The Popularity of Indiana Jones

By S.L. Nobrega (a.k.a Canyon)

"The world’s greatest hero returns. Admired by men. Adored by women. And loved by all." Is this the new tagline for Indy 4? I wish! I wanted to write an article about everyone’s favorite archaeological adventurer, but I had the problem in as much as what I was going to write about. Then I hit upon the idea of popularity. While I was on some of the Indiana Jones message boards, I once asked others what the most important thing would be about the release of the fourth Indy film.

One of the things listed was "Indy being popular again" and "people talking about Indy." Well, I found this very interesting, as in many ways I feel as if Indy is still very popular; not only in the States and in England, but all around the world and its great to see that even after all this time he was voted "Greatest Action Hero of All Time" in Total Film Magazine, as well as coming first in other similar polls. Of course, it’s going to be great when, and I say when, (as I have every faith that Indy 4 will happen) Indy is ‘flavour of the year’, as perhaps Harry Potter was or the characters from, say, Lord of the Rings have been.

So let’s take a look at what makes Indy so well liked by everyone. Firstly, it’s fair to say that the life of Indiana Jones, although fictitious, is probably one of the most exciting and fascinating that we can imagine. Most of us would love the high level of excitement and the adrenaline rush that Indy gets, not to mention the chance to travel to exotic countries, searching for treasures in ancient, booby-trapped temples, rescuing damsels in distress, fighting the bad guys AND saving the world while he’s at it! One thing I’ve always liked about Indy’s character is that on one side, he is a professor of Archaeology who teaches at university. Dr. Jones is very well respected by staff and students alike, and of course, not forgetting that most of his students (who are female, I might add) adore their professor’s lectures on history and archaeology and not just his classes either! It may be a good time to point out that, yes, I am female and no, I don’t just like Indy because he happens to be rather good-looking… Ahem, anyway, to any female readers, I’m sure you know exactly where I’m coming from and I’ll get onto the subject later! (Yes, I can hear the groans from the guys as I’m writing this, but please stay with me.)

Okay, so let’s take a good look at the character of Indy. Firstly, as I have mentioned above Indy is a university professor, an expert on the occult and ‘obtainer or rare antiquities’. Indy is an eminent professor who is extremely well known throughout the world. I really like that as I feel that it makes the character even more interesting. I love the way that Indy is not only a fantastic adventurer who goes out in search of ancient artifacts, but the fact that he is also a respected archaeology professor. If only his students knew!

Indy is also quite an expert, not only on archaeology and history, but he is highly knowledgeable about many subjects and I feel that the whole archaeology professor adds another interesting dimension to the character. Now to the other side of Indy’s character. Indiana Jones is a fantastic adventurer, who is a confident, knowledgeable man, whose many adventures have led him to death-defying feats of bravery, not to mention near death experiences and he has also had several experiences with supernatural elements and powers. Indy’s talents are many and not only consist of being able to read and speak several languages, but also due to his knowledge of various customs and rituals and the fact that he has experienced so much in his life, in my opinion, all go towards making Indy an extremely popular character indeed!

Now we move onto another reason why I’m pretty sure that Indy is as popular as he is! His clothes. I’ve always liked the way in which Indy dresses as to me as I have felt that he has a very individual style (although similarities have been made to heroes in westerns). His clothes are so popular that whole websites have been devoted to Indy’s Fedora, leather jacket, shirt, pants, holster etc which I think is absolutely fantastic! is the most obvious one, and I loved viewing the pictures of the staff in their Indy gear as well as the Indy fans pictured in the fan scrapbook page. I must admit, despite being a lady (some say that is debatable!) wearing the gear almost makes you feel as if you are Indy which is pretty cool! At Halloween I read on The Raven that a certain Indyfan (Indyfrench, I know you’re reading this!) dressed as our hero and got no end of cool comments; by the way French, I can’t think of a greater compliment than to be called Indy!

So, what has this got to do with the popularity of the world’s greatest adventurer? Well, you've got to admit, Indy's clothes ARE pretty cool and after all of these years being an Indy fan (since 1989) its great to see people dress up in their gear (hell, perhaps even the Indy Experience could start up a page where everyone submits their pictures!) Indy’s style is as rugged as he is and in my opinion, the clothes go a long way towards the popularity of the character as the whole outfit has a unique style about it. It seems to me that the clothes were almost perfectly designed after Steven Spielberg and George Lucas picked Harrison Ford for the role of Indy.

In my opinion Indy is a fantastic individual. He lives a wonderful life, a life which we all feel that we would love to live. For the guys out there, how many times have you wished that you were Indy, that you could do the things that he does, save the world, kill the bad guys, save the world from evil Nazi’s, get the girl and, of course, get the artifact.

Now, if you’re a female Indy fan (as I am) how many times have you wished that you were either Marion Ravenwood, Willie Scott or Elsa Schneider (well, not so much Elsa as she fell into a chasm, but…) Another thing I feel that definitely contributes to the popularity of Indy is the fact that during his search for ancient artifacts, he often puts himself at great personal risk. He is that passionate about archaeology and I think the fact that most of the time he is spontaneous is also an extremely appealing part of his character.

I think what distinguishes Indiana Jones from other heroes is that he is human. He does not use gadgets like James Bond (no offence to the Bond fans out there), he does not have super human powers like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I cringe when I hear people describe Indiana as a superhero! For crying out loud, superheroes wear capes and have special powers. Indy does not. The thing that does make Indy stand out from everyone else is that he is a lot like you and me. He is a man who sometimes not only gets injured or badly hurt in fights, he also tends to get into situations where he could actually lose but Indy never gives up and as Harrison Ford once said “it is his selflessness, tenacity, bravery and indomitably which makes him attractive to audiences.”

