Friday, March 30, 2018

Who Was That Masked Man?

The Lone Ranger as portrayed by Clayton Moore might well be my favorite TV character. The sure-footed nature of Moore's performance as the Ranger, his utter and complete lack of irony as a hero firmly and fully dedicated to promoting justice in a wild west are just at once admirable and compelling. As I've grown up, I see that along with that noble sense of justice there was a promotion also of the idea of progress and that what the Ranger was actually promoting was the modern world as it then existed in the suburbs, cities, and countryside of America. 

I recently watched the first two seasons of the series right through. It's been a long time since I'd seen some of those episodes, decades maybe, but watching so many back to back, the verities the shows promote came through like crystal. Though ostensibly a kid's show, there is plenty of stark evidence of unexpected death, especially by cruel criminal hands. The innocent are cast down as quickly as the guilty. The Ranger and Tonto always seem to be on hand, a trope that might seem silly until you understand it in broader mythic terms. They are every vigilant and so could never be far away, that's the comfort the Ranger and his partner supply to the people of the West. 

Now of course it's hardly an egalitarian vision, as sadly the Native Americans in the show while not belittled are diminished and it is clear that to be seen as good it is necessary to be compliant.  Tonto is the mainstay representative, but his affinity and friendship for the Ranger cloud his role as just a "good Indian". One episode had him filled with a desire for vengeance when a friend is found murdered. Also unfortunately Tonto is a flawed hero, the one who can take the lumps since the Ranger must usually be above such things. I'd hesitate to know the number of concussions Tonto suffered, but it's a great deal indeed as he was regularly conked on the noggin. 

These days the adventures of the Lone Ranger and Tonto might feel old hat, a part of an era which can only be appreciated in an ironic way. I don't agree. While the pro-American attitudes might be blunt, there is no denying that progress is preferable to the opposite. Certainly it must be considered and wise, but we can't allow ourselves to fall into a Luddite fantasy about the world. The Lone Ranger was all about justice and establishing a society in which gun play would not always be necessary. That's an ideal we can all agree on, or can we.

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1 comment:

  1. I remember the Lone Ranger action figures in the '70s :)


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