Wanted: Female Indiana Jones. Only thin, pretty, shortsighted women need apply
Jennifer O’Connell: Why does every single woman on screen look like she was ordered up from a set of customisable templates created by Harvey Weinstein?
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.’
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 constructed 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.
There’s no need to get bogged down in technicalities
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”. At this moment, however, that look does not hurt.
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 – entertaining though it was – to see that Hollywood has a rib-crushingly narrow notion 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 up from a set of customisable templates created by Harvey Weinstein.
The film must feature at least two women in speaking roles
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 participation 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. Some of the top-grossing movies of last year only barely scraped a pass – Stephen King’s It, Logan and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
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 weathered and interesting. Or devastatingly beautiful and utterly conscious of it. Anything, please, but the tired old trope of “thin, pretty and entirely unaware of it”.