Amid the news that a new Indiana Jones movie would go into soon with both Harrison Ford reprising the role and Steven Spielberg at the helm, there was also talk of a potential female Indy – Indiana Joan Spielberg says, clearly not understanding the female version of his character doesn’t necessitate a last-name change…
The bigger question is why would we even need a female Indy? Why not just make Lara Croft work? Relic Hunter? How about something *gasp* new and different?!
First, The Elephant
As mentioned above, there aren’t a lack of female adventurers that can be Indy without literally being a female Indy. Relic Hunter is a little bit of a deep cut, but Lara Croft and Tomb Raider (2018) has made a decent return internationally, even if it didn’t garner the best reviews. Truthfully, the reviews are quite comparable between it and The Crystal Skull, both from audiences and critics. What would audiences gain from a female Indy? It didn’t work for Sony and Ghostbusters, and franchise fans had wanted another Ghostbusters film for ages. They didn’t want the subject matter as much as they wanted Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis…You get the point.
Quit Playing With Your Old Toys
Nostalgia is money. Reinvigorating something old and giving it a spit shine is a surefire way to build excitement for moviegoers. As audience numbers drop to a new low in North America, studios want to bank on familiarity to get butts in seats. People like comfort more than being challenged. Going to a favoured fast-food joint beats trying something new because people know exactly what they’re getting. People love that. Why take a chance and spend the money instead of a reliable alternative? The same goes for movies. More people know Indiana Jones than Tomb Raider and the former will, for the foreseeable future, sell more tickets.
Hollywood would do well to create some new heroes. The time for going in the attic and dusting off old properties has to go back to a niche occurrence instead of a go-to move. If it must be done, have something to say about those properties. Writers and Producers need to stop thinking of nostalgia as a repackage, and start treating them as portals into new stories.
This works for robust universes, with their own lore. A new Men In Black holds promise because it’s about that world, not Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
Who Is This For Anyway?
This is the driving question. Who is a female Indiana Jones supposed to sell to? It clearly panders to a female demographic instead of empowering it, so it’s not for them. Tween girls have no ties to the franchise history, so it’s not for them. Adults who enjoyed the previous four did so because of the talent involved, so it’s not for them either.
Movies like the most recent Power Rangers messed this up by being too beholden to the original (American) characters while repackaging to a youth market., A youth market that has their own Rangers. Not to mention that there are literally decades of content to draw from. Why did they go back to the start if they were going to change it so much anyway?
Spielberg’s idea for a female Indiana Jones does the opposite. It takes an idea and character that has no reason to not be that thing and wants to make it something different. Seemingly for no real storytelling reason. If he wanted a female protagonist to take the franchise over, he could have incorporated a daughter in his last attempt at the franchise. This just sounds like Spielberg is jumping on the bandwagon of the moment.
Avoid Nuking The Fridge
Gender-swapping isn’t always the worst idea. It’s just bad when you don’t understand what audiences want from the franchise. Ghostbusters largely failed because Sony failed to realize that the built-in fanbase wanted the actors, not the premise. Blockers works because the premise is the draw and the leads’ gender isn’t a concern.
Changing Indiana Jones to Indiana Jones (because, ultimately, it sounds gender-neutral to me) just to keep the name recognition is a mistake. If Spielberg is compelled to continue after Harrison Ford hangs up the fedora, he can always rely on Mutt. I hear Shia Labeouf is the next Tom Hanks.