Was Amy right? Does Indiana Jones even matter?

I’ve talked a lot about Friends and how it’s coming to HBO Max when the service launches later this month. The Friends mania is a bit strong because there’s really no other place to stream the show right now. I really haven’t talked a lot about HBO Max’s other big “get,” The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps it’s because BBT hasn’t really been gone enough for anyone to miss it, or perhaps it’s because roughly 8 episodes a day air on live TV in most markets. But hey, it’s Fun Friday so let’s dig in to what I feel is one of the most impactful scenes in the show’s long history. It’s this one:

…in which Sheldon shares one of his favorite movies with Amy. Raiders of the Lost Ark is fine, Amy intones, except Indiana Jones is utterly irrelevant to the plot.

This ruins the movie for Sheldon, and in fact I think it caused an existential crisis for many fans of the film. It’s hard to ignore Amy’s logic. Unless, of course, you’re this guy:

I’ll let him tell you the details, but he argues that yes Indiana Jones does make a difference and besides it doesn’t matter because that’s not what the movie is about.

And you know I have to weigh in

So, yes, the guy in the second video is right. The movie is about Indy’s growth as a character. In fact, that’s what most movies are supposed to be, character growth. But that’s some pretty weak sauce intended to explain away the rather unintentional fact that the main character of a film franchise ends up being the least consequential part of the whole thing.

In most films, the main character serves as the audience’s representative. To the extent that the audience at home couldn’t possibly influence the plot of a film (unless it’s The Last Action Hero, an underappreciated gem from the ’90s) it’s ok that the main character takes a passive role in watching the events of the film unfold. However, rarely if ever has a character been so unintentionally passive as Indiana Jones in Raiders. What’s worse is that it took thirty years for his utter passivity to be realized.

There’s a reason for that

I suppose that’s actually a testament to the fact that Raiders is a very good film, for the kind of film it’s supposed to be. Audiences today might not realize that it’s a note-for-note ripoff of the B-movie serials of the early 20th century, although it is. The filmmakers intended it that way. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a fun thrill ride to guide audiences through a time malaise-filled lives back then.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a feeling in the US that we were overdue for a “win.” We’d take one any way we could get one. Starting with Star Wars and Rocky, the tone of popular entertainment shifted. More and more, we saw impossibly good heroes who always come out on top. Back then, we wanted to see that. I guess we were willing to ignore the fact that our heroes didn’t do much to earn their pay.

Time for another win, I think

When the world looks dark, pop culture tends to go light. Arguably it looks pretty dark right now. I have a feeling that our pop-culture machine will start turning out lighter fare more and more. Let’s just hope Amy Farrah Fowler isn’t there to ruin it for us. I guess we’ll find out when HBO Max launches at the end of May.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.