42 thoughts on “Close to Kemosabe

  1. Of all the myriad reasons to cancel “Close to Home”, I would not have waited for this one. It’s clearly playing on the ancient “Lone Ranger” stereotypes: I would not have condemned it just for this repetition. On the other hand, if another comic had made a cheap gag using minstrels in blackface, I doubt that the syndicate would have passed it along, so I suppose there is an argument against accepting prejudicial stereotypes just because they have appeared somewhere else in the past.

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  2. It doesn’t say CIDU, but I am not sure I understand the cartoon. Does Tonto mean “last call” as in what we pub-goers in the UK call “last orders” before, 10 or 20 minutes later, the bar staff call out “Time!” (traditionally, in olden days, “Time, gentlemen, please!”). Or, since his eyes appear to be wide open in panic, rather than “Time’s” wingèd chariot hurrying near, does he mean imminent death (And yonder all before him lie / Deserts of vast eternity). With his shoulder and arm blocking his ear from listening to the vibrations from the bar surface, perhaps he is hearing his own failing pulse as his heart gives out.

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  3. Up next: Close to Home does Uncle Remus? Actually I can’t see being offended, since it’s clearly mocking the stereotype rather than reinforcing it.

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  4. @ DemetriosX – That’s a good point. I was also wondering whether the old “Lone Ranger” TV series might be less well-known in Canada. It’s so ancient now that only geezers have seen it. Yes, there was a movie in 2013, but I doubt that would count for anything here. This “Tonto” doesn’t look anything like Johnny Depp.

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  5. @Carl “it’s clearly mocking the stereotype rather than reinforcing it”. Actually, I don’t think it’s even trying to be THAT clever. It’s just…not funny and it doesn’t make sense. I get ALL of the components and I get the joke, but it’s not funny. A shame to get cancelled over such a lame offering. The “outrage” isn’t even worth the energy.

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  6. I agree that an offensive stereotype doesn’t become okay to repeat just because a beloved classic media property once used it. And we can still enjoy The Lone Ranger as long as we understand its context and that it didn’t get everything right.

    That said, I don’t really understand what’s offensive about Tonto being an expert tracker.

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  7. Tonto’s fractured English is probably the offence.
    In Lucky Luke’s tv cartoons, the natives speak broken French; when they were being translated for American tv, the American producers would not have them speaking broken English, so, exasperated, the French producers gave them an Oxford accent instead, with a certain comical effect.

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  8. I think it’s funny how the article makes no mention of what’s so offensive about this cartoon (or maybe it did, and I missed it). Is it that the Native American is speaking in broken English? That there is a subservient relationship now considered politically incorrect? Showing an old stereotype of a Native American tracker holding his ear to the ground? That only opposite genders are shown flirting with each other?

    It seems to me that this is a case of “Everyone knows that this cartoon is offensive — it’s just that there’s no real agreement why.” (And by “Everyone knows” I mean “You should immediately know, or else you should be fired and shamed for not knowing.”)

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  9. At a quick glance, it looks like Tonto has over-imbibed and collapsed onto the bar. I would assume the issue is with people thinking this has something to do with stereotypes about native americans and alcohol.

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  10. I really didn’t get the offense hitting a level of dropping the strip, but Kilby makes a good point that Canadians might not know the reference.

    On another note, the term “Indian” is considered offensive and we were told to refer to them as “Native Americans”. Are they “Native Canadians” north of the U.S.?

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  11. Speaking as a Canadian, yes, we are familiar with the Lone Ranger. I think even my teen kids have a sense of who the Lone Ranger is, if not any details. Secondly, yes, people here would refer to “native americans” but more likely these days, it would be “first nations people” or most likely, “indigenous people.” Side note: U.S.ians really need to figure out that “America” can mean two entire continents, not just the U.S.A.

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  12. The more genteel terms used for Indians in Canada would be Natives (with the capital), First Nations, or Aboriginal Peoples. These terms usually are not usually considered to refer to Eskimos aka Inuit except for Aboriginal Peoples. They’re also now starting to use Indigenous Peoples. Rest assured, whichever term you choose, someone will be offended by it.

    The Lone Ranger is probably as well known in Canada as in the USA and equally geezer.

