This time around, some of Indiana Jones' greatest enemies may be writing the reviews.
If you've seen the last Jones film, or even if you've just caught one of the commercials, then you know that Indy's latest nemesis is the evilest empire of them all: the Soviet Union.
While I cut my teeth on the first Jones movies and thrilled to his attacks on swarms of Nazis, I have to admit that I was kind of excited to see him facing down the Commies. After all, these were the grim-faced warriors who plagued my childhood. Growing up outside of Washington D.C., my family had contingency plans in case of nuclear war. In 1973, when my father was working in the Pentagon, we spent a couple of days stocking the basement in case the Arab-Israeli war escalated into a nuclear exchange. By the time I was in high school, I'd more or less decided that, if the nukes came, I'd drive into the city to meet them. Needless to say, The Day After made a big impression on me.
Of course, Indy's opponents are a lot more attractive than the real Soviets that we faced. He doesn't have to deal with a grim Brezhnev or a grim Andropov or a grim...well, you get the point. His opponent is Cate Blanchett who, although made up in a severe pageboy 'do, manages to make Communism fairly attractive. If you have to share a collective with someone...let's just say I wouldn't kick Blanchett out of bed for eating pierogies, if you know what I mean.
Even given the relatively attractive face that the movie puts on Communism, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has managed to really tick off the raggedy remnants of the Russian Communist Party. Referring to Blanchett and Harrison Ford as "puppets of imperialism" and "running dogs" of the CIA, the party told the actors that "You have no future in Russia any more [...] Speaking plainly, it is better for you not to come here. You will be beaten and despised."
"Puppets"? "Running dogs"? Pretty powerful words. On the other hand, it's not all that surprising: the inability to distinguish fact from fiction is part of what caused the downfall of the Soviet Union in the first place.
It seems like, over the past few years, we've lost sight of the genuine danger that Communism once represented, not only as a political aggressor, but also as a system of thought. At the heart of the Cold War struggle lay a profound disagreement about the value of the individual, the importance of political freedoms, and the role of the state. In some ways, our 40-year cold war helped us define the best in ourselves and our economic system.
Of course, it also produced Senator McCarthy and the Red Scare, but nobody's perfect...
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's a liberal, but sometimes, late at night, he also reads Ayn Rand.
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