I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 56

Day 56: Indiana Jones and the Scary Reds

In yesterday's entry, I mentioned the way the film utterly wasted the impact of Anti-Communist paranoia on Indiana Jones' adventures. Today I'm going to address something even bigger - the film's complete failure to have anything to say about the entire issue of the 50s communist witch hunt. Right at the outset, it seems like a deep vein of relevant messages are about to be mined. Then no such thing proceeds to happen.

In fact, other than Indiana Jones being run out of his job for his shady connections, there's nary a comment to be found on the subject of one of the darkest social periods of America's 20th century. Heck, one action sequence even runs through an anti-communist rally without even a sideways glanced at the kind of fervor that held America's better angels hostage.

By not saying anything particularly negative about the Red Scare, the film winds up advocating a rather strange position - that the red scare was both necessary and justified. After all, it presents, straightfacedly, a world where Soviet agents easily slip into top secret American military bases, where doughy British spies betray their American allies as easily as flipping a coin, and where one of the only things that can stop communist kidnappers is a group of young people dedicated to their belief that it's better to be dead than Red.

Even worse, the film utterly trivializes just how gigantic of a problem blacklisting was. At the beginning of the film Indiana Jones is ostracized because of a tenuous socialist link - he was kidnapped by some Commies and forced to help them steal an alien corpse. Now, he was doing this at gunpoint, but since the raid on Area 51 was completely successful (barring a few charred and irradiated Soviets), the government holds him partially responsible for the crime against America.

Then, at the end of the film, Indiana Jones has regained his job and stature in society. How exactly did he manage that? By going to Peru and hanging out with more Communists? Yes, it was all against his will - at least partially. He does, in fact, lead the Commies to the temple of the Crystal Skull when he could have just tried to escape, but when he gets back to America, how exactly does he 'clear his name'? It's not like he can deliver the corpse that he helped steal from Area 51. Sure, he's got witnesses that he was on the side of the good guys, but since they consist entirely of his ex-girlfriend, son, and best friend, all of whom were also working with the Commies in South America, something tells me Hoover wouldn't find their testimony especially convincing.

The only people who the government might have believed were the villains, but by the end of the film, any Russians who could have testified that Harrison was going along with the Commie plan unwillingly had been disintegrated, crushed, or sucked bodily into another dimension. So what exactly occurred off-camera to save Indiana Jones' reputation, anyways?

By treating this incredibly serious (and if America's last eight years are any sign, still entirely relevant) issue as nothing more than an inconsequential contrivance, the filmmakers have disrespected everyone who suffered through the HUAC hearings and blacklist. They're playing with vitally important parts of America's past without the slightest care about the fact that, there are millions of young people for whom seeing the film will be their absolute first experience with the American government's history of intolerance and persecution. By presenting it as such a minor, easily-overcome annoyance they've done a disservice to everyone who saw the film.

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