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Temple of Doom: A Love Story

Written by: Ron Bricker

Tongue firmly in cheek, CC2K's Patrick Kelly analyzes one of the great onscreen romances: Indy and Short Round.

ImageThe first time they lay eyes on each other, it’s magic. Pure Hollywood sparks. Fireworks that would make Rob Reiner jealous, consisting of unequivocal tenderness and unbridled affection, filling you with immediate knowledge of their true love and the hard realization that you will never have it, because, it’s obvious- what they have is death proof, and what you have is dust.

Of course, I’m speaking of the love that resonates through Temple of Doom, the eternal and incomparable love that Indiana Jones and Short Round share. Throughout the film, we see everything that resembles true love, everything that stands the test of time: unfettered comfort, respect, affection, trust and hope, all residing between a remarkable Archeologist/Superhero and a small Asian man.

It starts within moments of Short Round's appearance onscreen. Indy and Willie Scott smash through the roof of their getaway car, and Short Round turns around, his face beaming. Later during the chase through the streets of Shanghai, when Indy shoves his hand down Willie's dress – to procure an antidote, of course – Short Round admonishes him – "Hey, Dr. Jones! No time for love, we've got company!" – in a tone of harshness? Jealousy?


Indeed, I question the mainstream interpretation of this line – that Short Round was telling Dr. Jones to stop groping Willie because they were being chased. No, I submit for the record the possibility that Indy's seeming affection for Willie spurred Short Round to blurt their secret for all to hear – that Short Round was saying "No time for love with me, we've got company!" [Italics mine.] And yet, despite this, Short Round manages to deliver his lover and his newfound lady to the airport unharmed, and this necessarily raises the question: how does Indiana possibly expect Short, who’s clearly not tall enough to see over the wheel, to drive without wrecking through the cluttered and narrow streets of China?

Love. That’s how.

It's also worth noting that the third seat on the ill-fated Lao Che cargo plane only went to Willie because Indy's other sidekick, Wu Han, didn't make it out of Club Obi Wan alive – and yet Short Round never mentions the death of his and Indy's comrade-in-arms. Instead he spends the trip berating Willie at every opportunity – "You call him Dr. Jones, doll!" Does Short Round's immediate dislike for Willie spring from his frustration at having dispatched one rival only to have him replaced by another? For that matter, we never actually see the gunshot that killed Wu Han, only the smoking barrel of one of Lao Che's henchmen. Do we really know who killed Wu Han?

Later, when Indy and Short Round fall asleep on the plane out of Shanghai, and the pilots have abandoned the fuel-less vessel, the normally preternaturally aware Indy remains asleep. How is this aberration possible? One word: snuggles. The snuggles of a Mr. Round, aka Short, who subdues Indy and all his faculties with the power of his scent and his morphean snuggles.

As Indiana Jones and co. prepare to leap out of their faltering plane, Indiana exclaims, “Hang on Shorty. Grab on,” and while they are in frozen in a moment of terror and pure intensity, the only thing that you can focus on is Short Round’s tight, yet sensual grip around Indiana. You stare at the way he holds him, torn between not believing it because a death grip displayed that lovingly isn’t feasible or because holding someone with that much care and that much feeling just isn’t possible. And as if that isn’t enough, that rampant, unparalleled affection appears for the rest of the movie, in almost every scene.

Sometimes I try to imagine the moment when Indy and Short Round met, but my mind blanches from fully forming the image, for I know that the awesome power of the moment would have melted the faces of everyone around just as the Ark of the Covenant melted every Nazi in its blast radius. Blast radius. That's the phrase I've been looking for. Indy and Short Round's love has a blast radius, and all who fall within it are enriched and inspired.

