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Ethnocentric Indiana Jones

"Ethnocentric" is a person or group who holds his ethnicity (heritage, national origin or culture) above all the rest.

By Mongo Aurelio
Published on LatinoLA: December 4, 2008


Ethnocentric Indiana Jones


I don't expect an Indiana Jones movie to teach me history, geography, or archeology.

It would be nice if it did, but the main purpose of a fiction work is to entertain rather than to teach.

The script writers must have the creative liberty to add imaginary locations and events, or to alter and simplify actual ones, in order to shape and add interest to the story being told.

However, when the narration takes place in an actual country (Peru) and portrays a definite time period (late 1950), I believe a modicum of fact checking is in order.

Unfortunately, in the latest delivery of the Indiana Jones franchise, "The Temple of the Crystal Skull", no such checking happens.

Some examples:

- Indy travels to Cusco, Peru, in order to study the Nazca Lines (some gigantic drawings that can be seen from the sky). Only that the Nazca Lines are not in Cusco, but in, well ... Nazca, several hundred miles to south.

- Once in Peru, Indy is able to converse fluently with some indigenous. Asked what language he was talking, he says it was, "Quechua, an Incan dialect." Quechua is not an Incan dialect, there is no "Incan language". Quechua was the language spoken in the Incan empire.

- Asked how he learned Quechua, Indy explains that he picked it up while riding with Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa was a Mexican revolutionary, not a Peruvian. For Christ's sake, Mexico is in North America, not is South America!

Having corrected these simple mistakes in the script would have detracted nothing from the plot (which, critics concur, is the weakest of the series, anyway).

But at least it would have spared us Latin Americans from wincing in pain while watching the movie.

Making a finer point, more implausibilities pop up. Some other examples:

- Indy enters Incan pyramids, which look remarkably Mayan (as the should, since the Incas, a mountain slope culture, never built any pyramids).

- In Peru, he narrowly avoids being crushed to death by a gigantic monolithic calendar wheel, that characteristic "Sun Stone" piece which is often used as a national symbol in ... Mexico.

- He is chased across Peru and along the Peruvian-Brazilian border by a whole regiment of Soviet Russians, who somehow snuck in the ferociously anti-communist military juntas governing both countries at that time.

- He encounters gigantic waterfalls, of which there are none in the Amazonian jungle. In fact, there are no waterfalls at all.

- He loots a cemetery and damages a centuries-old, perfectly preserved mummy (something no archeologist would do). By the way, he does this after reading warning signs about looting, and then killing one of the cemetery guards who was just doing his job. And by the way, the Peruvian guards seem very proficient in capoeira, which is a Brazilian martial art.

Irritatingly, the many hands this script went through (Jeff Nathanson, Frank Darabont, David Koepp and Steven Spielberg, himself), either think that Latin America is just a mishmash of undifferentiated poeples about which anything can be said, or they assume the viewers of this movie movie possess less general knowledge than a fifth-grader.

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