life lessons from the movies: raiders of the lost ark (40th anniversary)

He’s not the man we knew years ago…

That Raiders of the Lost Ark turns 40 this week feels, as an increasing number of such milestones does recently, like a personal attack. It seems impossible that 40 years have passed since I sat in my grandparents’ basement watching Siskey & Ebert review the movie before going to see it myself a few months later when it came to the local second-run theater.

The anniversary has brought with a number of remembrances and retrospectives, chief among them a very good interview with Karen Allen where she not only talks about the movie, its characters and its legacy but also the personal impact the success of the film had on her mental and emotional health.

Among the many aspects of the film that have made it an enduring classic (it’s perfectly structured to be divided into chapters mirroring the film serials that inspired George Lucas), Lawrence Kasden’s script — elevated by Harrison Ford’s desert dry delivery and great performances from Allen and others — contains a good number of important life lessons we could all benefit from remember.

Harrison Ford Run GIF by Paramount Movies - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

For when your body reminds you you’re a good 10 years older than your brain insists you are and a good 20 years older than how you behave in any public setting, including social media.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.

For when your boss asks how that content strategy presentation is coming along.

Asps… very dangerous. You go first.

For when pandemic-related closures are coming to an end but it’s been a solid 18 months since you last interacted with anyone outside your immediate family.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

You can’t do this to me, I’m an AMERICAN.

For when the barista gets your latte wrong.


For when you’re asking anyone for literally anything.

Let us hurry. There is nothing to fear here.

For when you throw caution to the wind and decide you’re totally capable of walking from your New York hotel room to the event location without Google Maps.

I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless…

For when you’re justifying keeping a childhood memento everyone else thinks is ugly or weird on display in the living room.

I’m your goddamn partner!

For when the wedding is just days away but you haven’t even started writing your vows.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Uh… there’s a picture of it right here.

For when you insist on showing someone a picture on your camera and you think it’s in one folder but wait it’s not there did I delete it last time I synced my phone with the hard drive but I swear I was looking at it just the other day hold on I’ll find it.

They’re digging in the wrong place!

For when one half of your group leaves early to get there and get things set up but are nowhere to be found when you get to the destination an hour after they should have been there and no one is answering your texts.

How About Something New?

I’m not opposed to the idea, as floated by director Steven Spielberg, of a woman taking on the fedora of Indiana Jones. This doesn’t sound like a gender-swapped reboot of the character after Harrison Ford takes the character out for one last spin, but a continuation of the universe with a woman at the helm. Sounds cool and I’m actually all for it.

Surely, though, there are at least a dozen screenwriters hanging around Hollywood who have scripts sitting in a folder for *new* female action heroes that aren’t tied in some way to a legacy male character. One or two of those have to be decent, right? Why can’t we get one of those?

This is the same problem I’ve had with the comics industry for several years. Both Marvel and DC have long histories of introducing female characters who are derivative of male characters. In some cases, they’re given their own agency and motivations, but too often “Like X, but a girl” is the beginning and end of their character development.

I want to be clear here that this is not me trolling female fans who love these characters. I’m 100% in favor of more characters who aren’t white guys. As someone who’s been a Hawkeye fan since the early 1980s I can say I love Kate Bishop and want more stories featuring her. And from what I read the character of Rori who was inspired by Iron Man to become her own armor-wearing hero was great. More of all this.

But how about more characters with no ties to those who have come before, ones that have their own backstories and motivations for doing what they’re doing?

The idea of a female character taking over for Indiana Jones when he rides off into the sunset (which he literally did at the end of The Last Crusade) is fine, but how about a swashbuckling adventurer with no connection to Henry Jones Jr. in a story set in 1890 San Diego, someone out for fortune and glory during the Gold Rush?

Derivative characters are fine, but they seem like a half-measure. Let’s stop rebooting the same handful of existing female action heroes that have been around for a while (a la Tomb Raider) or making new ones that come with the baggage of male predecessors already around their shoulders. Instead, let’s ask for more original characters that are free of what’s come before and are able to stand on their own.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.