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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Lone Ranger

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer star in a scene from the movie "The Lone Ranger."
The golden-age radio program that first had America asking, "Who was that masked man?" was a favorite with youngsters, as too was the popular television series it later spawned.

So parents may assume, going in, that "The Lone Ranger" (Disney)—a big-screen attempt to provide an answer to that now 80-year-old question—is a family-friendly project geared to kids. Alas, for a variety of reasons, especially the film's treatment of religion, such an assumption would be dead wrong.

This eccentric and overlong reinterpretation of the familiar story centers not on the crime-fighting frontier hero (Armie Hammer) of the title, but on his faithful Native American companion, Tonto (Johnny Depp). When we first encounter Depp's whimsical Tonto, he's an elderly man living, inexplicably, within a 1930s diorama of the Wild West.

Viewers are invited to feel their first enjoyable shiver of revisionist superiority as they observe that the display case holding Tonto labels him "The Noble Savage." Oh, those insensitive Depression-era lug heads!

The chance visit of a boy in a Lone Ranger outfit provokes a stream of reminiscences from Tonto, during which he recounts the circumstances that initially brought him together with lawyer-turned-lawman John Reid, his future "Ke-mo sah-bee." He also recalls their struggle to capture Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a viciously depraved outlaw one of whose crimes was to have a life-altering impact on Reid.

Set primarily amid the race to complete the transcontinental railroad—with Tom Wilkinson playing train company executive Latham Cole, the shady driving force behind that effort—director Gore Verbinski's action comedy offers a warning about the corrupting influence of greed. It also portrays, at least in accurate outline, the victimization of native peoples that resulted from the headlong pursuit of wealth and industrial expansion.

But one of the aspects of European culture that gets trounced is Christianity, with believers shown up as either weaklings or hypocrites.

Early on, one of the former, a Presbyterian church lady, invites Reid to pray with her during a train ride. In response, Reid holds up the book he's been reading on the journey—philosopher John Locke's 1689 text "Two Treatises of Government"—and identifies it as "my Bible."

Later, a cavalry officer who is responsible for massacring Indians repeatedly invokes God while ordering his troops into battle. And Cole, whose villainy becomes increasingly obvious, offers a smarmy grace that shows he uses God to his own purposes. By contrast, and in keeping with Hollywood's current norms, Native American spirituality and values are generally glorified.

Add to these factors Cavendish's taste for human flesh, the played-for-laughs proclivity on the part of one of his accomplices for wearing women's clothes and a series of scenes set in a brothel, and the resulting mix does not recommend itself for youthful—or even casual adult—consumption.

The film contains a negative treatment of Christian faith, considerable action violence with some gore, mature themes, including cannibalism and prostitution, a transvestite character, brief scatological imagery and humor and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Hildegard of Bingen: 
		<p>Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian--where to begin describing this remarkable woman?</p>
		<p>Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of St. Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she'd received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her <em>Scivias</em> (<em>Know the Ways</em>). Pope Eugene III read it and in 1147 encouraged her to continue writing. Her <em>Book of the Merits of Life</em> and <em>Book of Divine Works</em> followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux.</p>
		<p>Hildegard's visions caused her to see humans as "living sparks" of God's love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Sin destroyed the original harmony of creation; Christ's redeeming death and resurrection opened up new possibilities. Virtuous living reduces the estrangement from God and others that sin causes. </p>
		<p>Like all mystics, she saw the harmony of God's creation and the place of women and men in that. This unity was not apparent to many of her contemporaries. </p>
		<p>Hildegard was no stranger to controversy. The monks near her original foundation protested vigorously when she moved her monastery to Bingen, overlooking the Rhine River. She confronted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for supporting at least three antipopes. Hildegard challenged the Cathars, who rejected the Catholic Church claiming to follow a more pure Christianity.</p>
		<p>Between 1152 and 1162, Hildegard often preached in the Rhineland. Her monastery was placed under interdict because she had permitted the burial of a young man who had been excommunicated. She insisted that he had been reconciled with the Church and had received its sacraments before dying. Hildegard protested bitterly when the local bishop forbade the celebration of or reception of the Eucharist at the Bingen monastery, a sanction that was lifted only a few months before her death. </p>
		<p>In 2012, Hildegard was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI.</p>
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