The mainstream success of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory has often been associated with the rise and general acceptance of geek culture. Centering on the shenanigans of a bunch of socially awkward know-it-alls, the show has become a big hit, but on a recent episode they may have gone too far by poking holes in the iconic Indiana Jones debut Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In the title of their breakdown on this debacle, What Culture went so far as to suggest The Big Bang Theory may have ruined Indiana Jones forever. So consider yourself warned: If you read on, your respect for a long-beloved action hero may be shattered for good. Having said that, if Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn't kill your Indy enthusiasm, nothing will.
The Big Bang Theory episode that aired on October 10th was called "The Raiders of Minimization,' and centered Sheldon (Jim Parsons) showing Amy (Mayim Bialik) one of his all-time favorite movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, only to have it spoiled by her analysis. According to Amy, the movie has a "glaring story problem." She explained:
“Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same… If he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would still have found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”
Is it possible that in the adventure that started it all Indiana Jones may has well never showed up? I urge you read Simon Gallagher's full break down of this thesis, but his overall point is that Amy is right for the most part. The first time Indy confronts the Nazis is at Marion's bar, where he saves her from them and makes off with the medallion that will allow him to find the Well of Souls. However, his intervention only delays the Nazis attainment of the Ark of the Covenant, rather than preventing it. And as Amy points out, when they do finally open it they all die, so the world at large is unaffected by what might be the biggest archaeological find in human history…or at least until Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Now imagine if Indy had never gone on this Raiders adventure. The Nazis would have gone to Marion's bar and taken the medallion, though as Gallagher notes, they probably would have killed Indy's defiant ex. It seems saving the self-destructive Marion is the only difference Indy really made, aside from ultimately handing the Ark over the U.S. government, which stores it away in an ominous and massive chamber of secrets.
All this begs the question of how great a hero Indy really is. This is a query many Raiders fans are likely to fume at being raised, considering the online outrage that followed Joss Whedon's complaint about the meta-joke logic of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But what say you?