“Who was that masked anarchist?” No, I’m not referring to “V for Vendetta.” I’m referring to “The Lone Ranger.”
One thing’s for certain, kids. This is not your grandfather’s “Lone Ranger” radio show (the medium that got me hooked on him), and it’s not your father’s television show. This is a wild and wacky and fun pastiche of the myths and lore of the Old West, but not as cerebral as History by Mel Brooks. Think History by Captain Jack Sparrow, uh, Johnny Depp, with the budding American Empire and corrupt railroad barons replacing the British Empire and the East India Company as the embodiment of evil.
Anal critics, especially from Establishment outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times, hate it. (Another reason to see it, not that you need one.) They’ll tell you the plot is confusing and impossible to follow. Nah—I had no trouble figuring out the story line, and if I can, any other idiot can. They’ll tell you it is Bad History. As if the history you got from your government-school textbooks can be believed.
But see this romp on as big a screen as you can find near you. I saw it on an IMAX-sized movie screen. It can’t get better than that.
John Reid (played by Armie Hammer), who becomes the Lone Ranger, did not start out as an anarchist. He’s returning to his West Texas home town after picking up an Ivy League law degree. On the train west, some pixilated Presbyterians try to get him to join their camp meeting, but he brandishes a black book on his lap and responds, “This is my Bible”—John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government. He does not carry a gun because he looks forward to the triumph of the Rule of Law.
In other words, he’s sort of a conservative, though of the non-interventionist Old Right variety rather than the twentieth-century neocon and imperialist (but I repeat myself) variety.
Without going into all the details (see the movie), Reid is one stubborn (read: dimwitted) idealist. Tonto is the Comanche sidekick who tries to educate him about the realities of power around him, namely that the railroad baron and the U.S. Army and the hypocritical Christians in town are in cahoots. The baron is in it for money, the Army because—well, what use are guns if you don’t use them, preferably on terrorists (savages). And the Christian Rightists’ unholy bible tells them that the only good Muslim, uh, Indian, is a dead one.
Finally the light goes on in John Reid’s head. About the only honest person he’s known is his older brother, head of the local Texas Ranger contingent, and he was killed because he was trying to stop a war of extermination against the Comanches. How can there be rule of law when the federal government on the frontier (the U.S. Army) and big business (the crony capitalist railroad baron) are joined together at the hip, and they have the support of the public by appealing to their baser instincts? The only way to fight them, he tells Tonto, is to fight them as outlaws outside the system. He puts on a gun belt and his mask, the mask (as in “V for Vendetta”) of an outlaw for justice. Cue in “The William Tell Overture” on the soundtrack. The fun is just beginning.
In a final scene, the townspeople now want him, the surviving Texas Ranger in the area, to take off his mask and stay to protect them, but he turns them down. He’s had his epiphany. He says goodbye to the woman he loves, and he doesn’t have to explain—she understands that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The masked Lone Ranger and Tonto ride out of town into the sunset, and the rest is history. (May there be many sequels!)
David Franke [send him mail] was one of the founders of the conservative movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He is the author of a dozen books, including Safe Places, The Torture Doctor, and America’s Right Turn.
Copyright © 2013 David Franke