Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Why We Need The Lone Ranger
British mythology holds that, in their time of greatest peril, Britons can call upon their "once and future king," Arthur, to again lead the country. In much the same sense, I think we need to reach deep into our own American mythology and call upon The Lone Ranger to once again ride onto the silver screen with a mighty "Hi Ho Silver!" We seem to need him now, more than ever. In a time of ethical uncertainty on the part of our own government, this great hero of the American West could serve as a sort of moral ballast. Most children today don't even know who the Lone Ranger is, but they should (and DVD certainly assures they certainly can). There was a time when The Lone Ranger (not Howard Stern) was truly the "king of all media," appearing on radio, TV, in comics, in books, and on screen, in films. There are many lessons to be learned from The Lone Ranger. When he and his fellow rangers were ambushed and left for dead (not by Indians, but fellow Westerners), it's Tonto, an American Indian, and childhood friend of the Lone Ranger, who comes to his rescue, and saves his life. This bond of cross-racial cooperation and equality was certainly well ahead of its time (and even helped to debunk the commonly held belief that cowboys were always good and Indians were always bad). Lawlessness in the The Lone Ranger mythology does not come from the Indians, but from within the Ranger's own tribe -- fellow white westerners. Still, The Lone Ranger is not a killer or vigilante. (If he must shoot, he shoots to wound, not to kill.) And, affectively, his mask makes him everyman (or at least, the "everyman" we hope to be). In Genesis' "Land of Confusion," the band sings "Superman, where are you now? When everything's gone wrong somehow. The men of steel, men of power, are losing control by the hour." Superman reappears on the big screen this year. Batman made a triumphant return to the screen last year, in Batman Begins. And Spider-man will once again swing into action to protect New York. But we need The Lone Ranger. So, forget the attempt made in the 80s with the The Legend of the Lone Ranger. We are a wiser, more sober audience now, and I trust, that in the right hands (just as director Christopher Nolan did for Batman), this symbol of American Western mythology can ride again.