The Lone Ranger – Review / Discussion

There have been some significant shifts in our cultural perceptions since the original Lone Ranger, which cannot help but affect the remake.  Back in the day, the good guys wore white, the bad guys wore black.  Father knew best.  Life was orderly and well-defined and somewhat simple—dad worked, mom stayed home and raised the kids.  People believed in hard work and loyalty.  Heroes were honored because of their heroic deeds. Character mattered.  Life was about as black and white as the television and movies that portrayed it.  Or so it seemed.

The thing was, the reality of life didn’t always fit into black and white.  Everyone didn’t fit into the traditional roles, and television and movies began to reflect that complexity and confusion.  It began to show more honestly (if less hopefully) the various colors and textures of real life, even as the medium itself found color.  So, instead of Father Knows Best, you had the Cosby’s, where mom and dad worked, and the traditional roles mother and father were less clearly displayed as mother did more of the disciplining and seemed to wear the pants more often.  We began to have heroes who were conflicted, mixed bags of complicated motivations and imperfections.

Then, when we really began to see (and be honest about) “the man behind the curtain”, we realized the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a fraud, a total disappointment and so we got rid of heroes all together and replaced them with celebrities.  We still have someone to admire and look up to, but we don’t expect anything good out of them, so, while we might be pleasantly surprised, we aren’t likely to be disappointed.  At least we are always entertained.  And because we haven’t chosen them based on any sense of character or merit, they have nothing to live up to and we have nothing to aspire to.  It makes us all very comfortable remaining just where we are.  We never fail because we never strive for anything better.

OK, I’m digressing a little, but the point is, the original Lone Ranger came out in that time of heroes, simplicity, black and white, and good and evil.  This new Lone Ranger was made in the wake of an entirely different culture—when people are complex and fallen, even the good ones, and in a time of deep distrust (even hatred) for the establishment.

Watching the Lone Ranger, I see the effects of our modern culture, but I have a little hope that the pendulum is just beginning to maybe swing back the other way—because we’re (maybe, hopefully) beginning to tire just a little of the celebrity and our low expectations and are missing the hero just a little, wanting to believe there is really something more and better to aspire to.  I keep trying to decide what I think about this new Lone Ranger, and in the end, I think it may be pointing to a more realistic middle ground.

Let’s look at three distinct, but very related issues in the movie and hopefully gain some insight into our culture, and God’s Word:  the foolish vs. the wise, the establishment, our commonality.


 There are three main heroes in the movie:  The Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Silver.   Since this is their beginnings, however, the Lone Ranger is known primarily as John Reid throughout the movie, and Silver is called Spirit Horse.  Each of these characters is a very mixed bag.  Tonto calls John a half wit, and says that Kemosabe means “wrong brother” – because he wanted John’s brother Dan to help him.  Dan was a “mighty warrior”.  John definitely is not… or is he?  He surprises you…in a good way… and he grows.

Tonto seems to be a mystical, wise, Indian warrior, but there are odd things too, like his feeding the dead bird on his head.  That’s dismissible though, because he’s from a wondrous other culture which has strange, magical ways…until John finds out that even the Indians think Tonto is crazy—literally.

Then you have spirit horse – the magical horse that raises John from the dead.  Apparently nothing is sacred, because the movie writers have no problem making him out to be completely ridiculous, too.  First off, he chooses John instead of Dan to raise from the dead.  Tonto keeps trying to explain to him what an obviously bad choice he’s making.  Later, Tonto tells John, “I cannot decide if this horse is stupid, or pretending to be stupid.  Tricky.”  And at the end of the movie, the horse is seen standing up high on a tree, literally out on a limb, wearing John’s white hat.  It’s utterly ridiculous.  Tonto and John both agree that “Something very wrong with that horse.”

So as I was watching I kept wondering if the movie writers were subtly saying that the things we put our faith in are really ridiculous.  I wondered if they were saying our heroes of old, even our God, were/are just clowns.  It’s possible.   The thing is, in the end, you actually leave the movie with faith in the heroes.  They looked ridiculous, sure.  You even find out things that make you question all you know about them, but in the end, you are left with the sense that spirit horse really is magical and not a bit stupid; Tonto actually had seen visions, etc. as he said, and although very eccentric, wasn’t crazy in the least; and that kemosabe was not, after all, the “wrong brother”.  John Reid really did become the Lone Ranger in every sense of the name by the end.

