The Corner

Did Indy Matter?

In this week’s G-File I went off on a little tangent inspired by a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory:

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon introduces his girlfriend, Amy, to the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which she’d never seen before. She liked the movie, she explains, despite the big “story problem.” Sheldon is aghast at the suggestion there could be any story problems with the “love child” of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. “What story problem?” he demands to know. She explains that Indiana Jones is absolutely irrelevant to the story. If he’d never gotten involved, the Nazis would have still found the ark of the covenant, they would have still brought it to that island, and they would have still had their faces melted.

I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s actually a very close parallel complaint to the one I’ve written about many times. My dad — who loved the movie — always laughed at the idea that the Nazis would be able to use the ark for their dastardly purposes. The idea that God would be like, “Darn, it’s out of my hands. I guess I have no choice but to lend you my awesome powers for your evil deeds,” is pretty ridiculous. They even returned to this idea in the third movie, when the Nazis tried to get their hands on the Holy Grail — because, you know, Jesus would totally say, “Nazis!? Rats. There’s nothing I can do. It’s life everlasting for the SS!”

I’m no theologian, but I just have a hard time believing that’s how God rolls.

Why I brought this up is something only for G-File readers to know (Subscribe here). But the claim that Indy didn’t matter has riled up a bunch of folks in my email and my twitter feed. The most common argument that Indy did matter because the Germans were digging in the wrong place is, I would argue, wrong. The Germans were digging in the wrong place because they only had an image of half the medallion. But if Indy hadn’t intervened, the Nazis would have gotten the whole thing from Marion Ravenwood at her bar. It might have cost her her life, of course.

However, several people have pointed out to me that the Nazis found Marion by following Indy. As a reader puts it:

Indy led the Germans to Marion. I rather doubt they would have found her and the headpiece without him, unless one of the Nazis stumbling around the Himalayas looking for the Yeti or signs of an Aryan super-race originating from there happened upon her.

Without the headpiece, pure muscle wouldn’t have been equal to the Tanis dig in just three years. Look how little of Pompeii has been uncovered, and digging there has been going on since the mid 18th Century.

Even if they lucked into finding Marion and found the headpiece, if you watch carefully in the Well of the Souls scene where they’d been using their imperfect copy of the headpiece, they’d stuck their staff in the wrong hole (that’s what you get for putting a Frenchman in charge *rimshot*). Indy had to find the correct spot for the staff and use his breath to get the sand out. Belloc always was a better thief than archeologist, as the opening teaser established.

Also, without Indy, I don’t see any good outcomes for Marion Ravenwood (by miles the most appealing of all the Indiana Jones gals, IMO). Seems like she’s either stuck pouring drinks for climbing expeditions for a few more years (I suspect the mountaineering trade suffered a serious drop around 39-41 and beyond), getting tortured and killed by Toht and his henchmen, or getting God-blasted with the rest of the Nazis. I’m kind of surprised that Amy was so indifferent to her fate.

This is all good stuff. But it’s also not a huge endorsement of Indy’s role in the tale to say that his biggest impact was leading the Nazis to Marion, putting her life in danger, getting a bunch of people killed, and leading the Nazis to the Ark in the first place.

Anyway I leave it to you guys to hash it all out in the comments section.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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