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Indiana’s Crusade for the Perfect Female, or, Why We Go Grail-Hunting

When I was ten, my mother took us to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was the first time I had heard of the Holy Grail, and I was sucked in by the story of the swashbuckling archaeologist who searches for Christ’s sacred cup while fending off evil Nazis. It is a quest for the perfect item, the symbol of “illumination” as Indy’s father calls it. Of course, as a child, I was unaware of the subtext of the film, how it mirrors medieval attitudes towards women, enforcing the idea that women are evil, or at least an accomplice of evil. The film accomplishes this seduction in two ways—utilizing what Laura Mulvey calls “the gaze” in cinema, and in utilizing the elements of medieval Romance/the fairy tale.

The grail legend “is one of those fairy-tales of which there are so many, in which the search for a ‘treasure hard to attain’ and deliverance from a magic spell form the principal themes” (Jung and von Franz 9). The same can be said of this film. Indiana Jones sets off to find the Holy Grail, protecting it from the Third Reich, and hopes to both find his kidnapped father and lessen the power of the Nazis. Indiana is a type of Perceval, and so takes on the role of the young fool who wins the greatest prize. Like Perceval, he is introduced to us as living a long time ago in the wilderness—here, the wilds of Utah in 1911. This type of wilderness or country setting is a common fairy-tale opening. From here, we watch the youth make a number of mistakes in trying to do what is right (save the treasure of Coronado from a pack of looters), and is instructed by one of those looters in how to be a man, just as Perceval is instructed by Gournemant in Le Conte del Graal, the principal grail text by Chretien de Troyes. This is also where he gains his first talisman in the story, the fedora, which symbolizes his identity “;Indiana Jones'--Adventurer” as opposed to “Henry Jones--Professor”. From here we follow him to his adulthood, where we learn he is a well respected professor (here read knight), yet one who feels the need to escape the confines of the university (i.e., the court) for the adventure of the outside world.

And so he is told of the grail by a man called Donovan, and how his father has been searching for it but has since been kidnapped. Of course, it is Indiana to the rescue, searching for his lost father in Venice and Salzburg—a land far away. This is also the introduction of the second talisman, the “grail diary” of his father, which will tell them how to find the grail. It is a symbol of power—in a sense, phallic, representing the superior knowledge of man. In Venice, he makes a trip to the underworld (a series of catacombs), where he is able to gain information in order to locate the grail. (A trip to the underworld, especially to gain knowledge, is standard in myth; for example, Odysseus, Aeneas, the goddess Inanna). He is then taken prisoner with his father; they make several daring escapes, including a trip to the underworld to retrieve the grail diary from the bonfires of 1939 Berlin, and come face to face with the devil (Hitler) and survive. Meanwhile, Brody, the alternate hero, the Gawain of our story, has been captured by the Nazis, and is being taken to the location of the grail. Indiana goes to rescue Brody, and instead has his father captured yet again and placed with Brody in a tank—swallowed by a dragon (the event is even referred to as being “in the belly of that steel beast”). Indiana, now on horseback (as every knight is supposed to be: knight = (Fr) chevalier > (L) caballus, horse), saves the day, seems to die, but instead survives (hard-to-kill-heroes or heroes who rise from the dead are also a common theme, and an Arthurian one). The three now make it to the temple of the grail, where the Nazis are trying to pass the tests. Indiana is the only one who can pass the test by knowing the questions and their answers (like Perceval). As incentive, the Nazis shoot his father, who plays the role of the Maimed King or Fisher King that Perceval must heal. Indiana succeeds in passing the three trials, and makes it to the inner sanctum, where an ancient knight waits for him. Jones is followed by two Nazis—Donovan, who sent him on the original quest, and a woman named Else, who helped Indy get this far. Donovan has Else choose the grail from the many fakes which line the wall. She chooses poorly, and Donovan, when he drinks from it, is destroyed. Indy chooses now, and chooses the correct one—“the cup of a carpenter.” He takes the grail back to his father in the antechamber, healing him, and preparing to leave. Else, however, tries to take the grail from the temple, which the knight instructed them was impossible, and the temple collapses. However, Indy, his father, and Brody all escape, riding off into the sunset.

