Review: Excavating Indiana Jones

Excavating Indiana Jones: Essays on the films and franchise

Edited by Randy Laist

Publisher: McFarland

Pages: 212

Release: April 2, 2020

If there is (besides Star Wars of course) a movie franchise that had an enormous impact on pop culture it’s Indiana Jones. Since it’s introduction in 1981, this fedora wearing archealogist (played by Harrison Ford, created by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg) has become an iconic character.

So far, 4 movies, a TV series and several videogames, comic books, novels and reference books have been released and a fifth movie was announced not so long ago. One of the latest releases is Randy Laists’ Excavating Indiana Jones: Essays on the films and franchise, a book with (not surprisingly) several essays written by different people. As the back of the book says:

Despite the longevity and popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise, however, it has rarely been the focus of sustained criticism. In Excavating Indiana Jones, a collection of international scholars analyzes Indiana Jones tales from a variety of perspectives, examining the films’ representation of history, cultural politics, and identity, and also tracing the adaptation of the franchise into comic books, video games, and theme park attractions”

The book is divided in 4 sections:

  • History (3 essays)
  • Cultural Politics (4)
  • Identity (4)
  • Extended Franchise (4)

Fans be warned. There’s plenty of criticism on the movies and you won’t agree with everything. Well, at least I didn’t. I’ll give an example: in an essay about the comics the writer calls Indy’s famous quote “It belongs in a museum” ‘priviliged Western acquisition’ and the fact the franchise contains racism is also mentioned. For me, Indiana Jones is escapism and going all politically correct takes away the fun. Unfortunately several parts are “woke” as terms like ‘white male dominance’ are being used and the way fictional Arab characters (even good guy Sallah) are portrayed is heavily criticized. I gave those an immediate hard pass. Luckily, there’s also some good content, like the part that covers the videogames in a very informative way.

In some cases liking a franchise is enough to purchase a book. With this one I’d say the way you see the world plays an even bigger part. A real shame.