This article analyzes Comanche elder LaDonna Harris's adoption of actor Johnny Depp as a response to the cultural politics of Disney's casting him as a Comanche Tonto in The Lone Ranger 2013. In addition to onscreen performers and characters like Depp's Tonto, in my reading “cinematic Comanches” also include offscreen cultural critics and social actors who, like Harris, maneuver through thorny layers of representing the indigenous. Focusing my inquiry on how Harris and other cinematic Comanches created opportunities to make kin with Depp, engage Disney, and expand the convoluted discourse on producing Comanche representation and cultural knowledge, I discuss Lone Ranger's hype and protest, Harris's reframing of the adoption as captivity, and post-captivity collaborations between Comanches, Depp, and Disney. I suggest that by recreating a traditional Comanche mode of kinship in the twenty-first century, Harris took Depp in as a son to honor his onscreen efforts, to express Comanche self-determination in kinship, and to increase the cultural capital of the Comanche Nation.
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Research Article| January 01 2017
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Dustin Tahmahkera; “We're Gonna Capture Johnny Depp”: Making Kin with Cinematic Comanches. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 1 January 2017; 41 (2): 23–42. doi: https://doi.org/10.17953/aicrj.41.2.tahmahkera
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