Now, as you can see, it follows a typical fairy tale/Romance storyline. Talismans, trips to the underworld, the quest, all play a role in this story. So it is fitting that this film should serve both Laura Mulvey’s essay on visual pleasure as well as medieval attitudes towards women in its depiction of Else Schneider, Indy’s fellow archaeologist and a Nazi, as well as the few other women in the film, which for the most part are Nazis also. First we will deal with Mulvey’s essay, and then the problem of the evil female.

In Mulvey’s essay, she writes that cinema offers a specific types of pleasure, that of “scopophilia (pleasure in looking)… which is the process of taking other people as objects” (16), and that of narcissism, which leaves the viewer either identifying with or emphasizing the difference between himself and the figures on the screen. Woman “connotes something that the look continually circles around but disavows: her lack of a penis, implying a threat of castration and hence unpleasure” (21). She is always the other, “that which is not me,” representing danger. Elsa is then our nemesis, that which will cause both our desire and our destruction, while Indy is that whom we identify with. This is aptly displayed in the way the film visually presents her to us, both as an erotic object and as a dangerous female, not as smart as she thinks she is.

This identification is also applicable to fairy tales and Romance, as the following demonstrates: “When a fairy-tale is told, the healing factor within it acts on whoever has taken an interest in it and allowed himself to be moved by it in such away that through this participation he will be brought into connection with an archetypal form of the situation and by this means enabled to put himself ‘into order’” (Jung and von Franz 37).

When we first meet Else Schneider, we see this beautiful blond, dressed in a gray skirt, her hair down. Any sort of hardness that comes with a profession like archaeology (long hours in the sun, sifting through dirt, for example) is softened by her feminine appeal. She is seen from far off, making her way toward Indy and Brody, only saying her name, “Dr. Else Schneider.” As they walk the streets of Venice, Else is “book-ended” by Indy and Brody, hardly ever standing on her own. Later, when finding the entrance to the catacombs, she is inappropriately dressed, yet dressed for sex appeal—high heals don’t work well when traveling through a sewer. One shot is simply of her legs being lowered in, her person being reduced to sexualized body parts. As danger progresses in the catacombs, she needs to be rescued by Indy, instead of being able to do it on her own.

Later that day, we—as Indy—find her room ransacked. We find her unawares, standing in the bathroom, dressed in lingerie. When she and Indy start to fight in this scene, Indy asserts his control over her, kissing her. She rebels, and kisses him instead. The swift movement from violence to sex is one of sadism, which Mulvey lists as being one of the two escapes from castration anxiety (21).

When rescuing Indy’s father, we learn that Else is in fact a Nazi, and that she has been trying to get his diary the whole time. She helps trap both Joneses, and while apologizing to Indy, takes the grail diary out of his pocket and hands it to her superior. This is a rather blatant castration, with Indy’s power to find the grail taken away from him by a woman. When the Joneses are then tied up, Else kisses Indiana goodbye; he is then punched by a Nazi male. Sex and violence meet again, but here to emphasize the danger in allowing yourself to become dominated by a woman. Note also that from here on, her dress is different; competent that she has castrated the hero, she can revert to more masculine clothing, though still retaining enough sex appeal for the audience watching in the theatre. Also, when Indy and his father try to escape again, they unfortunately are discovered by a woman, who rats them out—another Nazi. The majority of women in this film (excepting Professor Jones’s secretary in the beginning) are Nazis—figures of evil.

The Joneses head to Berlin to retrieve the diary from Else. She proclaims that she believes not in the swastika, but the grail—she’s not all Nazi. Well, as women are weak, one can’t expect them to be purely evil, only helpers of evil. True evil is left to men. Also, when Indy finds her, he threatens to kill her. She insists—honestly, now—that he loves her. He responds with nearly strangling her. He leaves, his masculinity restored by both threatening Else and regaining the diary; however, the camera lingers on her dejected face, simply looking to where he left—yet another instance of “the gaze.”

