice of venue seemed odd. But it never varied.
When the bad guys decided to huddle, nobody ever suggested riding out into the sagebrush for the confab: oh, no. Evidently, someone said “...let’s stand next to that Injun outside the saloon and be really indiscreet.” Maybe they thought Tonto was a wooden cigar-store Indian...an excusable mistake.
Having absorbed the intel, Tonto would ride back to the campsite where The LR was waiting for his horse to come back from the local Dryclean Depot.
Seriously, Silver was so eye-wateringly white that dry-cleaning was the only explanation. Ditto The LR’s outfits.
By all accounts, the Old West was a dirty, dusty place and sartorial splendor was not a priority but The LR always looked like he’d just had a shave, haircut and manicure and his clothes were just back from the cleaners. Even as fastidious an old maid as Henry James would have been happy to bunk with him. It was a long way from Al Swearingen's Deadwood.
Tonto would bring The LR up to speed, employing the standard 'injun-speak' of 1950’s Hollywood: “ Keemo-Sahbee, bad men drinkum fire-water, talk bad medicine with forked tongue, they go rob great iron horse...” etc. etc. (apparently, Johnny Depp employs the same frankly offensive gibberish in the new film...plus ça change...).
Having taken in this double-talk, The LR would, for no logical reason, slip into disguise.
According to wikipedia:
"...he (The LR) was a master of disguise. At times, he would infiltrate an area using the identity of "Old Prospector", an old-time miner with a full beard, so that he can go places where a young masked man would never fit in, usually to gather intelligence about criminal activities."Where '...a young masked man would never fit in...'? As opposed to where? The Venice Carnevale?
In point of fact, the Old Prospector disguise is the only one I ever remember seeing but no matter. As to gathering intelligence...well, he pretty much knew what there was to know already. I'm guessing that it was just a chance for The LR to demonstrate his versatility and to put a gloss on the McCarthy-era penchant for spying on people.
After various tiresome machinations and stratagems, the villains would be thwarted, order would be restored and The Lone Ranger and Tonto would ride off into the sunset, leaving people scratching their heads before heading to the local pawnshop with the silver bullet.
The Lone Ranger was absurd, inept and laughable; badly written, badly acted and badly directed.
The premise was risible. A masked man who roams the Old West doing good and leaving behind silver bullets? How and by whom was this being funded? Silver bullets cost money, you know, and his dry-cleaning bill must have been startling.
Why the mask? Nobody knew who the hell he was anyway.
And why did Tonto, a genuine Native American seem so implausible an Injun and so much more plausible as a guitarist for Buffalo Springfield? I have no answers.
But I still regard The Lone Ranger with great affection. He taught me that it’s the duty of the strong to defend the weak, that evil must be fought, that there are better reasons than money for our actions.
He stood for loyalty, justice, honesty, bravery and selflessness...and the value of efficient dry-cleaning.
He set my feet on the path to being the deluded, Kenyan/Muslim/Socialist-loving, Obama-supporting douchenozzle 47%-er that I am today...and that can’t be a bad thing...can it?
Hi-Ho Silver... Away! (to de-Romnify America at nearest voting booth...)