Another point which may go towards Indy’s popular world is the time that Indy’s adventures are mainly set in. The 1930’s. At the time, the world was a pretty scary place with the threat of war and unsavory people like the Nazi’s to name but a few, and in some ways, it was a kinder, gentler more innocent time, when men were men, women were women and things were very different to what they are now. I think that having the Indy world set in this time places our favorite archaeologist in an almost unique category, as most films are usually set in the present day and some are even set in the future or even in "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."

I guess that from a man’s perspective, Indy is thought of as being pretty cool because he is the epitome of an ideal man. He is strong, brave, fights for what he believes in and never gives up and has a way with the ladies! I imagine that the majority of male Indy fans would also love to just like him or even be him! From a female point of view, he is all of the above things, but even better, we girls feel that Indy would not only make a perfect traveling companion, but would be one helluva love interest as well!

Of course I imagine that the reason that most people like Indy so much is due to his uncanny knack of surviving his adventures! How does he do it? Well, I have mentioned earlier that he is brave and stands up for what he believes in. Maybe Indy is a lucky person, or is perhaps like a cat with nine lives, although I think that this particular archaeologist has more lives than the average cat! I think a large part of Indy’s survival is due to the fact that he is spontaneous and most of the daring things that he does are perhaps without him thinking too much about them. Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that Indy’s actions are acts of stupidity. What I am saying that it is my opinion that Indy just goes with his instincts when there isn’t necessarily time to think about such heroics. I’m sure that if Indy did stop to think about these things and didn’t do things on the spur of the moment, well, he just wouldn’t be Indy, would he? This is what makes the character so unique, his selflessness, bravery and the level of dangerousness that he puts himself through. Indy reacts very well to the situations around him performing many acts of bravery along the way and I think it is due to this that Indy skillfully avoids death. That’s not to say that Indy has not come close to death as many of you will know. And of course a large part of this is due to Indy’s passion for archaeology which drives him forward and the determination which leads him to succeed in his quests.

Of course, another major thing about why Indy is so popular is his personality. Now I know that I have previously mentioned parts of this, but trying to actually ‘define’ Indy’s personality is not exactly easy. Forgive me for sounding like Freud, but I think we probably have to go back to Indy’s childhood for this. Now, as you all know Indy lost his mom at an early age, and as he was only twelve at the time this changed the relationship with his father a great deal and as illustrated in The Last Crusade, Indy’s relationship with his father was fraught with difficulties. It seems to me that the loss of Indy’s mother in some ways changed him, and as he did not get on with Henry, this perhaps made him even more stubborn to succeed at being an Archaeologist, and in turn give him the determination to succeed. (Whew! Its times like this that I wish I had a degree in Psychology!) I also think that the loss of Indy’s wife, Deirdre had affected Indy’s relationship with women (although I may be exploring that in another article, so watch this space!)

There is no doubt that Indy a true hero, and most of the time, heroes usually have some kind of insecurity or issues that they need to deal with. Perhaps the fact that Indy lost his mom at an early age and was not close to his father perhaps put him in a position where he became a bit of a loner (despite having close friends like Marcus Brody or Sallah) and perhaps that is why Indy has not yet settled down with a woman (this part of Indy’s character may be explored in Indy 4 but we will just have to wait and see)

I feel that Indy is now ingrained in the public conscious. When people think of Archaeology and adventure, they think of Indiana Jones and that famous opening scene at the beginning of Raiders is so well known now that most people, no matter what age, will never forget that wonderful scene. I think that the character is almost embedded in everyone’s subconscious that when you hear the words ‘lost cities’ or ancient tombs’ it’s probably likely that, (whether you’re an Indy fan or not) you can’t help but think of our intrepid hero.

I also believe that the characters popularity is largely due to none other than Harrison Ford. In many peoples opinion, including mine, the character of Indy would not have been half as successful if Harrison had not played him. Tom Selleck may have been okay, I’m not sure, but I am pretty confident that if he had played Indy, Raiders may not have been quite so successful and I think that there would have been a sequel, but I doubt very much that it would have been as good as Temple of Doom.

Harrison Ford had, and indeed still does have a great screen presence and gave a wonderful, charismatic performance as Indiana Jones and he was absolutely perfect in the role of the adventurer who we have come to know and love! It’s also worth noting that it was Raiders and his portrayal of Indy that catapulted Harrison to superstardom, not only giving him real status as an actor (he was great in Star Wars, but this was the role which made him) but also making him the most popular actor of the decade and beyond, making him an international superstar and a heart throb all in one go!

Well, I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and I will finish by saying that the Indy is an extremely popular character as his world is such an exciting one! I remember how excited I used to get when buying a new Indy novel or comic and I still get the same buzz from reading new stories on the internet. Nothing rivals the feeling of excitement of almost feeling like you are ‘joining’ Indy on one of his adventures (oh, if only we were so lucky!)

I always get this great surge of excitement, not knowing what’s going to happen next and I must say, the thought of a brand new Indy adventure on the big screen is something I’m sure that all of us are looking forward to a great deal. And if there is anyone who we wish we could go on an adventure with it would definitely be none other than the world’s greatest archaeological adventurer, Indiana Jones!