Finally, examine that final few scenes in the temple. Else and Donovan, who by now we learn is also a Nazi, follow Jones into the inner sanctum of the grail. (Donovan, it is worth noting, is a rather effeminate Nazi—always well dressed, never resorting to violence himself, but setting others to do so—he’d sooner cut a deal, as with the Sultan of Hatay). Donovan has Else choose the true grail from the false ones, but she fails, and he is destroyed. She couldn’t possibly choose the right grail, not only because she is a villain, but because she is a woman, and not as clever as Indiana Jones, who is able to choose the right one. Later, when the grail is in the antechamber, she ignores the words of the knight and attempts to leave with it, which sets up the destruction of the temple. It is a woman who loses the grail to the world, and men who are able to escape the destruction she has caused. Again, there is a certain sadism here, allowing her to die as punishment, despite the fact that she was going to leave Nazism for good.

This fits very well with the medieval view of women. For an example of medieval misogyny, there is Book III of The Art of Courtly Love: “Furthermore, not only is every woman an miser, but she is also envious and a slanderer of other women, greedy, a slave to her belly, inconsistent, fickle in her speech, disobedient and impatient of restraint, spotted with the sin of pride and desirous of vainglory, a liar, a drunkard, a babbler, no keeper of secrets, too much given to wantonness, prone to every evil, and never loving any man in her heart. …Wasn’t it Eve, the first woman, who, although she was formed by the hand of God, destroyed herself by the sin of disobedience and lost the glory of immortality?” (Capellanus 201, 205-6). Or take the words of St. Jerome: “Take examples. Sampson was braver than a lion and tougher than a rock; alone and unprotected he pursued a thousand armed men; and yet, in Delilah's embrace, his resolution melted away. David was a man after God's own heart, and his lips had often sung of the Holy One, the future Christ; and yet as he walked upon his housetop he was fascinated by Bathsheba's nudity, and added murder to adultery… So, too, with Solomon. Wisdom used him to sing her praise, and he treated of all plants ‘from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;’ and yet he went back from God because he was a lover of women. And, as if to show that near relationship is no safeguard, Amnon burned with illicit passion for his sister Tamar” (Jerome para 12). Love for a woman will bring about the downfall of even God’s champions. Examine the tales of King ArthurMorgause tricks Arthur into producing Mordred out of incest; Morgan le Fay constantly plots Arthur’s death through enchantment; even Vivianethe Lady of the Lake, an ally—causes Merlin’s death; and of course Guenevere is an adulteress who brings ruin to the kingdom. Fairy tales, which are but degenerated myths, psychodramas, and Romances, often feature witches, evil stepmothers and queens, evil stepsisters, even mothers who simply stand in the way of the hero’s adventure out of motherly concern (such as Perceval’s mother, who tried to raise him alone in the woods, and a few allusions to Indiana’s dead mother, who attempted to steer him away from such a dangerous profession).

What was pleasurable (and perceived as dangerous) seventeen-hundred years ago is pleasurable now, only more seductively so with the advent of cinema. In that darkened state, we are in the womb, lost from our own identity while engrossed in that which is upon the screen. The most primitive desires of man are flickering before us, seducing us into an infantile state of identification formation, and sadly, mainstream Hollywood cares little for the identity formation of women; no surprise, when there was once debate whether women even had souls.

What is most striking about this tale is what the quest was for—-a cup. Many Romances, Lays, and fairy tales have the quest be for a woman, a wife, a lover, even revenge-—but some human element is at stake. However, here the quest is for an object with feminine characteristics, yet with no threatening castration complex. The grail is the perfect mother, the all-nourishing object which will fulfill desire in a way that the deadly woman cannot. It is the cauldron of renewal, the womb of the Goddess, and yet is not a woman, a person, an object of sexual desire which threatens the male with castration because of his own fear of the unknown. With the grail, all is known beforehand—it will give the owner eternal life, eternal fulfillment. Humans can’t do that, something we should have learned while very young, and yet people still search for that grail, that magic item which will make life perfect. Often, they think they see it on a flickering screen.

Works Cited

Andreas Capellanus. The Art of Courtly Love. Trans. John Jay Parry. New York: Columbia Press, 1960.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. dir. Steven Spielberg. perf. Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliot. 1989.

