Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz based on the story by George Lucas
This movie opens in a very unexpected way with a Fosse-esque dance routine. It was very well done, and very confusing.
Disturbing racism: I mean, obviously: Short Round.
Indiana and ‘the girl’ who are worshipped as gods in a starving village in where, Tibet? India? Just because they are white? I guess? They are literally worshipped. Then it turns out they were chosen by the god to bring back the mystical stone… because the loss of the mystical stone has cursed the village. Plus: all the foreigners eat bugs, monkey heads and eyeball soup? There’s a very telling line when they discover the temple and Willie says something like ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’ and Indy says ‘Nobody’s seen this for a hundred years’… which… given that there are at least a couple of hundred Indians in the temple kind of implies he only really means ‘white people haven’t seen this for a hundred years’.
Indiana gets a certain amount of suave in this movie which was pretty unexpected. In the opening he is more or less James Bond-ing it up, which is very different look from the beat up and dirty Indy we’re used to at the end of Raiders.
This movie is really dark! I don’t remember ever watching it all the way through previously although I know as a kid it was watched a lot by members of my family but I only remembered very brief moments so I think almost all of it was new to me. And it’s a dark film, we have child slavery, torture, human sacrifice and mind control… it’s not exactly the fun romp that Anna and I were expecting! I found it pretty distasteful actually, I don’t imagine I’ll be watching this movie again any time soon.
So, my biggest takeaways from this movie: racism, really nasty content, big horrible insects….
It’s hard for me to get invested in the enjoyment of the action sequences in the first place but when I have the bad tastes of the previous nastiness in my mouth it’s even worse.
Does it make me love the people? Brain washed Indy with his shirt off is pretty dishy. Wait that doesn’t count. I feel for Willie, who was living a pretty high life as a show girl in Shanghai when Indy pretty much destroyed her world and kidnapped her. He then has no patience for her being able to keep up when their plane crash lands and they end up in the middle of jungle. her complaints are to me, very valid, but it’s played off like ‘whining spoiled fancy lady’ and as an audience I think we’re meant to laugh at her. I sympathise with her a lot.
Short Round is pretty adorable and bad ass, convinced he can take grown men in combat, he busts himself out of the chains he’s kept in and saves Indy which is great.
Bechdel test: Again, just the one named woman – Willie, aka Whilimena. It’s not like there aren’t lines and roles which could have been played by women in this too. Sigh.
Indy: Nothing shocks me, I’m a scientist.
State of Mind: I just…. urgh. And like, racism was a known thing in the 80s, it’s not like you can say ‘ah people didn’t know better back then’, of course they did. There are moments in this film, but I generally think that the reason this film is beloved is because of how much people loved them when they were kids. And it’s hard to put a critical eye on things you loved as a kid, I know this, I just don’t have that association with this movie.