Monday, May 11, 2020

Why Is It Always Snakes?

In the opening set piece of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the hero, Indiana Jones, manages to make it through a complex maze of booby traps and escape the incredible giant rolling boulder. He even saves himself from a tribe of angry locals with little more than a smirk and a bit of sweat although he loses the golden idol to his rival.

Then he gets in the seaplane and freaks out when he finds a snake inside. Our cool and calm hero is afraid of snakes.

But what does he do? He controls himself enough to throw the snake out of the plane.

What does this tell us? Indie can get past his fears to do what needs to be done.

Is that the right message to send the audience?

I don't think so, particularly because, in the last part of the movie, he must make his way through a tomb filled with poisonous snakes to rescue his love interest from certain death. He must face his greatest fear to do so.

But he's already controlled his greatest fear in the first scene in the movie so we know he's capable of it so the tension is lessened.

In that first part of the movie, the snake should have been somewhere where it would have stopped Indie in his tracks, and his fear should have made him fail. If he'd failed then and at another time in the movie to enforce the knowledge that he's scared silly of snakes, his bravery in facing the snakes to rescue the girl would have been that much more heroic.

A hero isn't a hero if everything he does is easy or without challenge. The possibility of failure must be internal as well as external. If he's afraid of snakes, then those snakes must stop him until he's willing to face his fear and move beyond it. And he must face and defeat that fear at the end, not the beginning of the story.


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