St. Jerome. “Letter To Eustochium.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 12 December, 2000. Online. Internet. Available WWW: http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-06/Npnf2-06-03.htm

Jung, Emma, and von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Grail Legend. 1960. trans. Andrea Dykes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989.


Orange Julius says:Your Indiana Jones write-up is flawed. I will attempt to explain... In the Temple of the Crescent Moon, Else PURPOSELY chooses the wrong grail in order to kill off Donovan. It was in fact her idea to choose the grail, not his. After Donovan graphically dies, it is Else that suggests to Indy that the grail "would not be made of gold". One could summize that Else is in fact much smarter than Donovan, and on par with Indiana, although her greed gets the best of her.

I have to disagree that she automatically knew this and sought to kill Donovan. That is not to say that she isn't portrayed as intelligent, but I think that the realization only came after Donovan was killed. Either way, this does not go against what I write regarding the portrayal of Elsa.

I /msged AMJ God knows how long ago in disagreement with her above assessment. I drafted a response, but never posted it, for reasons I've now forgotten. However, now that it's Indy-pendence Day on AMC, I figured I'd post the dissenting view before returning to the television to watch Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom.

The portrayal of women in the Indiana Jones trilogy is less than perfect. After Indiana crosses her path for the first time in years, the strong and independent Marion Ravenwood is reduced to shouting "Indy!" for the remainder of the "Raiders Of The Lost Ark". Willie Scott is essentially a sheltered princess in "Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom", and Elsa Schneider is indeed a greedy Nazi in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". But to assess "Last Crusade" as a film about grail legend and the medieval attitudes towards women is absurd.

The third film in the Indiana Jones Trilogy, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", is less a story about the quest for the Holy Grail and medieval attitudes towards women, and more a story about faith and the interpersonal relationships between Indiana and his father. This rebuttal seeks to disprove the assertion of the above essay, with a more in-depth analysis of the film.

Because the film is part of a trilogy, it cannot be analyzed on its own, nor can the trilogy be discussed without a word about its creators. Significant character development has occurred before the opening credits have rolled! The films are a result of a writer's words, a director's vision, and the actor's inspiration! This necessitates the introduction of elements from outside the scope of just "The Last Crusade" in order for a complete analysis to be made.

As the film opens, in 1912, Indiana Jones is just a teenager, but is already learning skills he will need for the future through the fledgling organization known as the Boy Scouts of America. While on a troop hike, Indy and his friend come across a group of treasure hunters who have uncovered the Cross Of Coronado (even in his young age, Indy is able to identify it and explain its history and significance).

It is important to understand that this part of the film is in a sense a mini-prequel to "Raiders Of The Lost Ark". It is not the introduction of the Indiana Jones character, but rather an insight into how the Indiana character we already know came to be. A number of "Indi-isms" are explained here - his fear of snakes, the origin of the whip, and of "Betsy", his trusty hat. The viewer also learns that at this young age, Indiana has already developed his rogueish pursuit of an altruistic goal, as he steals the Cross not for personal gain, but so that it might be displayed in a museum.

It is here that we also first meet his father, working diligently on what we will learn later is his grail diary. Indiana races into his home and bursts into his father's study, eager to show him the Cross and win his father's approval. His father doesn't even bother to turn around, focusing on his diary and suggesting that his son count to twenty... in Greek. In the meantime, the cross is stripped from him. This is a classic Spielberg motif -- his films often feature absent or bad fathers -- popping up in such films as "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial", "Hook", and "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind".

Fast forward to the Portuguese Coast, 1938. Jones once again comes into possession of the Cross, narrowly escaping for the umpteenth time, arriving back at the university. When Brody promises the university's standard retrieval fee (along with dinner), Indy displays the same "So what" attitude that he showed after retrieving artifacts from the Chachapoyan Temple in "Raiders". The pursuit of facts (not truth, as he explains) is what drives him. The pursuit of facts, however, is the pursuit of his father's approval under the guise of a different name.

