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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:41 PM
Original message
Was the Lone Ranger a Racist?
"Tonto" in spanish translates to "Stupid Person" in English. All those years of watching the Lone Ranger and Tonto in action, and I never would have guessed that he was insulting his partner. As things were much different back then, I wonder if naming the Native American character "Tonto" was a racist gesture. Overt racism was common, especially in the bible belt at the time.

What do you think?

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MrPerson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. I can only imagine what kimosabe meant.
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:44 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. LMAO ,,,,, I will have to look that one up
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wyldwolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #3
11. qui no sabe - Spanish for "clueless."
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:47 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. I guess Kimosabe typically means "Faithful Friend" in some Native American Languages
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:49 PM
Response to Reply #8
15. kemosabe - Que no sabe (he who knows nothing) n/t
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #15
24. Now that is interesting.
I looked up "Kimosabe" at Dictionary.com and "Faithful Friend" was the answer it gave. Your explanatino makes lots of sense.
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3waygeek Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:00 PM
Response to Reply #1
27. Gary Larson figured it out years ago...
Edited on Wed Mar-18-09 06:00 PM by 3waygeek
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sasquatch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:44 PM
Response to Original message
2. I caught that too when I took Spanish 101
Needless to say I was disappointed in my fellow man.
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:44 PM
Response to Original message
4. I think kemosabe means chickenshit n/t
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:47 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. I thought it meant "my ride in Hollywood".
:)
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #4
10. Maybe kimosabe means.... one who ducks thrown guns on horseback
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:45 PM
Response to Original message
5. I thought the name "Tonto" was made up to be like "Squanto"
Squanto was the Indian who established contact with the Mayflower pilgrims.

--d!
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:46 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. Tonto does mean stupid. n/t
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tbyg52 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #5
17. I think you are probably right -
something they never checked, like when they sold the "No Va" car in Spanish-speaking countries.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:46 PM
Response to Original message
6. Of couse he was. And he fit in perfectly with what the rest of pop culture at the time.
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:50 PM
Response to Reply #6
16. I like Fred Astaire ...
He did paint his face black in some movies, but he also danced with Black American Musicians in a 1935 movie. I would imagine something like that was considered to be an outrage in some circles.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
12. Wasn't the whole character a dumb, racist stereotype?
Tonto, that is.
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:52 PM
Response to Reply #12
19. I think it was .... but I thought it was normal at the time.
I have not seen an episode for many years, so I really cant be too sure.
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:52 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. Yeah, well, so was racism.
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:57 PM
Response to Reply #20
25. Yes, that is the insideous power of racism
The victim feels it every day, and everyone else says ... huh?
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customerserviceguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:15 PM
Response to Reply #12
34. He was definitely
in a subservient role to the Lone Ranger. About all he could do was "magical" Indian stuff, like knowing when a herd of buffalo was approaching, etc. Just another way to deny the humanity of Native Americans.
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lunatica Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
13. In spanish (they dub tv programs in other countries)
Tonto was named Toro. His 'American' name was always a source of much humor.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
14. Was Amos and Andy racist?
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. Why Amos and Andy?
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:13 PM
Response to Reply #18
32. Pop culture contemporaries
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tularetom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:52 PM
Response to Original message
21. Um, the Lone Ranger was a fictitious character
The people who created him probably were racists but he didn't actually exist. Ergo, not a racist.

LR: "Tonto, we're surrounded by hostile Indians. We're gonna die"

T: "What you mean we, white man."
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nxylas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:53 PM
Response to Original message
22. I thought it was supposed to mean "scout"
My memory of the show is fairly hazy, though.
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onethatcares Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:53 PM
Response to Original message
23. and one day Tonto said
"Kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I'm going out to sea".
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 05:59 PM
Response to Original message
26. The Straight Dope
For your reading pleasure ...

Origin of the word "Kemosabe" and "Tonto"

--d!
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TWiley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #26
30. That was interesing reading .... thanks.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:03 PM
Response to Original message
28. On the radio, the Lone Ranger and Tonto both rode on Silver. Together.
When they took it to TV, they gave Tonto his own horse, Scout, ... for reasons that should be obvious to those of us who recall those days.

:shrug:
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valerief Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:13 PM
Response to Reply #28
33. LOL!!!! I'd love to see a remake with the horse-sharing. nt
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:24 PM
Response to Reply #33
35. I'm an 'expert' on them ... listened religiously on my little radio as a kid in the 40s.
The Lone Ranger was an exclusively Detroit-area show at the time. My generation of kids (and the 'older kids') grew up with him. He was THE most popular Halloween costume, bar none. EVERY boy wanted the dual-holster six-shooters (cap guns).
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valerief Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:56 PM
Response to Reply #35
38. I was a kid in the 50s and remember the teevee show. I didn't like that much
because it was a 'boy' show.
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RamboLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:06 PM
Response to Original message
29. Well at least they had a Native American in the role of Tonto
Jay Silverheels played Tonto through the entire series with 2 different Lone Rangers. The most famous of course being Clayton Moore. But John Hart played the part for 2 seasons while there was either a pay dispute or the dummy in charge had fired Moore.

