Surely there are bet­ter roles for women in Hol­ly­wood than ‘ In­di­ana Joan’

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS -

If you’re one of those who still hasn’t re­cov­ered from that time Hol­ly­wood gave the Ghost­busters vul­vas, now might be a good time to turn the page to Ross O’Car­roll Kelly. Be­cause we are go­ing to dis­cuss the prospect that the next In­di­ana Jones could be fe­male, a no­tion re­cently mooted by Steven Spiel­berg him­self. Okay, tech­ni­cally, he didn’t moot it; it was more that he man­aged not to suc­cumb to howls of de­ri­sion or out­rage at the prospect. But stay with me, be­cause en­tire Daily Mail front pages have been built on far flim­sier premises. ( I re­fer you to its re­cent scoop on why Kate Mid­dle­ton’s fin­gers are all the same length.)

She’d have to be called In­di­ana Joan, he con­ceded. “And there would be noth­ing wrong with that.” Well, other than the fact that Joan is not a sur­name, and In­di­ana works per­fectly for a woman, but let’s not pick holes.

Part of me thinks there has to be a bet­ter way to get more com­pelling parts for women than sim­ply to re­hash parts writ­ten for men. But the more prag­matic part of me no­tices that’s not hap­pen­ing. Any­way, the no­tion of a whip- wield­ing, wise- crack­ing, genre- bust­ing Indy on a quest to re­cover the se­cret of tax- free tam­pons – star­ring, as Caitlin Mo­ran sug­gested on Twit­ter, the Tem­ple of Doom as a metaphor for cys­ti­tis – is a tan­ta­lis­ing prospect.

Thanks to the ef­forts of the web­site Vul­ture. com, which re­cently trawled the Hol­ly­wood archives to find out how 50 fa­mous fe­male char­ac­ters were de­picted in screen­plays, we have the data to con­fi­dently pre­dict ex­actly how the fe­male In­di­ana Jones would look.

Indy 2.0 would be pretty, but not in­tim­i­dat­ingly so. Like Sarah Con­nor in Ter­mi­na­tor, she could be “pretty in a flawed, ac­ces­si­ble way. She doesn’t stop the party when she walks in, but you’d like to get to know her.” She would also be en­tirely un­aware of it, maybe by virtue of her short­sight­ed­ness, or be­cause she has never owned a mir­ror. There’s no need to get bogged down in tech­ni­cal­i­ties.

Ei­ther way, she should be like Saoirse Ro­nan’s char­ac­ter in Brook­lyn (“open- faced pretty with­out know­ing it”), or Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (“very pretty al­though not nec­es­sar­ily in an ob­vi­ous way”). Or she could chan­nel Julie Delpy in Be­fore Sun­rise: “strik­ingly at­trac­tive, she plays it down by wear­ing no make- up, a loose- fit­ting vin­tage dress and flat shoes”. Or she could draw in­spi­ra­tion from the old Indy’s love in­ter­est in Raiders of the Lost Ark: “beau­ti­ful, if a bit hard- look­ing”.

Aside from the un­threat­en­ing pret­ti­ness of which she is en­tirely un­aware, the fe­male Indy would also be thin. The good news is that there are al­most as many ways to be thin in Hol­ly­wood as there are to be not- in­tim­i­dat­ingly at­trac­tive. She could be “an anorexic- look­ing waif”, like Lis­beth Sa­lan­der in The Girl With The Dragon Tat­too, or “lean and hun­gry” like Kat­niss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, or “ath­letic and tanned” like Mary in Some­thing about Mary, or “thin and frail look­ing” like Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, or just “trim and pretty” like Clarice Star­ling. It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter, as long as she’s thin, pretty, and a bit short­sighted.

We didn’t need an ar­ti­cle by Vul­ture to see that Hol­ly­wood has a rib- crush­ingly nar­row view of what con­sti­tutes a woman, or that she would be de­fined en­tirely in terms of her at­trac­tive­ness and per­ceived ac­ces­si­bil­ity to men. You just need to go to the cin­ema once in a while, or turn on Net­flix, to see that ev­ery sin­gle woman looks like she was or­dered from a set of tem­plates cre­ated by Har­vey We­in­stein.

The nar­row range of ways it is deemed ap­pro­pri­ate for the fe­male of the species to look is just one of the more ob­vi­ous symp­toms of Hol­ly­wood’s well- doc­u­mented women trou­bles. The Bechdel test was fa­mously de­vised as a use­ful, if crude, tool for mea­sur­ing women’s ac­tive par­tic­ipa- tion in film. To pass, the film must fea­ture at least two women in speak­ing roles, who have names, and who talk to each other about some­thing other than a man. Ac­cord­ing to the BBC fewer than half of the 89 movies given an Os­cars nod this year passed the test.

In the fall­out from # MeToo, there have been rum­blings about how change won’t come un­til there are more women mak­ing more de­ci­sions in Hol­ly­wood. That’s just as true of the ac­tion on- screen as it is off- screen. Un­til there are more women pitch­ing movie ideas, and writ­ing screen­plays, di­rect­ing films and run­ning stu­dios, we’ll con­tinue to get served up a diet of for­get­table, an­o­dyne hero­ines, with lit­tle mem­o­rable to say to each other.

So bring on Indy 2.0. But let’s smash the We­in­stein tem­plate and have her be in­tim­i­dat­ingly mus­cu­lar. Or chunky and cheer­ful look­ing. Or dev­as­tat­ingly beau­ti­ful and ut­terly con­scious of it. Any­thing, please, but the tired old trope of “thin, pretty and en­tirely un­aware of it”.

The good news is that there are al­most as many ways to be thin in Hol­ly­wood as there are to be not- in­tim­i­dat­ingly at­trac­tive

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