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Friday Nerd Blogging: Indiana Jones and the Plot Hole of Power

October 25, 2013

Two CBS sitcoms have references Indiana Jones in the past couple of weeks:

  • How I Met Your Mother invoked Last Crusade as Barney imagined that Ted and he entered the room where the grail and the fake grails were stored at the end of Last Crusade.  The ghostly knight kept playing a role, telling Ted in “reality” that he was choosing poorly.  Not a bad bit.

  • Big Bang Theory had the Amy Farrah Fowler character bust a big plot hole in Raiders, arguing that Indiana Jones was unnecessary for the outcome. Whether he tried to stop the Nazis or not, they would have been killed by the power of the ark via face melting.

Sure, the Nazis were digging in the wrong place, but only because Indy intervened in Nepal when the Nazis tried to get the key medallion from Marion.  So, if he didn’t show up, then the ark would have been found anyway.  The big difference would have been that it would have stayed on the island where the bad guys opened it rather than in some endless warehouse.   That is what the Big Bang folks figure out.  However, it is not clear how the Nazis would have ended their interaction with Marion, so my guess is that Indiana Jones was relevant in the first movie as Marion would have died otherwise.  Given that this is Karen Allen at the height of her powers, that would have been quite a tragedy.

Clearly, the biggest impact Indy made was in the much criticized (well, until Indy IV) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  In that movie, he freed the enslaved kids, destroyed the Kali cult, and brought life back to the area via the return of the Sankara stones.  So, Indiana was a huge difference maker in the second movie.

In the Last Crusade?  The Nazis would probably not have found the grail since Indy put the pieces together, and they would not have made it past the three traps to get to the cave with the knight and the grail.  And if they had, they would have picked the wrong cup.  So, Indy kills a few Nazis along the way, always a good thing, but the only real accomplishment is ending the life of the last knight and getting the grail stuck in a deep crevasse.

Of course, the reality is that the first movie was the most thoroughly entertaining, the third was the second most.  Temple was mostly good, and there is no fourth Indiana Jones movie, right?  Still, Indiana Jones had his highest VORH (Value Over Replacement Hero) in Temple, then Crusade and then Raiders.  What does that tell us?  That advanced metrics and actual entertainment may not always correlate.

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Steve Saideman is Professor and the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and elsewhere on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations.