Saturday, 27 July 2013

What are you supposed to be? A lion tamer?

I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom earlier. It's one of my all time favourite films ever. This is partly to do with the film itself and partly to do with one of the strongest memories I have from my childhood.

I have no idea why this should have stuck with me in so much detail, but I remember the night dad rented Temple of Doom. We basically got a video recorder as soon as you possibly could in our house. It was rented at first for my birthday party one year (I would have been about 8 I think) and I was the toast of the class. For the entire duration of the film they watched at my house. And then they went back to being mildly mean.

I was not a popular kid. I did not like school at all. It seemed to me to be a really boring way to spend your time. Particularly when you always had to wait for the slowest kid in the class to cotton on to whatever you were learning, rendering it painfully slow and therefore sucking all the joy out of it. And so you were basically a prisoner with a bunch of kids for 7 hours a day. Every day. Sort of like an office job. But for no money. And it's really hard to get fired.

This may be part of the reason Temple of Doom sticks in my head. Dad rented it on a Friday. I remember my relief and joy that I didn't have to set foot in that place for two whole days. And Dad had rented a film. And he bought us fish and chips. And a Cadbury's Creme Egg. Yes, this is the level of detail I remember. I also remember being perfectly happy at that moment.

And so we watched the film. After we'd watched it I remember my brother and I and a friend of my brother's acting it out. I had to be Short Round because I was nine. Pretty unfair really. But whatever. I loved it. Even back then I had already seen the Star Wars trilogy and Raiders and I knew that Harrison Ford was a hottie. Even when I was nine. The seeds of my crush were sown, just not in so much of a sexy way, more a romantic way.

I remember wanting to be Willie and have him reel me in with his whip for a kiss. I mean, I still do obviously. But it most definitely wouldn't stop there these days.

And of course over the years I have rewatched Temple of Doom many times. But it was only recently that I watched it and really thought about how, well, racist it is. And, well, misogynistic. The only women in the entire film are Willy (and from a grown woman's perspective, fuck me, is she annoying. And whiny. And shrill. And vacuous. And useless. And my god, what would Indy ever see in her apart from tits and ass??) and the mothers of the missing children, who basically wring their hands and wail incoherently.

Indy (an American) saves the day, along with the British Army who show up at the end to presumably reinforce the Empire needing to sort out the ridiculous savages with their silly myths and cults.

And Short Round? So, Indiana Jones, a 40ish year old university professor, just picked up some random kid from somewhere and decided to travel the world with him having adventures, rather than, I dunno, get him an education?? Really?

But then it seems to be shot in an over the top, 40s style, Bollywoodesque slapstick violence way, so I can only assume all of this was intentional to create the atmosphere of a boy's own adventure type film. A bit of reading up on it shows that many of the Indian characters were played by pretty major Bollywood stars, and it seems everyone must have been in on the gags.

And it does work for this. The chemistry between the ditzy female lead and Indy just about works, particularly where they fight and bicker, and never quite touch each other in the comedy missed seduction scene. This is also a common trope in Bollywood romances, by all accounts, so it all fits in.

As a kid I was completely swept away by the ludicrous plot. I was terrified when the Thugee cult guy sank his fingers into the dude and ripped out his heart. I was on the edge of my seat when Indy was turned bad and so happy when he came back. I was thrilled by the monkey brains and disgusting snake within snake thing that apparently was the dish of the day back then.

As an adult I cannot stop staring at Harrison Ford. His face. His sweat. His torso. The way he talks. The way he runs. Why is there only one of this guy? They should have cloned him when they had the chance. He is everything I find attractive in a guy. He's all sturdy and angry and moody and, oh dear, I need a lie down. I could probably just watch him standing in a room by himself, to be fair. Quite extraordinary.

I kind of miss watching films like I did as a kid though, where misogyny, implied racism and ludicrous dialogue neither registered nor mattered. Temple of Doom will always be a favourite. Because just by watching it I get to feel like I'm nine years old again. Sitting on the sofa at home with my Dad on a Friday night, eating fish and chips and being perfectly and totally happy.

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