Here’s the thing about classic movies – they have a whole lot of dudes in them. The Godfather was basically a bunch of dudes killing each other with women sticking their heads in and getting martyred every now and then. Back to the Future made Jennifer a non-entity and then had Marty’s mom mack on him. Jaws was a bromance interspersed with shark-fighting. Despite being sort of tired of dude movies, the next movie on my Omigod What Do You Mean You’ve Never Seen THAT? Netflix queue was Raiders of the Lost Ark. Between Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, That Guy Who Played the Nazi Leader, and the rest, it seemed pretty dude-centric. A dudegasbord, if you will. But then something wonderful happened: Karen Allen.
I have incredibly limited experience with action/adventure movies (spoiler alert: an upcoming edition of this feature will include Star Wars), so I’m not sure if Marion Ravenwood was revolutionary in her day. But watching her drink, fight, and swear alongside Indiana Jones was pretty rad. There were definitely some eye-rolling moments: her screaming for Indy while in the giant basket, for example. But her scene with Dr. Belloq – where she fakes drunk and tries to stab him – reminded me so much of the biblical story of Judith that I had to pause the movie and look it up to make sure I had the particulars right. [Brief synopsis: Judith was a woman who saved her village by going into the tent of the attacking army's leader, acting like she was going to seduce him, and then cutting his fucking head off.] It’s a shame that Allen never became a huge movie star, because the way that she elevated some of the more cheesy material handed to her – the out-of-nowhere white filmy dresses, including one with a bow on the butt? – was impressive. Her obvious “look at how she’s basically a guy!” scene at the beginning, where she outdrinks a man twice her size, manages to be endearing instead of cloying.
Although Marion often does more hiding than fighting, I don’t think it’s a bad method of self-defense to let Indy go out there and preen and kick some ass while you manage not to get injured. If dudes want to feel manly by beating up on each other, let them exhaust themselves and then swoop in when their testosterone levels die down. Those red pants she was sporting in Cairo, though? That’s another story.
I found myself wondering about Marion’s backstory, and since I haven’t seen any of the other Indiana Jones films, I don’t know if we learn more about her. (I do know that she appears in the franchise reboot, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but not the other movies in the series.) Indy’s a bit of an enigma himself, but he gets two more movies to suss out details about his past. Marion, on the other hand, is full of riddles, and I want to know their answers. How the hell did she wind up in Nepal? Did her dad move her out there? If so, why did she stay after he died? How did she come to be a bar owner? Was she lonely as (apparently) the only white person and single woman around? Did she have other lovers besides Indy? I know that movies like this one are about plot more than character, about shoot-em-up scenes more than social commentary, but I was dying to learn more about Marion. But she, like most female love interests, is there more to serve a man’s interests than her own. So I’ll just have to invent a backstory for her. A really kickass one, of course.