Ed Driscoll

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Nerds

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Hey, nice of The Big Bang Theory to completely kill Raiders of the Lost Ark, huh?

On “The Raiders Minimization” episode of The Big Bang Theory, Amy Farrah Fowler watched Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time with Sheldon Cooper. After an excited Sheldon asked what she thought, Amy replied, “It was good. I enjoyed it, but when you told me I was going to be losing my virginity, I didn’t think you meant showing me Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time.”

After Sheldon thanked her for watching, Amy added, “It was very entertaining despite the glaring story problem.” When Sheldon defied Amy to find any story problems, Amy claimed, “Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same.”

After Sheldon said Amy must not understand that Indiana Jones was the one in the hat with the whip, Amy explained, “No, I do, and if he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would have still found the Ark, taken it to island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”

If I’m remembering correctly, after David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia was restored in the late 1980s, and proved to be a big hit in movie theaters before going on the VHS and laser disc market, naturally, Dr. Zhivago was eventually given the same treatment, except that by then, the DVD had replaced the laser disc. In one of the retrospective “making of” interview segments that were produced to be ancillary material on the DVD edition, Omar Sharif said something along the lines of “I remember telling David Lean while we were shooting the picture that I felt my character was too passive in Dr. Zhivago. And he replied, ‘Omar, if I do this right, the audience will feel that they’re seeing the movie through your character’s eyes.’” Or something like that — hopefully that clip is up on YouTube somewhere. I’m pretty sure Stanley Kubrick attempted the same thing in Barry Lyndon, where Ryan O’Neal’s character is largely a cipher for the entire film, except for his dramatic last duel, where Barry makes his only active decision in the entire film — with disastrous results. Prior to that, Barry reacted to everything; all events were thrust upon him.

You can make the case that Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark is a more two-fisted version of the same paradigm. Without Indiana in the film to represent the American audience, the film would feel like something akin to Downfall — a lot of Nazis acting evilly, killing an attractive American girl who owns a bar in Nepal for some strange reason to get the crystalline headpiece that allows them to discover the Ark, testing it out, and getting their faces melted. Roll credits; The End. Drive safely!

Indiana represents the audience. And that’s not a minor role in a movie.

Only Tangentially Related Exit Question: Did George Lucas choose the ice planet of Hoth for the Empire Strikes Back after the deserts of Tatooine in Star Wars, because David Lean shot a film set in the Russian winters in Zhivago as his follow-up to Lawrence?