Last week marked the beginning of filming of the fifth installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise. As expected, Harrison Ford returns as the great archeologist himself, with the addition of some new faces, such as Mads Mikkelsen and Toby Jones. Much of the production is kept as top secret but some photos have emerged of filming in the United Kingdom’s famous Pinewood Studios, including Ford, on the set, in his signature outfit but wearing a COVID mask.
It looks a bit sad and strange. Ford is 78 years old, so naturally his age is showing. He’s hardly the same man he was when Indiana Jones was first introduced to the public in 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Of course, nobody is expecting him to be the young and vigorous Indiana Jones, but seeing a worn-out man wearing a regulatory pandemic mask fits all too poetically into our current age of malaise and lack of creativity.
Growing up in Bosnia (former Yugoslavia) and being completely obsessed with American culture and movies, I loved watching the adventures of Indiana Jones. Those repeated musical notes indicating Indy’s triumph over the bad guys (Nazis, to be precise), his leather jacket, fedora, and whip, his insistence that all the artifacts that he seeks “belong in a museum!”—all of these were part of my excitement as a young girl seeing the signs of American optimism. I still watch the movies and I still love them, despite the fact that now I can notice filming inconsistencies. None of it matters because the original trilogy captures the American spirit that destroys the bad guys.
Whether the latest “Indiana Jones” film will be good or not is beside the point. What’s interesting is that our artistic elite is not creating new forms of film, or any other art form for that matter, to capture that spirit. By no means am I denying the past, which we should always be aware of, but at some point, films like these become yet another journey into nostalgia and presumably (and mostly!) the search for more money.
In the past 10 years or so, ideology has taken over the film industry. Although the production of films has gotten better (especially with various new technologies), we are left with endless repetitions and poor stories. Whatever the ideological cause du jour may be, you can make a good bet that it will find its way onto the silver screen, and clumsily. Obtrusively, even. Film has simply become a way to spread ideology, or extreme forms of entertainment, such as the Marvel franchise. Martin Scorsese compared the superhero films to “amusement park rides.” Of course, he was immediately attacked by the political mob for daring to make an aesthetic judgment.
This is not to say that there aren’t any good films out there, but on the whole, there is a lack of creativity, and viewers nevertheless accept it. There are several levels to this cultural and aesthetic issue.
First, the rise of political correctness has suppressed creativity and artistic expression. These days, it is the woke mob that decides what is acceptable or unacceptable. Much like the censors and propagandists during Communism, they make determinations about who or what makes the cut. Some ideologies are stronger than others but generally, it is not acceptable to question abortion, transgenderism, leftism, or homosexuality, among other issues, but it is acceptable to attack any kind of traditional values. Art in any form should not have any ideology (be it on the Left or Right) and should be presented without any judgment. The lens through which the director sees is one that explores the interior lives of the characters.
The ironic and sad aspect of ideological filmmaking is that characters that ought to transcend the accepted norms of our society are almost always one-dimensional props to suit the ideology. Even something like homosexuality is not explored through the interiority of a character. Rather, it’s just an aesthetic with purely utilitarian purpose—to propagate a particular ideology (a recent example of this is Netflix’s series “Ratched,” which was advertised as a prequel to Miloš Forman’s 1975 film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but in reality, it rendered the awful and evil Nurse Ratched a repressed lesbian who needs to deal with some issues. In other words, boring).
Second, technology has created the need for more content, in which streaming films and series takes precedence over the cinema. It encourages that awful habit of binge-watching, which turns the person into a consumer and the film into a product. According to Jaron Lanier, such and similar technologies have turned people into “zombies.” In his book, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (2010), Lanier writes that “Humans are free” and we should not “make culture and journalism into second-rate activities and spend centuries remixing the detritus of the 1960s and other eras” because that suppresses “individual creativity.” Resist being a zombie!
Third, as viewers, we are witnessing remaking of previous creations in an ideological image, or the same previous creations are being attacked for their alleged toxicity. One of the examples is “toxic masculinity,” a misandrist take that seeks to culturally change the concept of what it means to be a man. Daniel Craig, the most recent actor to play the iconic role of James Bond, went on record to say that Bond is “actually a misogynist.” Being emasculated in such a way is the last thing that 007 would do!
The #MeToo movement doesn’t discriminate between real men and fictional characters, and they have come for Indiana Jones also. In a recent interview, Karen Allen (who plays Marion Ravenwood in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) came to Indy’s defense when the woke mob postulated that Marion and Indiana were involved in an inappropriate relationship, and that Indiana Jones was a pedophile. The fact that we have reached this point in culture where men can be accused willy-nilly of rape, abuse, or sexual harassment without solid evidence is bad enough. But we have reached another level of absurdity when we are attempting to destroy fictional characters.
All of this relates to the fact that ideologues are never interested in creativity. The interest of every ideology is to “start from zero,” thereby “cleansing” the past of alleged sins against the ways of the ideology. This naturally leads to the death of the creative process. Once the creative process is finished, there is nothing new to create.
Ironically, the result is that the ideologues are then forced to dig into the past in order to produce anything of value, however small it may be. Past creations, to use Indiana Jones’ famous phrase, “belong in a museum!” They are to be curated, preserved, admired, and reflected upon. They shouldn’t be assaulted and morphed into ideological props.