10 February 2014

The Lone Ranger Part I

In a meetup group that I attend, one of the members mentioned that The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp wasn't that bad. ***Spoilers Alert*** He also mentioned the fact that the man who becomes The Lone Ranger is reading a copy of Locke's Two Treatises of Government in the beginning of the movie.

***Spoilers Alert*** Most reviewers of the movie point to bad images of Christians in the film and how the Native Americans and Chinese were exploited. There was no review that closely examined the man who was The Lone Ranger, John Reid.

Let's give it a go.

Mr. Reid was found among Presbyterians (baptized Christians) on a train heading out west. He was discovered by one of the group carrying John Locke's Two Treatises of Government that he considered "his bible". As a lawyer, he believed that bringing men to justice within the court system was the way to handle every criminal. He would defend this belief for most of the movie with his life.

However, when the rubber hit the road, he had to reevaluate his position. In the end, he believed that he had to personally take the lead to exact justice.

This transformation reminded me of Ambassador and Dr. Mary Ann Glendon's book The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World, from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt. In it, she describes how many scholars end up not being effective politicians and vice versa. It takes a special person to pull off both. "Perhaps Plato put it best when he chastised both the man of action who never looks beyond immediate concerns and the scholar who keeps his head in the clouds."

John Reid was an example of the scholar. It took experience to know that most times, people need to take up the mantel of justice themselves or in associations of people, just not leave it to government agency.

This is the irony of the movie: it takes the emergence of The Lone Ranger to actualize Locke's natural man who was John Reid. It took experience in action to understand the Two Treatises.

The parallel for Christians is that Love in action is what actualizes faith in Jesus of the Bible.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corr. 13:2)
The Lone Ranger Part II
The Lone Ranger Part III


  1. When I said that it "wasn't that bad," I meant that in a relative sense; as in, for a Hollywood movie - one which I went into thinking it was going to be god awful - it was surprisingly erudite and entertaining.

    It was certainly about 30-45 minutes too long and incredibly bipolar. However, they way it dramatized the problem of Progress and overcoming of Nature, I thought was done very well. To me, it made Progressivism look worse than Christianity, while also exposing the trade-offs necessary for modern technology/connectivity. The first three minutes of the movie laid this all out brilliantly:

    The movie opens at a carnival in 1933, with the half constructed Golden Gate Bridge stretching across the San Francisco Bay in the background. The young boy in his Lone Ranger costume wanders into a tent featuring a Wild West exhibit, where you can “visit the thrilling days of yesteryear.” Inside, he stares longingly at a stuffed “Mighty Buffalo - Lord of the Plains,” which by that era had been hunted almost to extinction. He then wanders further in and comes across what appears to be a wax statue of “The Noble Savage in his natural habitat" holding a tomahawk standing in front of his simple home, the teepee. The grandeur of the bridge - one of the seven wonders of the modern world - is juxtaposed against this succession of things that were overcome in order for it to exist.

    Then, there is what you hit on, as to what John Reid symbolizes. I saw him as representing the naivete of Progressivism: that morals and justice would necessarily progress with science and technology; with this set against what his brother represented: common sense, traditional morality, and actually feeling the weight of morality and its worldly application, instead of intellectualizing and abstracting it. Like you said, "It took experience in action to understand the Two Treatises."

    I thought the fablistic side of it was done very well - unfortunately it was overshadowed by the need for it to be an entertaining summer blockbuster.

  2. Thanks for your comment Jeremy.

    You're of course right that the movie made Progressivism look evil. I would actually change that critique label from Progressivism to Consequentialism (of a certain strain), or the action or direction that aids more people is the moral upright choice (Spock's "the needs of the many"). This movie could also therefore be a critique of Harris' book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

    This is brought to the fore by Prof. Robert George's recent book Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism where he contrasts Natural Law to Consequentialism.


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