The Lone Ranger Rides Again … Almost!

rangerI haven’t seen The Lone Ranger and I’m not going to see it any time soon.  Word around the campfire is it sucks.  So rather than waste my time — and pay Disney and Cineplex for the privilege — I’ll wait and let Movie Central do it to me for free.  At the end of the day, I’m not curious enough to rush into two hours of Johnny Depp with a dead bird on his head.  But I digress — and I haven’t even started yet.

Disney thought they had a guaranteed homerun with Lone when Bruckheimer, Verbinski and Depp (late of Pirates of the Caribbean) stepped up to the plate.  They even packed the movie with promises of a sequel (read “franchise.”)  Unfortunately, the dynamic trio hit into a disastrous double play.   (I’m assuming Bob Iger is still torturing people in the dungeons of the Magic Kingdom over the John Carter debacle.)  So instead of laughing all the way to the bank, Mickey Mouse is busy pointing fingers.  (Ironically, he only has three.)  However, the problem is not only Bruckheimer, Verbinski and Depp; the problem is the Lone Ranger himself and his buddy Tonto.

The legend of the Lone Ranger is not a story for the 21st century.  There are simply too many nuances for our unsophisticated tastes.

First of all, it’s a morality tale.  Lone is the good guy.  Those other fellows over there, in the black hats, are the bad guys.  They do nasty things (normally motivated by greed.)  Lone points himself in their direction and tries to thwart their evil schemes — full stop.  He is not an on-the-spot vigilante.  He leaves justice to the proper authorities.  Contemporary audiences don’t appreciate this subtlety.  However, because of it, Lone is not ambivalent about his purpose or his methods.  He knows he’s the good guy.  He’s not consumed with angst.  Our society doesn’t understand this interplay between good and evil.  We want our heroes to question it, mainly because we don’t really think it exists.

Secondly, the relationship between the Lone Ranger and Tonto is impossible for contemporary audiences to comprehend.THE LONE RANGER, Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels  “Sidekick” just doesn’t translate into Oprahspeak.  In our relentless adherence to equality, anything less than a bromance between the two men is unacceptable.  We refuse to believe that Tonto has any dignity being the lower man on the scrotum pole, even though it’s clear he does.  (It’s too complicated to explain, but suffice it to say Tonto can hit the trail any time he wants to, but he doesn’t.)  Plus, our simplistic view is amplified by our aversion to actual ethnic diversity in film.  Minorities may be everywhere in the movies but, remarkably, for the most part, they dress, walk, look and talk stereotypically like the homogenized white guy standing beside them.

Finally, The Lone Ranger is a western.  This isn’t a bad problem until you try and tell the tale to kids.  In our world, there isn’t a Hovermom west, east, north or south of the Pecos who’s going to permit that.  Agrarian Workers and Native Americans (Cowboys and Indians) are personae non grata in today’s playgrounds.  Our children can zap aliens with death rays and mega-fry entire civilizations with video game warheads, but there is no way in hell little Bryce or Morgan will ever be allowed to strap on a toy pistol and go looking for bad guys.  It just isn’t done.  The demographics of The Lone Ranger’s first week in the theatre bear this out: ticket buyers were overwhelmingly white men over twenty-five.  This is not a bad group but clearly not the one Disney was aiming at.  Despite the advertising and the action figures, The Lone Ranger is not actually a kid movie — or at least not one parents are going to let their kids go see.

It’s too bad Disney missed the point and The Lone Ranger is a flop.  I grew up with Lone and Tonto, and I think, with a little creativity, they could have been retrofit into our brave new world.  In fact, their story is good enough that I still believe they should be.  After all, despite his being one of the deadliest pistolaros of the Old West-ern, in all the episodes of The Lone Ranger I saw, I don’t remember that he ever actually killed anybody.  That alone would be a welcome change from the carnage we see in most action/adventure films these days.  Unfortunately, now that Disney has bit the silver bullet, it’s going to be a long time before anyone else will return “to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past came [sic] the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! [and] The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Seperating the Facts from the Truth

One of the most amazing things about facts is how mutable they can be.  I’m not talking about changing the facts.  That’s impossible.  As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.”  Nor am I talking about this stupid “truthiness” that’s garnered so many headlines since Stephen Colbert coined the word in 2005.  I don’t think many people realize that this is actually a comedic device invented for laughs and regardless of who or how many people take it seriously, it isn’t.  I’m talking about rearranging the facts to create a faux truth which is then widely accepted as not only a reasonable facsimile but an actual alternative, indistinguishable from — and equal to — truth itself.   It’s a sort of mutant truth, accepted and unquestioned, as if it were the real thing.  Here’s how it’s done.

