Monday, July 8, 2013

Running the Constitution off a Cliff

We went to see Disney's The Lone Ranger on Saturday.  I ignored ominous warnings from my brother that box office receipts for the opening day were bad and that the reviews were worse.  I wasn't expecting art--in fact, the trailers that I had seen had already prepared me for a deadpan performance by the usually colorful Johnny Depp and an even more lackluster performance by his co-star Armie Hammer.  I wasn't expecting the movie to be great--just entertaining.
What I was expecting was a fun afternoon without political messages.  This is, after all, a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film.  While it might be, and in fact was, Pirates of the Caribbeanesque in some of its weirdness, it should be a clean, fun film that leaves us laughing.
What I found was a movie that was not entertaining at all but that did contain some disturbing messages.  Beyond just the "railroads are bad and any perceived 'Indian' attacks were frame-jobs to make peace loving Native Americans look bad" messages that we have all come to expect from Hollywood blockbusters, I saw other more subtle messages.  The self-described conservative Bruckheimer usually produces films that are fairly friendly to evangelicals, but not so this time.
For one thing, Christian characters abound through the film, but they are portrayed as mean-spirited, hate-filled people who go about trying to kill the Comanches and threatening the film's sinners with doom and gloom.  This was a negative portrayal of Christianity that I have not seen in a major family film in a while. 
There really are no good guys in The Lone Ranger.  Armie Hammer's Ranger is a weak, inept, and very unrealistic atheist liberal who opposes guns but has to learn to use one anyway to stop an even worse evil.  Johnny Depp's Tonto is a mentally unbalanced outcast among his own people who would prefer almost anyone as a partner other than Hammer but who finally accepts his fate as the Ranger's sidekick. Together they battle an evil villain who is hoarding silver.
What was most disturbing to me about the movie, though, is that the train on which the villain rides has the words "Constitution" prominently displayed on the side.  At the end, this train goes sailing off a cliff filled with the ill-gotten gains of the greedy villain and is blown to pieces.   
No mention is ever made of the train being named for the Constitution.  There was no reason for it.  It plays no part in the story. But there it is, on the screen, bearing the subtle message that all of these bad, hard hearted, preachy Christian people are really just greedy for money and that the Constitution somehow enables them in their greed and hard heartedness.  When the train is blown up at the end, the filmmakers are implicitly sending a message that greed and bad attitudes are derived from Christianity, and for them to go, the Constitution must also.
I am  used to Disney films promoting only the most liberal attitudes, but frankly I expected more from a 4th of July film and certainly more from Jerry Bruckheimer.

Alexandra Swann's novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

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