It is his father who drives him towards the Grail. When he meets with Donovan (the true villain in the film) and is told of the Grail and the missing man, he suggests that his father is a much better resource to tap for those seeking the grail. His father, he is told, IS the missing man. Thus begins Indiana's true quest, and the introduction of Elsa. It should be noted that although Donovan is portrayed as a non-violent effeminate male, he is no more a Nazi than Belloq was in "Raiders". He simply uses the Nazis as a means to an end.

The good doctor Elsa meets Jones and Brody at a pier in Venice. She is suitably dressed for the occasion, skirt below the knees, as is Indiana, in suit and tie. She is not terse with them, in fact exchanging pleasantries with Indiana. It is not until Marcus stumbles forth that she introduces herself formally as "Dr. Elsa Schneider". Indeed she has a feminine appeal that would soften the hardness of a profession like archaeology, which the essayist would describe as entailing "long hours in the sun" and "sifting through dirt". The film contradicts the essayist's point, however, as Indiana explains to his class that "70% of all archaeology is done in the library. Reading. Research." This would seem to indicate the archaeology is not such a dirty profession.

But Elsa Schneider is not an archaeologist. She is an art historian. Which would suggest an even cleaner profession. She is dressed as you would expect an art historian to dress in a meeting with a professor of archaeology. If there is a negative portrayal of women here, it is in Brody and Jones' assumption that Dr. Schneider is a man. Even as they exchange pleasantries, it doesn't cross Indiana's mind that SHE is Dr. Schneider. This speaks less towards Indiana's treatment of women and more towards the state of the world in 1938. It would not be very common for a woman to be a reknowned art historian, although one could argue that this doesn't excuse the pair's assumption.

It is the essayist's assertion that Schneider is not dressed suitably for a trek through the catacombs, and this is true. But neither is Indiana... the trip to the underworld was not a planned one, but one made only after Indiana discovers that it is not a book about a knight he is looking for, but the actual tomb of the knight. As Elsa is lowered into the catacombs, we see only her calves lowered, which the essayist attributes to "her person being reduced to sexualized body parts." It should be noted that her calves get less screen time in this scene than Henry Jones' stomach gets later in the film, and the selected shot serves the purpose of showing feet stepping on skulls -- a forboding sign. She also changes her dress later, not because she's "competent that she has castrated the hero," but because she's expected to travel, to Castle Brunwald, to Berlin, to the African desert.

At the same time Elsa is betraying Jones to her superior Donovan, Jones is reunited with his father. Thus begins the interaction between father and son, and through scene after scene it appears that nothing has changed. His father seems more concerned about the condition of a Ming vase than he is about the condition of the son he hit with it. After escaping from Castle Brunwald, Indiana looks back at his father with a smile on his face. His father looking unimpressed, the smile disappears and Indiana's heart sinks. After the escape from Berlin (in which we see Elsa crying over the Nazi book-burning festival... showing a good side usually not reserved for villains in the trilogy), Indiana shares a "we made it" with his dad. "When we're airborne, with Germany behind us, then I'll share that sentiment," comes the stern reply.

During this time, the Joneses are busy getting reaquainted. Indy's mother is mentioned, but not in a way that shows she tried to stay the Joneses from their course, as the essayist contends. Indy claims not to understand his father's obsession with the grail, and doesn't believe his mother did either. Henry replies that she knew all too well. It is also Indiana's assertion that Henry was a delinquent father who "cared more about people who had been dead for 500 years in another country" than he did his own family. When Henry explains that he was teaching Indiana self-reliance and offers that "I'm here now," Indy has nothing to say. This, not the quest for the grail, or the evil of women, is the crux of the story. It is Elsa, in fact, who plays a crucial role in helping Indiana save his father.

In the Cavern of the Crescent Moon, Donovan shoots Henry Jones to force Indiana to retrieve the grail. He has already verbally reprimanded Elsa, but when she protests his act, he physically pulls her back from our heroes. Perhaps this is the last straw... one can see the anger and sadness in Elsa. She gets her revenge in a way Donovan never suspects after Indiana passes the three challenges and reaches the grail room, where dozens of false grails hide the real grail.