    All supposition in previous comments–that it’s offensive because he’s drawn as a stereotypical Indian, that he’s subservient to TLR, or that he talks in dialect are all wrong. I will say, though, that the fact the story doesn’t say what they object to is a real failing. Anyway, the issue is he looks like a typical drunken Indian (sorry, a drunken Indigenous man). If you read the comment, it is clear that he is predict what is coming, as he would do with an ear to the ground to predict the approach of enemies. However, at first glance, what you see is an Indian passed out/slumped over the bar. The incredibly bad artwork also makes it look like Tonto is in the process of voiding himself.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/the-drunken-indian-stereotype-and-social-healing-1.729514

    Huh…just checked Twitter of offended guy and he’s complaining about the clothing. So maybe I’m reading too much into it. But, sheesh, if it’s the clothing you’re freaking out about when TLR is also a stereotypical cowboy costume, GFY.

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  13. Talking to a Canadian friend on Facebook, and he emphasized that they have ALL of America’s popular culture, and will get any American cultural reference. I’m sure that can’t be 100% true, there are probably odd little gaps, but it’s probably 95% true. So Canadians know who the the Lone Ranger and Tonto are.

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  14. Sure, the whole Lone Ranger series has offensive components. That actually seems. . . sort of obvious? As Powers said, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it. You can acknowledge that people in the past didn’t get everything right without chucking everything they did in the trash.

    As for this particular cartoon, I can see why people were offended, but cancellation seems excessive.

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  15. BTW, fun task for grammar pedants. Try diagramming this sentence from the article: “This is something I’d expect to see in a museum exhibit about racism in popular culture I wish ended decades ago.”

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  16. @ Olivier – When we first got a “Dora the Explorer” DVD (several years ago), I figured that since the English version includes lessons on basic Spanish, it would be logical (given comparative immigration situations) that the German version would include lessons about speaking Turkish. Silly me: the German version teaches kids English, of course.

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  17. “Does this mean that the whole Lone Ranger series is somehow offensive now?”

    No. But reproducing a modern take at it while recreating what is now offensive could be. That’s not an inconsistency. What is or isn’t offensive is not eternal.

    “since it’s clearly mocking the stereotype rather than reinforcing it.”

    Is it? I’m not seeing anything that says it was absurd to do Tonto speak and ground tracking in the original lone ranger; I’m just seeing the stereotype is amusing to put in a bar.

    “It’s so ancient now that only geezers have seen it. ”

    But it’s entered our folk-lore and is universally known for that; much like Robin Hood, Bluebeard the pirate, Hercules, or Sherlock Holmes. One doesn’t need to have actually consumed *any* media to know who they are. A prevalent media adaption may be the first exposure to one generation and another for others, but lack of *any* adaptation doesn’t mean obscurity. (Who *was* Bluebeard the Pirate; I’ve never seen or read *any* adaptation of him.)

    “On another note, the term “Indian” is considered offensive and we were told to refer to them as “Native Americans”.

    Told by whom? My experience has shown this https://www.nativetimes.com/index.php/life/commentary/11389-native-american-vs-american-indian-political-correctness-dishonors-traditional-chiefs-of-old to be the for more common sentiment.

    ” Are they “Native Canadians” north of the U.S.?”

    “First Nations” is very widespread currently.

    “more than just the subservient relationship.”

    I didn’t think it was that so much as the Tonto speech and the trope of ground listening.

    “That said, I don’t really understand what’s offensive about Tonto being an expert tracker.”

    Maybe that it was never plausible. Anyway, here the joke is for the assumption of the Lone Ranger and Tonto are just inherently funny for existing.

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  18. I think the answer is that, yes, Boise Ed, the whole Lone Ranger series IS somehow offensive now. Indeed, the whole genre of Westerns is kind of a bit questionable. I think the relevant quote is, ‘“Bad judgment by Postmedia. This is something I’d expect to see in a museum exhibit about racism in popular culture I wish ended decades ago,” wrote Zial Fazel, who also follows McMahon on Twitter.’.

    I get the impression that Zial Fazel is aware of who the Lone Ranger and Tonto are. And considers them to be offensive 1950s-era stereotypes who ought to have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    We in the United States don’t necessarily see it that way. We have a great deal of affection for cowboys, Westerns, and the Lone Ranger specifically, but in Canada, outside of Alberta, I don’t think they have the same attitude.

    Now, you and I can talk about how Jay Silverheels was a pioneer in the movie industry, and worked against racism his whole life, and how Clayton Moore supported him in this, and tried to live an exemplary life treating everyone with fairness and dignity. How, of those two actors, one wasn’t racist, and one was an anti-racist activist. But they nonetheless come out of a racist genre, and can be seen as part of that. Even if they, personally, did what they could to change that genre.

