By Timotheus Vermeulen

I enjoy the Indiana Jones franchise as much as the next
person. I mean, I grew up watching Indiana Jones films. As a ten year old, Indy
used to be my role model – topped only, perhaps, by Leslie Nielsen (you know, the guy of Naked Gun fame). However, as Anna
Kendrick’s recent spoof has made clear, the films aren’t what you’d call
progressive – and that’s putting it mildly, I’m afraid. 

The franchise’s attitude to,
well, everyone who is not a white, male, heterosexual American, I guess, is at
best unfortunate, but probably just offensive – I’m not speaking about Indiana
Jones’s attitude towards the Nazis, here, obviously; exploding heads and
melting faces is what they had coming for a long time. If the films value Arabs (often of
unspecified origin), Chinese, Indians or women at all – which they rarely do,
since they are mostly portrayed to be too busy sneaking around, poisoning
people, eating gigantic beetles, monkey brains and eyeball soup, or being
hysterical  – it is as the white man’s lesser
versions: less brave, less clever, less civilized, less strong. Indeed, the
franchise’s entire premise is that Jones saves these crippled creatures, from their
enemies as much as from themselves. 

Of the bunch, Temple of Doom is certainly the most cringeworthy, but Raiders of the Lost Ark is not without
its moments of embarrassment either: the one assertive woman, yes, the single
female with agency, reads like Death of a
; all her endeavors end miserably, the spirits lifted only by the
arrival of … well you can guess…. It’s called Indiana Jones, not Jane. 

It may be obvious that my ‘enjoyment’ of
Indiana Jones is troubled, to say the least. It relies on nostalgia, though one
that is waning; on an appreciation of how its well structured, suspenseful
narratives made me feel way back when, increasingly marred by what its representations make
me endure today. My aim here is not to take away anyone else’s enjoyment of the
film, let alone berate you. Everyone is free to derive pleasure from whatever
he or she fancies. But perhaps, the next time you see a promotional poster/DVD cover that
features a white man wearing a noble explorer’s top hat, an adventurer’s torn shirt,
a cowboy’s pants and a gun for a penis whipping exotic foreigners and women
into submission, try and be aware of what it is exactly, that your enjoyment
consists of.