Johnny Depp, Tonto, Sacha Baron Cohen, The Dictator, Ashton Kutcher, Pop Chips

Disney, Paramount Pictures, Pop Chips

Why does Johnny Depp get adopted by the Comanche for his Tonto role while Ashton Kutcher and Sacha Baron Cohen get ripped for their racially charged characters?
—Hella Johnny, via the inbox

Indeed, Johnny Depp has been adopted as an honorary son by a member of the Comanche Nation, essentially making him a part of that group. However, you are not alone in your line of thinking; not everyone is thrilled at the new matchup, or Depp's chosen approach to his Lone Ranger character:

In fact, Depp has been fielding criticism for months about his upcoming turn as Tonto. His exaggerated Marilyn Manson face paint, the dead bird he wears on his head—none of that has sat particularly well with many Native Americans.

That said, yes, Comanche LaDonna Harris did go ahead and ceremonially adopt the 48-year-old actor in her backyard on May 16. Per tradition, Depp was given small gifts, such as pottery, to then redistribute to the people who were honoring him.

Harris, who is president of the Americans for Indian Opportunity, told me that she has no worries about Depp's portrayal of Tonto. In fact, just the opposite.

"I don't share that concern for one reason," she told this B!tch. "Tonto is a role reversal this time. He's the hero in the movie, the brains. And the sidekick is the white guy, so to speak.

"I've admired him for quite some time, he's always referred to his own [Native American] heritage, and it was an appropriate time to see if he wanted to be adopted into my family."

Indeed, Depp said in 2011 that, "I guess I have some Native American [in me] somewhere down the line. My great-grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek."

Still, there are some people who are showing concern, or, at least, some confusion, about Harris's choice. One of those people is Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee writer who blogs under Native Appropriations.

"It's really complicated for me," she said, because Harris is "very well respected in Indian country. But my reaction is mixed, because I feel like others will say the adoption excuses Johnny from any sort of criticism for his portrayal of Tonto."

And, for the record, Keene isn't sure she's all that keen. She's been in contact with people on the Lone Ranger set who assured her that both Depp and the filmmakers treated Native American culture with great respect.

"Even if that's true," Keene tells me, "It's still Tonto; Johnny is still wearing face paint that looks like it should be in Kiss, and he has a dead bird on his head. What does it really mean on a broader level?"

As for what the adoption means, at least, on a narrower level, I found out: "He's my son," Harris tells me of Depp. "There's the responsibility of staying in contact, sending a card on Mother's Day, doing what other children do. It's a warm and cordial relationship."

A card every year from Johnny Depp? Can I adopt him too?

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