The verse that kept coming to mind as I watched this was I Corinthians  1:27, highlighted below, but I think the whole passage bears reading.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

I think the Lone Ranger did a great job of illustrating this passage, for surely the foolish shamed the wise in the Lone Ranger.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How did you feel the movie represented its heroes?  Were you disappointed to find they were a bit foolish?  What statement do you think they were making about the things our culture looks up to (our heroes)?
  • How does God use the foolish things of this world to shame the wise?
  • How did the foolish things shame the wise in the Lone Ranger?


A large focus of the movie is John Reid’s struggle to know who to trust and what to put his faith in.  In one of the first scenes of the movie he tells a religious woman that his Bible is John Locke’s Treatise on Government.  He’s a man of reason, not a man of faith.  He trusts in the law, the law makers, the government…he trusts in the establishment.  Others (specifically Tonto and his brother, Dan) are continually challenging him in this.  When he and Tonto are buried up to their necks in sand, the cavalry comes running through, John is estatic.  “The United States Army.  Finally!  Someone who will listen to reason.”  Tonto just shakes his head knowingly.  Sure enough, the army who John is so sure will rescue them never even pauses.   Not only do they consistently not offer the help he is expecting, but he discovers that they are corrupt, as is the rail road, which is supposedly doing so much good for the people.  They are all crooked liars.  So he begins to put his trust in Tonto, only to find that Tonto’s back story makes him highly suspect as well.

Throughout the movie John vacillates.  He trusts in the system, finds out it’s corrupt, goes with Tonto, questions Tonto, finds another system (or government entity) to trust in, finds out it’s corrupt, goes out on his own, turns to yet another trustworthy establishment, only to find it too is compromised….  In the end he and Tonto end up together, because he finally realizes can trust Tonto, and because he discovers that Tonto was right.  “If men like that represent the law, I’d rather be an outlaw,” he says.

Here’s what I find interesting about John’s vacillating:  he keeps wanting to trust in the government and the system.  He actually loves the idea of government and would rather trust in the establishment and the system than in individual men.  He would rather trust in checks and balances than in a corruptible man.

I was expecting the movie to be completely anti-establishment.  I expected it to be all about vigilante justice and men doing what is right in their own eyes.  In some ways it is.  He and Tonto ride off to make their own justice – but it’s not necessarily because they simply want to be rogue.  John, at least, clearly would rather submit to the authorities and work within the system.  It’s just that, for the time being, the corruption is too deep, the system is utterly flawed (because of the men in it) cannot be trusted.

So yes, it’s anti-establishment, but you get the sense it doesn’t want to be.  John resigns himself to having to wear a mask, having to work outside the law if he’s to help make things right, but he doesn’t want to.  That’s different that being against the establishment simply because you choose to be against it.  Lots of people are “anti” for the sake of being “anti”.  The Lone Ranger isn’t working outside the law because he’s anti-establishment or rebellious, he is working outside the law because he is pro-justice, pro things being right and good…and the only way to work toward that end under the circumstances is to work outside the law.  He is motivated by working toward something (things being right), not by working against something (the establishment).  That’s perhaps a subtle difference, but a very significant one.

My Bible teacher in high school used to tell us, “it’s not enough to know what you’re against.  You have to know what you’re for.”  Being against something was too big a target – you’re not aiming for anything that point, you only know what you are not aiming for.  You have to know the target; you have to know your purpose.  I think the Lone Ranger actually demonstrates this to some degree, but whether or not you agree with his course of action, it does raise the question of how should people (especially God’s people) respond when the governing forces in their lives are corrupt?

It’s actually an issue we see often addressed in scripture.  Israel was often under bad leadership (like when they were held captive by other nations), or no leadership, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), in which case mayhem resulted and everyone was a hippie or a vigilante, of sorts.  We are made to live under authority.  Ultimately, we are made to live under God’s authority.  When our more immediate governing authorities follow and honor God’s authority, it makes it easy for us.  When they don’t, it poses a struggle.  No matter what the governing authorities do, we are still called to follow Christ.  The best example of living under the authority of God in the face of a hostile and/or corrupt earthly governing body is Jesus.  It might be worth it to take some time to read through the Gospels examining how Jesus did it, and compare to how the Lone Ranger did it.  It might help you (and your children, etc.) think through that issue in your own life better if you examine where the Lone Ranger got it right, and where he got it wrong.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Did you leave the movie feeling distrustful of the system, government, big business, etc.?  Did you leave the movie wanting to fight against things, or wishing things were better?
  • How do you think Jesus would counsel the Lone Ranger to respond to the corruption around him?
  • What examples can you think of in the Bible where Godly men had to respond to a corrupt government?  What were their challenges and how did they respond?  How did they honor God?
  • Do you tend live your life against some thing or things, or do you tend to life your life for something or things?  Do you only know what you don’t want to be, or do you have clarity on what you do want to be?
  • If you (or someone you know) are unclear about what you want to be, where do you think you should go to find the answers?  Do you think the Bible/God could help you with that?  Why or why not?


