My life as a fangirl started early – which came first for me, Star Trek or Star Wars? Hard to say; I was seven when Star Wars: A New Hope came out, but even by then Star Trek was a reliable rerun on the five or six television stations that came in clearly. (Yes, I’m that old!)
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981, so by then I was well on my way to highly emotionally wrought mary-sue epics, mostly hand-written in spiral bound notebooks that I still have. No, you may not read them! *wink*
Yesterday my fangirlfriend Christy and I went to see the IMAX release of Raiders, and I was blown away. Is it dated? Well sure. The movie is.
Indiana Jones is not.
What sets a character like Indiana Jones apart? There are the standard answers of handsome, smart, dashing, brave, etc. and of course Harrison Ford’s portrayal of him was brilliantly played. Ford was starting his “prime years” which would last for at least another two decades and he completely, 100% embodied Indy.
Sitting that theater, watching the movie (which I recommend because yes, the IMAX version will reveal so much you never noticed before, such as the way Indy’s bottom lip wibbles when he’s in the Well of Souls with all the snakes), I fell in love with Indy again. He’s a scoundrel and a cad, but he’s also sexy and funny. He’s the kind of guy who, as Marion Ravenwood says, “still knows how to show a girl a good time!” Who doesn’t love that?
What I noticed this time around, though, is that Indy isn’t afraid of emotions, and I think maybe that is what sets him apart from so many other action heroes. He’s had a hard life and he made serious mistakes as a young man in his personal relationships but that never stopped him from caring. He loves Marion (but as the fourth movie showed, he still managed to screw things up with her a second time after Raiders ends) and his affection for her as a person is genuine. Sallah is his friend and they clearly enjoy each others company. These are not people he intends to not care about; he might end up doing wrong by them but that is because of his own frailties, not because he’s a jerk. There is a difference.
I mean, yes, Indy can be a jerk. I’m not saying he gets a blank check for what he screws up. What Harrison Ford gave to Indiana Jones, though, was a naive earnestness — a genuine, heartfelt commitment to both his cause and his friendships. Even he is aware that he’s going to mess things up beyond all hope sometimes, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to do the right thing.
Don’t we all love Indy?