Christian symbolism in Indy 4
It is no mere device that has the Marion of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark renamed – at least at one point – Mary.
The mistake of name, while designed to throw off Indy and the audience, may have another function, to make clear that Indy, Marion and Mutt have become a symbolic holy family.
How much of the mythology we see in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is intention remains speculative, since the creator, George Lucas has always been somewhat ambivalent in regards to the mythological patterns of Joseph Campbell, claiming connection to them when convenient. But clearly, Lucas wandered away from these teachers for the Star War prequel.
By conscience design or not, Lucas has in the latest and perhaps last Indian Jones movie brought us a restored myth which features some of the classic patterns of mythology he used at his best.
Not to sound too much like Yoda, we
find in this tale the shape of myth that made Lucas’ great works such as the
original Star Wars, the three other Indiana Jones movies, and perhaps even
Joseph Campbell – to whom Lucas was drawn early is career – is one (but not exclusively) great scholars of myth pattern.
His map basically runs like this: the hero is called to a mission to serve the gods by some messenger. He must travel to the holy realm, rescue someone or collect some previous object, and then return.
Fairy tales tend to emphasis physical victory – i.e. the hero gets rich or marries the girl.
In myths, the hero’s task serves some significant purpose that will benefit mankind.
In the first three Indiana Jones movies, for instance, we have Indy stopping the Nazis from gaining godlike power, and in the other we have him preventing a cult from becoming powerful and as a result bring back life to the village which needed the sacred stone for a more peaceful purpose.
In Crystal Skull, we return to this pattern.
Evil, the guise of the Communists, are seeking to gain access to a godlike power and Indy is called once more to stop them.
Detailed elements of the myth vary, but since Lucas is reportedly a Christian, many of the specific references are Christian or part of the Christian tradition.
While we have not seen Indy crucified, we have seen him whipped, forces to drink blood (aka a perverted Last Supper), buried and reborn. Out of this rebirth, we get a stronger and more powerful god-like Indy, who performs great tasks to take on the enemy.
This is particularly true in the first and second Indiana Jones movies.
In some ways, Lucas’ use of the a
Rejected by a suspicious society, Indy
is ready to fade into some dull life as a professor in
As in most myths, Indy has to solve clues and get passed obstacles that guard the sacred treasure, and in the process finds allies who can help him combat evil.
This cabala of characters is move evident in the first and third Indy movies, but also present in Crystal Skull, where the dean of the college sacrifices his own career in order to protect Indy.
The Judas character is more clearly defined in Crystal Skull than in any of the previous Indy movies.
And then, of course, we come to Mary.
We get more than a strong hint of reverence for Mary with Mutt’s reaction to Indy early on:
“What’s your mom’s name again?” Indy asks.
“Mary. Mary Williams. Remember her?” Mutt asks.
But when Indy suggests he’s had carnal relationships with a lot of Mary’s over the years, Mutt reacts with rage.
“That’s my mother you’re talking about,” he says, jumping up ready to fight.
This need for purity has overtones that can be found in one of the principal precepts of the Christian faith: virgin birth.
Joseph was not after all Christ’s father, God was. So that we get here and in Christian mythology a subtitute figure – the British flyer who Mutt believes is his real father, and Ox, the caretaker father.
Our first clue of
Mary (or as we later learn Marion) betrayed as mother is far different from the character we met in the first movie, a hard-drinking, hard-fighting female tavern owner, who not only admits having carnal relations, but blames Indy for exploiting them.
“I was a child. I was in love,” she tells Indy in the first movie. “It was wrong and you knew it.”
Although Lucas is something of a prude,
his films often play on the edge of forbidden, and in two cases, even play
against the concept of brother-sister incest – such as the love relationship
between Luke Skywalker and his sister the princess. We get some of this in the
first film, too, where
We got a kind of reversal from the
first Indy movie where Indy appears at
“Indiana Jones,” she says as she throws down the shot glasses. “I always knew something you would walk through my door. I never doubted it -- that it was somehow inevitable. I learned to hate you in the last ten years.”
In Crystal Skull, the Russian is looking for a soft spot in Indy to exploit and calls for her comrades to bring out “the more sensitive one.”
With a few choice swear words for the Russians, Marion makes her screen appearance in Crystal Skull – ironically bringing the whole film cycle back to the first film when she was on more friendly terms with the Mongols.
Then she sees Indy, and gives the same snide grin as in the first movie.
Mutt calls to his mother and the
shocked Indy looks at Mutt then at
“Mom? Marion Ravenwood is your mother?” Indy asks in disbelief.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Indy, it’s not
The sputtering Indy goes on and says, “I never knew…”
“That I would have a life after you
When Indy says he’s had a good life, too, she asks, “Yeah? You still leaving a trail of human wreckage or have you retired?”
“Why are you looking for a date?” Indy barks back – echoing a word play from the first movie where he kept trying to hand her a date as part of a running gag.
“Yes, with anybody but you?” she responds.
Of course, the pair is reconciled, partly by their sharing the rest of the adventure and their mythical journey in and out of hell, and as in all good myths, they eventually deal with the moral question of their illegitimate son, by marrying.
The Holy Marriage, the restoring of faith between father and son, the saving of the planet by keeping evil from gaining the crystal skull are all basic stuff in mythology. Underlying this, of course, are the Christian symbols that are overlaid with science fiction. As with the first and third movies, Crystal Skull follows a trail of Christian mythology that in the end leads to something no Christian could have imagined: alien beings.
Mutt suggests this conflict when they encounter a picture of the native skulls that have been elongated.
Indy says they were wrapped at a young age to better resemble god’s skull, but Mutt rejects this saying this is not his image of god.
One of the underlying tensions in this film is this conflict about the nature of God.