Throughout the film, both Indiana and Short Round display unfiltered emotions and unmistakable body language that (obviously) proves just how crazy they really are about each other. One of the first times we really get to see it, is when the group is trampling through India on the elephants. Short Round leaves his elephant vacant, choosing to share Indiana’s. As Short Round wraps his arms around Indiana, in order to steady himself on the high animal, a wave of comfort and contentment washes over Indiana’s face. Through a completely innocent and natural action (given the fact they are pretty high up), Short Round brings Indiana a ridiculous amount of joy. It happens again in the underground lair, as Indiana casually rips his shirt off (presumably to make himself more agile for the upcoming fight), Short Round blurts out, “Can’t believe I’m not going.” Short Round isn’t mad at Indy because he wants to get in on the beat-the-shit-out-of-the-bad-guy action. He blurted it out because he couldn’t stand being away from Indiana for a second (let alone a shirtless Indiana). Sitting idle, instead of watching Indiana “in action” while sweating and grunting and heroing, was just something that Short Round couldn’t handle. In a world of bickering couples, fake smiles and ‘yes’ couples, rarely do we see these kinds of emotions brought on by an extremely simple acts.

But despite the strength of their love, it has its boundaries. When Indiana decides to seduce Willie in the infamous "nocturnal activities" scene, Short Round, before disappearing into his and Indy's bedroom, asks his liege, "Tell me later what happens."

Later, as the two wade through bugs, without knowing truly what is beneath them, Short Round screeches. The bug, big enough to swallow Short Round whole, would scary anyone…. anyone, even Indiana. But Indiana isn't Indiana when he's by Short Round. All of the risks he took before are absolutely nothing compared to the risks he would take for his baseball hat-wearing concubine. So, to that, what's a bug? Indiana then bends down to pick the bug off with a touch of tenderness that would bitchslap a mother caring for her favorite child. Their love does just that, always- taking a purely normal moment like clearing off a bug and turning it into a show of affection that we cannot possibly even begin to understand.

The wiseitude and utter confidence that Short Round displays throughout the events of the Temple of Doom are also worth praising. As Indy nearly succumbs to the succubus-like ways of Willie Scott, Short Round’s cool never wavers. For the viewer, it takes a little time to play out, Willie oozing with insecurity, Short Round with stoic poise. But Short Round could tell even before she first fell into the car and dimwittedly through the gun out the window. He’s seen it before. The girl might have the drive and passion that Indy likes, but she doesn’t have the assurance and self-confidence that Indy really falls for. She doesn’t have the ability to know what Indy wants, only what she wants to Indy to want. She doesn’t have complete faith in Indy, in his decisions (for his well-being and her own), she doubts him because he’s not her and, therefore, needs help. Short Round has got all the traits she doesn’t have. And soft hair. And a cool baseball cap. So, what’s a kiss when I’ve got a lifetime, Short Round thinks. What’s the point of getting all huffy over a little flirting, when that same flirting will make Indy realize what he really wants? When that accessibility turns into neediness, and Indy realizes, for the umpteenth time, that he wants what he’s wanted all along: Short Round.

The most showing sign that Indy and Short Round are in love happens at the end of the film. In the creepy underground firepit, during a time of unequivocal tension and while Mr. Jones is under a spell, Indiana slaps Short Round. He bitchslaps him so hard that YOU feel it in your bones. And what makes it worse, is that he smiles after he does it, illustrating to everyone (including his bitchslapee) that it pleasured him. Not in a sexual or domineering way, but in a frightful I-want-to-see-you-dead way. But Short Round doesn’t doubt for one minute, for one second, that Indiana loves him less than he did days ago. He has no doubt that, even though Indiana is drowned in magic, Indiana still loves him. So, out of all of the options Short Round has in his pocket- spitting, kicking the air or cursing at Indy- he doesn’t choose one of them. “Indy,” Short Round says, “I love you.”

Though we never get to see Indiana and Short Round in a purely private moment, we do get to seem them in intimate ones. Indiana and Short Round don’t kiss, or grope, or tease, for all of those actions are silly and shallow. Those are the kind of actions that are made for teenagers who are in love for two weeks before falling in love with someone else. Those are the kind of gestures reserved for the inconsequential Willie Scott and for fuck buddies, not for lovers. Indy and Short Round only hug, locked in a loving embrace that reverberates through body and soul, connecting the two in a cosmic way that only lovers of old age know about, one that the common fool, the one who chases after Willie, will never comprehend.