Once, small boys thrilled at the announcement: “Out of the west, on a mighty horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi Yo Silver!” the Lone Ranger rides again!” But not any more.
The American Old West was fantasy, a literary genre that informed eventually, the world without ever existing but in American hearts and minds. The Western was the basic American morality play with which every American boy identified at some point. Many of those boys became Boy Scouts and the Scout’s Oath was taken seriously. And Hollywood turned out western movies that entertained adults, following the same precepts.
The Lone Ranger, at the apex of all this, was the ultimate American: self sufficient, moral, powerful, dedicated to helping others and intolerant of evil. An American icon. But nothing in human affairs is permanent but human nature and the Christian culture that generated the Lone Ranger, changed. In those days, boys played cowboys and Indians, shooting at one another with cap pistols and routinely going to school with pocket knives. And for most of them, sex did not exist yet. That turned up along with new glandular activity that brought previously uninteresting ‘dumb girls’ to the fore. We were supposed to be instructed in sex by our parents at entry to puberty and some were while others had to wing it. There were however, few unplanned pregnancies.
As everyone knows, that’s ancient history now, laughable, even. We have stood all that on its head. A long time Lone Ranger, actor Clayton Moore, took pride in always staying in character when accoutered as the Lone Ranger in public. He knew that his character was not only an icon, but an important American hero and he felt a duty to maintain that.
In 2013 however, a new Lone Ranger was released as a movie. The masked man was a secondary character this time;; his sidekick Tonto, played by Johnny Depp, was the true lead. Depp, wearing what appeared to be a dead crow on his head, played it for laughs. He was the American Sancho Panza with a red nose and floppy shoes. Nobody, in 2013, could take the Lone Ranger seriously any more; not when all kids are instructed in sex, a knife at school results in lock down and playing cowboys and Indians gets kids expelled from school. The American Old West has been demoted from a cultural icon to a cultural embarrassment. No one asks “Who was that masked man?” anymore; no one cares.
That’s too bad; the young boys who grew up under that regime made pretty good men …