“But Indiana Jones doesn’t do anything…”

Leo Cookman
6 min readMay 14, 2021

A few years back the painfully unfunny and irretrievably stupid ‘sitcom’ The Big Bang Theory had an episode that revolved around one of the sociopathic man-children showing Raiders of the Lost Ark to a bemused girlfriend who made the comment “Indiana Jones has no role in the outcome of the story”, pointing out the fact that the hero of the story actually has very little impact on the film’s key plot object’s (some say ‘MacGuffin’) progress through the story. Indiana doesn’t keep possession of the Ark, he doesn’t defeat the villains and he’s a step behind them all the way. Cue a big laugh from the canned laughter track and the nerds all having existential crises about their favourite movie. This then prompted the know-it-all, ‘actually’ reply guys of the world to then bring this up at every available occasion in an attempt to appear clever/contrarian (because they are both one and the same thing). Then, more recently, a transcription of Spielberg, Lucas and Radiers screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was circulated on Twitter where the filmmakers discuss the fact Indiana “liked ’em young”. This was seen as some staggering revelation and another reason every movie not made in the last 5 years is deeply problematic etc etc. Now, in case you hadn’t guessed, Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably my favourite film of all time (so naturally Big Bang comparisons will no doubt be made) but I don’t like to not be critical of the work I love nor work that has influenced me. Understanding the flaws of something you love helps us improve, this is why criticism is so essential. The points mentioned above, however, are NOT good criticism and, in the case of Big Bang Theory, display how deeply stupid (despite their desperate, shameless efforts to be seen as the opposite) that supposedly “smart” show is. As such, allow me a rebuttal…

The criticism that “Indiana Jones has no impact on the story” shows a pretty shoddy understanding of story and character, and I don’t just mean in an academic/theoretical/film school sense. You can only make this criticism of Raiders if you only care about the Ark itself and nothing else. The thing that this criticism ignores is that the film itself doesn’t care about the Ark. If the movie’s contempt for its MacGuffin isn’t explicit enough when it literally buries it at the end then I would have thought the fact that the film needs to give a history…

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Leo Cookman

Peripatetic Writer. “Time’s Lie” out now from Zero Books.