If you saw Pirates of the Caribbean, you will know that one of Will Turner’s biggest struggles is dealing with his prejudices about pirates, and realizing that he is one of them (by birth).  Why?  Because pirates are bad, evil men…and Will is not like that.

I don’t know if Johnny Depp personally, intentionally ensures that movies he stars in deal with this theme or not, but the Lone Ranger has pretty much an identical sub-plot.  John continually wants to point out how he is not like Tonto.  HE works within the lines.  HE believes in the law, etc.  “I am not like you.  I have a tribe,”  He tells Tonto.  Tonto knows better, however, “You have nothing.  Like me.”  Tonto realizes how alike they are, long before John is willing to even consider it.

I think it’s a continual point of disillusionment and disappointment, and ironically it works both ways.  Because of his pride, John wants to believe he is better than the others, he finds he is no different and no better.  Because of our human need to worship and look up to something, he also wants to believe in something greater than himself– he wants to believe Tonto is magic, and the lawmen are honorable, and the system is good, etc.  He is almost angry when he finds out Tonto may simply be crazy.  He’s shocked to find out the lawmen are corrupt and the system faulty.  It’s not just John that needs to believe in something.  Tonto wants to believe that the horse is a spirit horse and Cavendish is a “windigo” (evil spirit).  His revelation at the end?  “All these years I think you are windigo, but no, you are just another white man.”  Cavendish believes the Lone Ranger is a ghost, but discovers, “You’re no spirit.  You’re just a man in a mask.  No different from me.”

No different from me.  That’s the theme.  At their core, these men all begin to realize they aren’t that different.  It hurts their pride at times, to realize they are no better.  At other times, it hurts their aspirations, that part of them that needs something it can believe in and look up to, to realize the men they believed in are no better, greater, nor different from them.  It’s quite a disappointment either way.

We deal with these two things all the time in our real lives.  We are often so tempted to think, “I would never do or be that.”  But then we have Jesus gently reminding us, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7).  Or as it’s been so often said, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It is often a horrifying reality to our pride when we realize that the line distinguishing us from someone we despise is a best a very thin one.

Alternatively, we so want to believe that someone out there really is different, really is special, really has done it right (whatever our “it” is).  Sometimes that’s because it means we, too, could follow in their steps, but other times it’s not that we dream of being what they are, rather we just are encouraged to know they exist.  Why?  Because we are made to worship, and that gives us something to elevate, something we can worship, and that feels right to our souls.  When that someone fails us, we have to face that our god was false, or we have to face that if our hero failed, we too may fail.  Neither is pleasant.

While this seems really negative, facing our own limitations and sinfulness and facing the inevitable shortcomings and failings of anyone we look up to…there is good news.  First off, God loves us anyway.  Second, He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own, He is willing to help us, and gives us the Holy Spirit to that end.  Third, when we fail, he is right there saying “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), just as He also says, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  Fourth, there IS someone who never fails us.  There IS someone we can look up to and never be disappointed or disillusioned.  Jesus.  We are made to worship, but we are made to worship the triune God, so it’s a good thing when anything else that we try to worship (most the time without knowing it) fails us, because it keeps us from worshipping false idols and reminds us to put our hope in God alone.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Have you ever thought that you were nothing like someone else, only to find you were a lot more alike than you thought?  Explain.  How did that realization make you feel?
  • Have you ever been disappointed to find that someone you thought was different from you (in a good way) was really no better than you?  Why was it disappointing?
  • Have you ever been disappointed in God?  In Jesus?  Do you think that God alone is worthy of your worship?
  • How would your relationships on earth be different if the only one you put on a pedestal was God/Jesus?


Click here to read a collection of quotes from the Lone Ranger.

by Stacey Tuttle