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  19. Yes, First Nations and First Nations people(s) are the accepted terms, as well as Indigenous (for example, Jody Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s first Indigenous Attorney-General; and also MMIW, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women).
    Btw, “Indigenous” is the umbrella term, and Indigenous peoples consist of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.

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  20. Jay Silverheels was a Mohawk, born in Ontario(‘Six Nations of the Grand River’ reservation), and his portrayal of Tonto was at least as well-known in Canada as in the U.S. in the mid-20th century.
    But, that was then. The Clayton Moore TV show reruns disappeared from syndication, due to a bad 1980 movie, ‘The Legend of the Lone Ranger’, and the characters were nearly forgotten until the more recent version, ‘starring JOHNNY DEPP AS TONTO AND…some guy’ (“Armie Hammer”? Really?)
    As stated above, Canada now overcompensates with hypersensitivity towards First Nation issues, after decades of the exact opposite.

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  21. ianosmond says what I thought much more eloquently then I could have expressed it.

    I’ll add that “The Lone Ranger” is more than Tonto-speak and ground listening and although such things are a little cringe-worthy by todays standard the entire oevre is more than just that and such are forgivable. I’d even go so far that as a literary device they can be argued to be worthy, but to single them out as a comic stereotype for yucks might not be.

    So one *can* say the oevre is acceptable though the cartoon is not.

    But I imagine Zial Fazel probably *does* find the romanticized Western offensive and I’m not a fan enough to want to counter. The questionable content *is* a smirch that does need to be addressed I’m not saying westerns need to be scrapped heaped but the smirching shouldn’t go unacknowledged.

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  22. Lest anybody feel singled out, there were A LOT of comments in Moderation. Some of you might have been commenting for the first time on Crimeweek; the rest, who knows?

    It’s a separate program from CIDU’s, but with the same quirks.

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  23. When I was a kid, I loved watching The Lone Ranger. It never caused me to disrespect Tonto or any other Indians (the only word we had for them, in those days). (The name Tonto, however, always seemed highly inappropriate, even then.) In fact, The Lone Ranger sometimes made me greatly respect the talents exhibited by Tonto. This cartoon, albeit drawn in MacPherson’s inimitable er, ah, style, shows Tonto taking.one such talent above and beyond. I haven’t seen The Lone Ranger on any of the rerun channels, so I can’t say how it would affect me today, but I feel sure it would not belong in the same bucket as, say, Amos and Andy.

    Olivier: I have seen “amerindian” here in the USA, but usually in academic contexts, rarely in conversation.

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  24. I grew up in Calgary, where the outrage is apparently coming from (?? I guess). There’s a lot of racial conflict in that area, or at least there was.

    When I was a kid there, in the 90s, in a bad neighbourhood, there was a small number of white supremacists, and a larger number of people who didn’t think of themselves as racist (because they liked rap) but would drive around on a Friday or Saturday night looking for Indigenous people (or East Asians or Pakistanis or Gays) to beat up.

    At one point, I was in a small town in the north part of that province in about 2001/2002, and I saw a ‘No Indians’ sign on a store.

    Anyway, white Canadians will look down their noses at Americans for being racist against blacks, but most of them still really, really, really hate First Nations.

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  25. Back when SCTV was only nationally broadcast in Canada (and spottily syndicated in the US), they had a Lone Ranger and Tonto sketch where Rick Moranis and Joe Flaherty played the two as a Johnny Carson-Ed McMahon talk show team. Moranis’ Lone Ranger did a Carnac bit and told a “how hot is it?!” joke while Ed McMahon’s reputation for being a heavy drinker was referenced multiple times by Flaherty’s Tonto.

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  26. I seem to remember Amerind/Amerindian being fashionable for about a week and a half.

    And really, why WOULD anybody favor this awkward construction? If you don’t like “Indian,” why would you like a truncated version?

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  27. Shad, I would guess that the majority of Canadians unfamiliar with the Lone Ranger are so because of age rather than nationality.

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  28. @narmitaj – “Does Tonto mean ‘last call’ as in what we pub-goers in the UK call “last orders” before, 10 or 20 minutes later, the bar staff call out ‘Time!’”

    Yep. Here in the U.S. the standard call out is “Last call for alcohol.” Something about the rhyme helps drive home the point somehow.

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  29. Hah! When I first read your comment, Bob, I took it as “is the meaning of ‘Tonto’ the phrase ‘last call’?” Then I realized you meant “Is Tonto trying to say …”

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