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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

This movie was verboten in my childhood (with good reason) but by the time I surreptitiously watched it on cable, or bought it incidentally with the other two (at the time) Indy DVDs, I really only had eyes for the opening sequence. There are threads of "Anything Goes (in Mandarin)" woven through the fiber of my being and through that number (and the excellent action set piece in the nightclub that follows) I learned to love this movie over time. Defend it even. Well... mostly.


There's a lot that is straight up unforgiveable in Temple of Doom. The portrayal of Indian culture and religion is abhorrent. Truly disgusting in its willful ignorance (do not tell me that even in 1984 Steven Spielberg couldn't afford some research or a few academics on retainer). As a kid, I thought the dinner scene was the scariest part ("Chilled Monkey Brains. mwahahahaha slurp") and as an adult, I think it's even worse. I'm tempted to be like, this isn't my thing to discuss, but it absolutely is because fuck this sort of writing and fuck not being brave enough to call it out (as I've been guilty of in the past). Cultures aren't costumes or punchlines. Stick to N*zis, Indy, we know they're evil. And when you fight N*zis, you don't look like a white savior asshole. Vampire bats! BUGS! DIRTY WATER! Even the opening of Raiders didn't treat the Hovitos/South America this way. Why India?


Back to the opening sequence and speaking of doing research. Translating Cole Porter into Mandarin is ballsy and takes some doing. Once again I'm charmed by actors playing actors and while Kate Capshaw gets a bad rap (I'm guilty of mocking her in the past), she nails it as Willie Scott. The proof? The deadeyed delivery of that first verse followed by the slightest little trip as she walks backwards into the impossible scenery and we're told immediately she's supposed to be an insufferable, bad actress. And she delivers. She's never deadeyed in any of her "off stage" moments. She's honestly kind of magical in this role. In a different era she would have been played by anyone from Meryl Streep to Margot Robbie and that's pretty cool.


I realized while watching tonight that I too often think of present day Harrison Ford when I think of him at all and I forget how self-effacing and funny he was in the 80s. His small but hilarious reactions to any and all snakes that he comes across in the course of this movie had me in stitches. Lovely little call backs without the modern crutch of hamfisting callbacks into sequels. And I can't think of Temple of Doom without thinking about this facial expression/this gif:



But this movie belongs to Short Round. Ke Huy Quan is my favorite whenever he shows up and I remain livid that he was denied a career for so long after The Goonies. He's brilliant in this movie. His chemistry in his first movie ever with Harrison-effing-Ford is remarkable. He has a higher body count than Indy. He wields a torch like a pro. He's sassy and funny and fun. I love him. I'm wild about the internet notion that Ke should take over the Indy franchise as a grown up Short Round returning all of Indy's "finds" to the cultures he took them from. Shut up and take my money!!


Hey it's another jacket that I painted!



Takeaways:

-This was always going to be a jacket but the design was much much different. It was focused on the dragon set piece in the opening number but I could not for the life of me think of a way of doing it that I felt okay about. I wanted it to be like a tour jacket, complete with "crew" written above the nonexistent breast pocket. But I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. I went through numerous drafts of the dragon, from traditional (which I felt icky about) to cartoony (which I felt somehow worse about). The universe agreed and the jacket I ordered online paint for this got lost. I ordered a second one and it was "indefinitely delayed." It arrived the day after I decided to change directions. I decided to take inspiration from posters for movie musicals of the 30s that feature a singer, no plot, and a line of non-descript backup dancers. Problem solved!

-I am simultaneously SO PROUD of this jacket - I've come such a long way since Fury Road, but I was crestfallen by the end. For all that was good, there are dozens of wee missteps and flaws that I can't look past. Tiny dots of red paint that appeared long after I stopped painting with red?? Smeared black lines I swore were dry. Ghost lines from my heat erase markers that I know better than to use without discreetly testing first. I'll get over it but it's just a dreadful way to cross the finish line.

-I did three full art pieces this week and got (mostly) caught up at work. I started the week exhausted in a way I haven't experienced sans illness in many many years. But with each piece, I felt a little better. Irritation with myself aside, as I write this, I feel the best about myself I've felt in a long while. Make. Art. Do it. The best therapy (in conjunction with actual therapy) is creativity. What a drug.

-I wanted to include the Dan Akroyd line (that cracks me up every time): "Good lord, are you Willie Scott, the famous American female vocalist?" But the word female makes me feel icky. Not because it's bad in and of itself but a lot of awful men use "female" in a way that makes my skin crawl and hearing even Dan Akroyd say it irks a little. SO I love that the text only shows up in certain light on the jacket. I know it's there and hopefully few people see it.

-I got so anxious at the thought of drawing and subsequently painting a line of identical chorus girls, I realized it would be easier, faster, and less stressful to do a lino block. It caused its own problems (spacing!) but I'm so proud of myself for solving that problem and doing it quickly. One of the reasons I love learning so many different artistic skill sets is because some day it will come in handy for problem solving.

-I'm fascinated by my brain being drawn to putting my art on clothing. I'm sure that to the outside observer it feels like the obvious choice. I was a costume designer, clothes are what I know. But I don't want to do anything remotely like costume design any more. Certainly not for myself. And these pieces are inherently the kind of ostentatious display I usually sprint away from. I don't want attention. I am uncomfortable with displaying my art and worse, inviting engagement over it. But something about these women. Something about the connection I feel to them. Something about the defiance I feel when I wear my jackets. Willie doesn't fit the angry woman trope that has guided the other jackets, she feels more like the maligned "bimbos" of the 90s. And I used to look down on her too. But, she's a badass. She's not a fighter, she's not terribly bright (? I questioned it as soon as I wrote it), but she knows what she brings to the table and she's a goddamn survivor. I love her. I'm sorry I ever thought less of you, Willie.

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