Call for Comments: Indiana Jones and the Limits of the Adventure Fiction

From Hannah: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny premiered in theaters this past weekend to, shall we say, mixed results both critically and commercially. (And, in fact, from what I can gather some of this podcast’s hosts have differing opinions on this film. But isn’t that the starting point for some of our best conversations?) I’ve recently joked that it feels like all my podcast episode ideas are “we went to the movies and saw this thing,” but given that Dial of Destiny is (theoretically) the real end of the Indiana Jones films, what better time to discuss the cultural impact of this iconic character and its place in adventure fiction?

From a nostalgia perspective, I hold fond (yes, fond) memories of dressing up with my friends and going to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at a midnight premiere when midnight premieres were a Big Deal. I own an Indiana Jones themed addition of Monopoly. I can’t tell you when there was a time I didn’t love watching Raiders. And, actually, fun fact: my hometown is where a group of friends starting in the 1980s made a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders. I went to a screening of it at our local art center. As someone who made movies as a kid, their story inspired me.

But when approaching Indiana Jones critically, particularly as someone who studied the literature of the British Empire, I can’t help but think of how these films relate to adventure fiction from the likes of H. Rider Haggard (Allan Quatermain is a well-chronicled precursor to Jones) or Arthur Conan Doyle (as in The Lost World not Sherlock Holmes). I’ve even thought how some narratives like those of The Moonstone (a novel by Wilkie Collins that features a stolen diamond from India that gives novel its name) might parallel certain aspects of Temple of Doom in the broadest sense. There’s a lot to unpack with adventure fiction: the colonial narratives it perpetuates, the fact that even by some writers’ like Haggard’s own admission they were for “boys” (and therefore the genre’s relationship to gender), the portrayal of objectivity and science. And all these are all avenues of discussion for Indiana Jones within itself.

And even while I’d certainly like to address adventure fiction (and perhaps its transformations — or not — from the nineteenth century to the present), I also certainly think our hosts hold unique interests that would ground a rich discussion about Indiana Jones and his overall legacy. Who else happens to be interested in genre, adventure fiction, science fiction, nineteenth and twentieth-century history, serials (including comics), the Cold War, the space race, gender studies, the history of science/anthropology/archeology, and King Arthur lore … to name a few topics that intersect with Jones.

We probably can’t cover everything, but we can certainly try. So what about Indiana Jones interests you? Why do you find the series compelling … or not?

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