The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

The Impossible Dream: Why Temple of Doom is The Worst

Written by: Aarati Kasturirangan, special to CC2k

ImageIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (IJ&TD) can kiss my big brown feminist ass!

Like so many kids of generation X/Y, I lapped up IJ&TD like a giant lollipop laced with crack. I loved every Indy quip, relished his inevitable escape from certain death, and swallowed the fantastic situations only he could maneuver out of with his cocksure attitude, hat and whip. In a time when getting slimed on Nickelodeon was every child’s secret wish, IJ&TD delivered gross out to the extreme – a meal of slithering snakes and chilled monkey’s brains, a cave of gargantuan insects, and the terrifying thrill of a beating heart wrenched from living flesh. The Indy tropes and added slime factor satisfied like a chewy, crunchy Snicker’s bar.

And we kept coming back for more, but not just for the sugar. This candy’s laced with crack. We want the high of living the Indy life. Indy, the hero who really doesn’t care much for anyone but himself and yet somehow gets the adoration of sidekicks and reluctant ladies alike – even the respect of fellow stuffed shirt anthropologists. He’s greedy, violent, sexy, funny, and extremely intelligent. He’s a man’s man, a ladies man and the kid’s all want him for a daddy. In short, he’s a certifiable White male asshole. Yeah, watching Indy sure can make us feel like we’re on top of the world. But the high only lasts for as long as we can maintain the illusion, as long as we can see ourselves in Indy, ride his coattails, dream of our own fortune and glory. In essence, live the White male asshole American dream. 

I was a pre-pubescent Indian-American girl. I ate the candy. I got the “jones” for the Jones. But, it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t maintain the high. I could never live the dream. I could only play the role of parentless, third world side kick or brainless, sex starved cowardly love interest. I really hit rock bottom when I realized that the real place for me in IJ&TD was as one of the emaciated, backwards village people waiting for the miracle of White saviors fallen from the sky to rescue our children. At least that left me some moral high ground. The other option was to throw my lot in with devil goddess worshippers or the brainwashed slave children.

Clearly, the options, though numerous (as is the American way) all sucked monkey’s brains. In reality, I had only two choices: 1) identify with the truly depressing models of my various selves (woman, child immigrant, Indian citizen) leading inevitably to suicide or 2) completely deny my real identity and continue to wallow in the dream of Indy, leading at best to years of therapy or at worst, suicide. In the interest of life preservation, I turned my back on Indy. But the withdrawal symptoms left me nauseated and shaking with rage. IJ&TD sparked a series of moronic questions from my peers about my backward cultural beliefs and practices. “For god sakes people, most Hindus are vegetarian … Of course we don’t eat snakes!” or “No, I can’t pull out your little brother’s heart, but I’ll rip yours out if you ask me if I’m married yet – jeez, I’m only 12!”

Oh, no! Look at the scary, evil Hindu Indian man attacking the valiant, good, colonialist white man! Horror!

If you loved IJ&TD, realize you loved it because you wanted to be like Indy. If you still love it, realize that it’s probably because your white male privilege means you still think you could live like Indy. To begin your recovery, I suggest you watch Fire, a 1996 film by Indian director Deepa Mehta. The film tells the story of two women – sisters in law – living in modern Indian repressive marriages. As they support each other, the two women fall in love with each other, but they are found out and punished in flames. This film’s got danger, culture, and babes! I’ll even throw in some hot girl on girl action. Just step away from IJ&TD. After all, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.