A ‘Twitter Storm’, targeting the Academy Award nomination for Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” went viral on Sunday during the Oscars. The film was controversially nominated by the Academy for “Achievement in Make up & Hair Styling”.
Critics of the film took to social media and put the Academy on blast, saying nominating “The Lone Ranger” for best make up was not only racist and inappropriate, but considered ‘Redface’ and highly offensive to the indigenous community.
‘Ranger’ received harsh criticism after casting non-native celebrity “Johnny Depp” to play the role of ‘Tonto’. Depp is seen throughout the film with full white face paint and wearing a black crow on the top of his head. Make up used on Depp in this production was offensive to many indigenous people of the United States as it does not represent a true indigenous nation, yet makes the claim that ‘Tonto’ is an indigenous person with special powers.
Disney in particular was under heavy target during the social media frenzy. In early 2013 Disney re-released the animated version of “Peter Pan” in a digitally remastered 60th anniversary edition on Blu Ray and DVD; just a few months prior to the premiere of “The Lone Ranger”. Peter Pan is well known for racist depictions of Native Americans including use of the word “squ*w” to describe the lone female character, Tiger Lily.
Arguably, some say releasing the animated classic before “The Lone Ranger” was a tactical move by Disney to remind audiences of how far they have come in representing indigenous people in film. However, it backfired, and “The Lone Ranger” was an epic flop, reportedly losing $190 million at the box office.
In 1995 Disney also famously produced an animated version of the story of Pocahontas which was littered with gross historical inaccuracies; including a romance between an adult Pocahontas and John Smith. The Pocahontas franchise includes two animated films both containing half truths.
According to trendsmap.com use of the hashtag #NotYourTonto went viral in Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and various other major areas in the United States and Canada.
One of the organizers for the social media campaign, Jacqueline Keeler, Navajo and Yankton Dakota of the Kinyaa’aanii/Kiyaa’aanii The Towering House Clan spoke with the Two Row Times. “Nominating The Lone Ranger for an award for what is basically Redface in this day and age just demonstrates how native people are still marginalized and stereotyped.” said Keeler. “I think Johnny Depp is actually a very well meaning person but he is just caught up in the thrall of romantic Native American stereotypes.”
Keeler says there is a larger part of the story contributing to why Native American representation in the media is consistently presented to North American audiences littered with inaccuracies. “There are many reasons why Canadians and Americans, because of the whole settler-colonial story, don’t understand us. They have these ridiculous ideas and they play out in the media in the way they celebrate.” said Keeler. “I think that we look at people who are our peers and we assume they are able to understand and able to represent us in a way that seems reasonable. But when they actually do things you find out there are working under a completely different kind of social programming, then you find out that there is this huge gulf. What I would like to do is cross that gulf.”
Keeler is part of a large and widespread social movement to eradicate native mascotry from the face of modern media. Using the hashtag #notyourmascot they have launched a few social media campaigns and plans are underway to protest the stadiums who will be hosting the Washington Redsk*ns in the upcoming season.