Everybody knows that Britt Reid, the Green Hornet, is the son of Dan Reid.   This is a fact.  Dan Reid was named for his father Dan Reid (Senior, I guess?) who was a Texas Ranger.  Dan Reid pere, and six other Texas Rangers were on the trail of outlaw Barthalamo “Butch” Cavendish when they were ambushed.  In the ensuing battle, the Texas Rangers didn’t have a chance and they were all killed except one: John Reid, Dan Reid’s brother.  Even though he was badly wounded, John Reid survived, clinging to life until, luckily he was discovered by an itinerant Native American, named Tonto, who nursed him back to life.  When John Reid was healthy enough to saddle up again, he made a black mask out of his dead brother’s vest and spent the rest of his life as (It’s getting kind of clear here, isn’t it?) the Lone Ranger.  The Lone Ranger, therefore, is, in fact, the Green Hornet’s great uncle!  This is the indisputable truth.  And it’s why Michel Gondry should be taken out and horsewhipped for making that mockery called a movie, The Green Hornet in 2011.  He juggled the facts unmercifully, and a whole generation now believe his version of the story.  This is how the truth gets waylaid.  However, Gondry’s sins are for another time.  This is just an illustration of how the facts remain, even when sometimes the truth gets lost by sloppy scholarship or undisciplined directors.  Again, let me illustrate.

There is a widely held belief, purported by William S. Baring-Gould, that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler had a love affair which produced a son who became, in later life, the great detective Nero Wolfe.  Stuff and nonsense!  Baring-Gould has taken a few isolated facts and woven them into a fiction that has gained enormous credibility.  However, even though many accept this as the truth, including many reputable writers, nothing could be further from it.  Let’s look at the facts — objectively.

It is well known that Irene Adler was the love (or as close as he could get) of Sherlock Holmes’ life.  He kept a portrait of her on his desk, and she was the only woman he ever spoke about with grudging admiration.  It is also well known that in May, 1891, Holmes and Professor Moriarty fought a life-and-death struggle on a ledge over the Reichenbach Falls, in Switzerland.  It was reported at the time that, locked in mortal combat, both adversaries slipped from the dizzying heights and plunged to their deaths.  Of course, we now know that, in fact, Holmes defeated Professor Moriarty but was unable to return to Watson because he was set upon by Moriarty’s henchmen.  However, for three years, Holmes was presumed dead; his whereabouts, unknown.

This is all factual information.  From it, we can conclude that Holmes must have been severely injured.  Otherwise, he would have simply rejoined Watson in the nearby town of Meiringen.  Therefore, we can also conclude that, because of his injuries, Holmes would have needed assistance to descend the mountain.  These are two reasonable deductions, worthy of Holmes himself.  The tricky part, however, is after recovering from his injuries, what would make Sherlock Holmes abandon his career as a detective for three years?  Nothing else had ever captured the soul of Sherlock Holmes – except, perhaps Irene Adler whom, we know, was living on the continent with her husband.  Therefore, it is more than reasonable to assume that it could only be Irene Adler, out hiking on a late spring vacation, who found Holmes and rescued him (not unlike Tonto.)  We can further make the case that (given their history) in his weakened state, Holmes succumbed to Ms. Adler’s considerable charms.  In short, as she nursed Sherlock Holmes back to health Irene Adler seduced him.  No other explanation is possible.

The result was a child; however, not, as some would claim, a boy, but a girl whom they named Monica (from the Greek monos which means “solitary or alone.”)  Obviously, in the early 1890s, this was a very delicate situation.  Clearly, a love affair and an illegitimate child would have folded up Irene Adler’s marriage like a cheap lawn chair.  Furthermore, Holmes was not really daddy material.  The child was given to a local Swiss couple named Delacroix, who changed her name to “Monique,” and raised her as their own.  Eventually, consumed by guilt, Holmes and Adler parted, never to see the child — or each other — again.

Monique Delacroix grew up totally unaware of her biological parents.  During the First World War, she met Andrew, a dashing British military officer.  They married in 1919, when he left the service and took employment as a Vickers’ armaments representative.  They had one child, born November 11th, 1920, whom they named “James,” after his paternal grandfather.  Unfortunately, Monique and her husband, in a weird stroke of irony, were both killed in a climbing accident, in the early 1930s.  Eleven year old James went to live with his father’s sister, Miss Charmian Bond.  James Bond completed his education in England and went on to a brilliant career in British government service.  Thus, when we examine the facts objectively, we find that Sherlock Holmes is not, in fact, the father of orchid detective Nero Wolfe, but, indeed, the maternal grandfather of James Bond, 007!

As we can see, it is easy to fall into the trap of alternative truth.  Even though the facts remain the same, sometimes they can be mismanaged, or perhaps unwittingly manipulated to produce, not a deliberate lie, but an untruth, all the same.  Michel Gondry and William S. Baring-Gould were not maliciously trying to deceive us; yet deceive us they did.  Therefore, it is always best, when faced with an acceptable truth, no matter how plausible, to return to the facts to make your own judgement call.