The knight in the grail room explains that only the Grail offers eternal life... the others mean certain death. Donovan is confused -- he is power hungry, but uneducated -- so Elsa offers to choose for him. Handing her choice to Donovan she gives a knowing look to Indy, who gives her the same look back. They both know it's the wrong cup. After the threat of Donovan is dispelled, Elsa offers "It would not be made of gold." One could argue that she was only now realizing this, but given her earlier turn against Donovan and her telling look, this seems unlikely. Even the ancient knight senses this, commenting "He chose poorly" after Donovan meets his demise. Perhaps the knight is not talking about his choice of cups (since Elsa made the choice), but on his choice of who to trust.

The key scene in the film comes moments later, as Elsa's quest for the grail spells her doom. Despite the knight's warning, Elsa crosses the Great Seal with the Grail, causing the temple to collapse. As the walls come crumbling down and schisms open in the floor, Elsa reaches for the Grail as Indiana tries to lift her to safety. Unable to pull her up, Indiana's grip slips and Elsa falls to her death. Moments later, the scene is repeated, this time with Indy hanging on for dear life, and his father trying to pull him. Indy, too, is tempted by the Grail, but in the end he doesn't suffer the same fate as Elsa.

Why?

Elsa's goal is to find the grail. She sees it as "a prize to be won." She even confesses to Indiana, "We both wanted the Grail, I would have done anything to get it. You would have done the same." And in trying to achieve her goal, she meets her demise. Elsa is not punished because women are evil. She is punished for the same reason that all Indiana Jones villains are: being evil, or consorting with those that are. Given the fates that await evildoers in the Jones universe (melting faces, exploding bodies, bolts of lighting shooting through torsos, falling from rickety bridges suspended from great heights), it should be apparent that not only does evil not pay, but ends never justify means.

Prior to "The Last Crusade", one could argue that Indiana's goal is the pursuit of facts. He is known as a finder of lost antiquities, always for further public study. This is why he couldn't destroy the Ark of the Covenant when given the chance. But in light of the third film, it becomes apparent that this near obsession with artifact hunting comes from somewhere else -- Indy's quest for the approval of his father. In that respect, capturing the Holy Grail, the object his father has spent a lifetime pursuing, is his path to that goal. It is with one simple word that Henry convinces his son that the approval he seeks has been there all along:

Indiana.

For his entire life, Indiana has been called Junior by his father. Because that is his name: Henry Jones, Jr. And for as long as we can tell, even in 1912 Utah, Indiana wishes to be called Indiana. The fact that his father will not consent to this most basic of requests is seen by Indy as a slight. It is when his father finally calls him Indiana that his quest is complete... with or without the grail.


As a pedantic side note, it should be noted that the word "knight" comes from the Old English "cniht", which comes from Old High German "kneht", meaning "military follower". The English word that comes from the French "chevalier" is "chivalry".

This great question of our age, whether Indiana Jones in some sense expresses a subtextual opinion on the nature of women and the treatment to be accorded them, has since been informed by the addition of another data point. This quest was upended again in the less-than-memorable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Here Indy there are two women in the world with whom Indy must contend, and so there must be two sociomythic representations folded within them.

First, breaking new ground in the series, the main villain in Crystal Skull was a woman. The Last Crusade's Else Schneider was, to be sure, allied with decidedly the wrong side -- and paid for it as the genre demands -- but ended up being no more than a semi-sympathetic lesser villain, but was at the same time the love interest. She was, naturally, never the one to be calling the shots. But Crystal Skull's 'Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko' (lovingly crafted by Cate Blanchett, who came up with the sharp brunette bob) works up the evil Soviet archaeologist angle into a S&M reminiscent screamingly subdued lather. Interestingly, film producer Frank Marshall (who has, without fanfare, assisted with the production of most of Spielberg's films, including all of the Indiana Jones installments), characterized the appropriateness of Spalko's character with the observation, "Indy always has a love-hate relationship with every woman he ever comes in contact with."*

We know that Spalko is evil by the fact that she is first introduced directing that Indiana (and another disposable character who will not hereafter be mentioned) be removed from the trunk of a car, into which we immediately know she had directed he be put. She has kidnapped the good Doctor Jones so that he may lead her to an apparently poorly secured top secret government warehouse (the one where the Ark of the Covenant was stashed at the end of the original film), so as to acquire one of the film's namesake crystal skulls. Spalko's characterization is at the same time sexualized and sexless. She shows no romantic interest in any other character, and yet carries herself as every bit the dominatrix.

