“I was a child! I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it!”
Replace the “I was in love!” bit with “I had trusted you my entire childhood!”, and these are words I have nightmares about hurling at the uncle who sexually abused me when I was 15.
Now guess which character says these words, to whom, in which movie. Here’s a hint: the person they’re said to is described by the story writer of the film as “a role model for little kids”.
The speaker is Marion Ravenwood, and she is speaking to Henry Jones, Jr., better known as Indiana, in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The story writer is George Lucas. The director Steven Spielberg. The screen writer is Lawrence Kasdan.
Picture this. The year is 1978. It’s about four months since Roman Polanski has fled the United States to avoid sentencing for “unlawful sexual intercourse” – something he pleaded guilty to in order to avoid a trial for, basically, raping a child.
So in June 1978, Messrs Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan got together for a story conference on their next blockbuster, Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is allegedly a 126-page transcript of the whole 5-day thing. The file seems to have been making the rounds for about three years, and while I have yet to find anyone actually vouching for its authenticity, it would be a damn elaborate hoax if it was one.
This early quote from Spielberg (page 3), talking about Indy’s use of his bullwhip, may give you an indication of how the three gentlemen viewed women:
S — At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who’s walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.
It gets worse. Much worse. Here’s an exchange the three had over those five days. (Page 36-37, G – George, S – Steven, L – Lawrence, emphasis and comments in parentheses mine.)
G — I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.
L — And he was forty-two.
G — He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship. (You don’t say, George.)
S — She had better be older than twenty-two. (Thank you, Steven.)
G — He’s thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time. (Amusing is not the word I would have picked, but hey, you’re the professional writer, George!)
S — And promiscuous. She came onto him. (Ah, Steven’s getting going.)
G — Fifteen is right on the edge. (I was fifteen when I was abused. Good to know you think that was almost okay.) I know it’s an outrageous idea (You don’t say, George.), but it is interesting. Once she’s sixteen or seventeen it’s not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he…
S — She has pictures of him. (Thank you, Steven, for interrupting that train of thought.)
Mystery Man on Film, an anonymous film blogger, thinks this a great lesson on screen writing – “a racy backstory can keep a plot moving”.
Well, Mystery Man, well Messrs Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan, let me educate you.
An eleven-year-old girl can’t have an “affair” with a 42-year-old man. It isn’t even “a real strange relationship”. She is a child who can be raped by him. “Amusing” and “interesting” are really not words I would choose to describe this situation.
A twelve-year-old girl is not “promiscuous”; she doesn’t “come onto” anyone. Let me repeat this for you. She is a child. Pretty much the only country in the world where she’d be legal at twelve is the Vatican.
A fifteen-year-old girl in US law is still incapable of consent. Yes, George, what you just said is that if the main character slept with a woman who is actually capable of consenting, that would make your story less “interesting”. I might give you that if you were tying to portray a child rapist. But in your own words (page 60), you’re “doing a role model for little kids”.
Let me tell you what it would have felt like to that fifteen-year-old, this “affair” you’re describing. There’s this friend of the family. He’s really cool, everyone calls him Indy. He spends time with your dad in the library, he brings you sweets, sometimes he takes you to the museum and shows you things your dad never has time to explain.
He tickles you, and you get goosebumps. He raises an eyebrow at you. One day, after a trip to the museum, he’s dropping you off at home. You’re waiting for your dad to open the door when out of the blue he bends down and kisses you on the lips. Before you have time to react, the door opens and you hurry inside.
The next time you see Indy, there is more kissing, and then the kissing becomes touching. You have no idea how to react to this. There is no one you can tell – they would probably tell you you made it all up. You tell him you don’t want this, you try to threaten him, but he only laughs; says if you really don’t want it you should slap him and he’ll stop. You’ve never slapped anyone in your life. So the touching continues. He undresses you; he pushes your legs apart; he makes you touch him. I’ll let your imagination take over from there.
Have I just turned Indiana Jones into a child rapist? No, it was Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan who did that. Unless of course the whole 126-page meeting transcript is a very sick hoax.
So here’s the challenge, Messrs Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan. Either disprove the authenticity of the document. Or stand up, explain yourselves and apologise. Explain to young girls that you don’t think they are promiscuous sluts asking to be raped just by existing; explain to young boys and grown men alike what consent means. Explain that you were wrong. Until one of those two things happens, Indiana Jones remains a child rapist.