As to the name Tonto.

Isn't it true that Tonto means "fool" in Spanish?

This *is* true, but it was not that meaning that was intended by the producers of the show.

There are two versions of the story.

Fran Striker told the Saturday Evening Post that he invented Tonto's name and that it was picked by merely alterring the consanants in the name Bobo. (This was a caveman character Striker had created in another radio program.)

Jim Jewell says that Striker was remembering wrong. Tonto, he said, is another Potowatomie word.

There were a few Indians who would come to the camp to tell stories to the children.

One of the Indians apparently had a penchant for drinking after the children had gone to sleep. Sometimes he would get rowdy and the other Indians would call him "tonto." This meant "wild one."

Jewell remembered the word, liked it, and gave the name to the Lone Ranger's Indian companion.


http://www.endeavorcomics.com/largent/ranger/faq.html

Getting back to casting, as I said at least they cast a Native American. In Hollywood at the time Indian parts (as well as Oriental characters) were usually played by whites.

Jay Silverheels (May 26, 1912 March 5, 1980) was a Canadian Mohawk actor. He was best known as Tonto, the faithful Native American companion of The Lone Ranger in a long-running American television series.

Silverheels achieved his greatest fame as the Lone Ranger's friend Tonto. In addition to starring in the Lone Ranger television series from 1949 to 1957, Silverheels appeared in the films The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).

Following the end of the Lone Ranger television series, Silverheels found himself typecast as Tonto and had trouble finding further acting work. Silverheels was also hindered by a changing attitude, as some felt that the Tonto character was equivalent to a Native American Uncle Tom. Subsequently, Silverheels was forced to work as a salesman to supplement his acting income. He also began to concentrate on writing poetry influenced by his youth on the Six Nations Indian Reserve and appeared on television reciting his poetry. In 1966, he guest-starred as John Tallgrass in the short-lived ABC comedy/western series The Rounders, with Ron Hayes, Patrick Wayne, and Chill Wills.

Despite the typecasting, Silverheels often poked fun at his character in later years. In 1969, he appeared as Tonto in a comedy sketch on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, seeking new employment away from the Lone Ranger. The sketch was featured on the 1973 record album Here's Johnny: Magic Moments From The Tonight Show.

Among his later appearances were an episode of The Brady Bunch, as a Native chief who befriends the Bradys in the Grand Canyon, and an episode of the short-lived Dusty's Trail, starring Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island fame. During the "Brady Bunch" Grand Canyon episodes, the character Alice makes a tongue-in-cheek remark about meeting "Tonto" in the episode before the character meets Silverheels' character.

In the early 1960s, Silverheels helped to establish the Indian Actors Workshop in Echo Park, California as a place where Native American actors could develop their acting skills. The workshop is still active.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Silverheels



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petronius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:11 PM
Response to Original message
31. It seems like a pretty covert way to be a racist
Why assume that your white suburban audience is going know a Spanish insult, when you're perfectly free to be as overtly bigoted as you want without losing many viewers?
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RamboLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:24 PM
Response to Reply #31
36. I think sometimes DU'ers see a conspiracy in everything
Edited on Wed Mar-18-09 06:25 PM by RamboLiberal
The creator of the radio show probably picked it cause it sounded Indian or something. And that would've been way back in the 30's.

By the time of the TV series Tonto was an established character and they would've been loathe to change the name.

Jay Silverheels was Native American - apparently he had no problem with the name.

BTW, came across this while googling this subject.

For instance, a Far Side comic strip has the long - since retired Lone Ranger discovering ( In an Indian dictionary ) that kemosabe is an Apache expression for a horses rear end.. In the early 1970s, Jay Silverheels appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, playing Tonto, with Johnny Carson playing a career counselor.. Tonto was seeking a new job after having spent thirty lousy years as the Rangers faithful Indian companion.. ( Him let me peek under mask once.. No big deal! ) As to why he was no longer working with the Masked Man, Tonto said, Him find out what kemosabe means!

http://tomorrows-entertainment.com/hi-yo-silver-the-lon... /

I also remember Bill Cosby had a great skit on the Lone Ranger sending Tonto to town where he always got beat up. Till Tonto finally had enough.
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-18-09 06:27 PM
Response to Original message
37. You didn't know that? Heh.
Edited on Wed Mar-18-09 06:34 PM by BlooInBloo
EDIT: Overreaction laugh removed.
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