Indy escape's the bad woman's grasp (and that of her hench-muscle), but his escapades get him in trouble with McCarthyist types back east, getting him booted from his teaching job. It is now that we learn that Indy's father is dead, putting him momentarily alone and adrift amongst Freudian archetypes, a man who has lost his father, and has no son. Presently, Indiana is approached by a Shia LaBeouf (too steeped in Even Stevens to ever really be taken seriously as an actioneer), playing biker-type 'Mutt' Williams. Mutt informs Indy that an old friend of both, Harold Oxley, has been kidnapped following his finding of another crystal skull in the mountains of Peru. And, as added incentive, Mutt's own mother 'Mary' has been nabbed as well. Here is another interesting aspect of the Indiana Jones films, with our hero regularly being called into action as much by the search for a missing person or by a grudge against an identified evil as by the central artifact itself. Naturally, this 'Mary Williams' talk is all a great feint, as we all know by now that we are reunited with the first Indy gal to appear on screen, Marion Ravenwood. She is referred to by son Mutt -- who naturally, turns out to be Indy's heretofore unknown offspring -- by her married name -- and why anybody would choose to go through life as 'Mary Williams' instead of the more dashing 'Marion Ravenwood'.... well, there is perhaps something to the anonymity of mundanity. But here it all serves as a setup for the reveal.

The logistics of this circumstance are disposed of through quick (and argumentative) exposition; sometime between Raiders and Last Crusade, Indy disappears a week before their planned wedding -- for noble reasons, naturally, fearing that his dangerous lifestyle would hamstring any hope of marital bliss. Marion discovers herself pregnant with an unknowning Indy's baby, and sees the natural option to be marrying the next guy who comes along -- a standup RAF pilot named Colin Williams -- who is then conveniently killed in World War II, leaving Marion to apparently yearn in celibacy for the next decade and a half (while Indy continued, we know, to sow wild oats). At least, it appears that we are to take things this way, the mad missing professor Oxley having then essentially acted as a surrogate father to Mutt, but without acting as a surrogate husband to Marion. Other critics have noted that Indy now gets to be a dad without doing any of the child-rearing work, but also escapes being a cad because he didn't know of his fatherhood.

There are paternity hints in abundance. Indiana, you may recall from Last Crusade, chose the name of the family dog over Henry, Jr.; 'Mutt' is a kind of dog (and the character's real name, it turns out, is Henry). As to the divergent feminine in this film, oddly enough the 'adventure gals' have no direct battle between the female leads. In a sense, this may be deemed complimentary to the sensibility of gender equality, for Spalko's swordfighting duel is between herself and Mutt. There is, one may surmise, a generational distinction going on here, with Spalko surely being much younger than Ravenwood. But in the end -- if the film is to be taken as a commentary on the legitimacy of female roles -- Spalko is punished for being the woman who wishes to know too much by having her brain overloaded with alien knowledge; while Ravenwood is rewarded for spending those many years as the stay-at-home mom by getting her grail -- pinning down the elusive Doctor Jones in matrimony.

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*Breznican, Anthony (2007-12-09). "First look: Whip cracks over new 'Indiana Jones' movie". USA Today.

Afterthought: Rumors abound that a fifth film in the series is in the works, and will bring back not only Doctor Jones, but wife Marion and son Mutt. At this point in the mythology, such inclusions are of absolute necessity, for a second split between Indy and Marion would be an unthinkable assault on the inviolability of marriage between heroic figures. Naturally, not so for the Hollywood side of the equation. Spielberg, Lucas, Ford are all divorcees on their second or third wife. The character of Indiana Jones was named after Lucas' first wife's dog, but after the divorce the press materials were changed to claim it was Lucas' dog.


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FERRASSIC

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