It’s been 35 years since Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom first hit cinemas and it’s held up pretty well as an action flick. But beyond that, well, it’s not exactly become the poster child for political correctness. In fact, one might even call the movie racist.
Since Raiders of the Lost Ark already used the Nazis as the baddies, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to dip their toes into the “evil Asians” pool for Temple of Doom.
Needless to say that this part of the film isn’t particularly flattering these days.
There’s the wildly inaccurate depiction of Indian people eating fried bugs, eyeball soup and monkey brains as part of their every day cuisine, not to mention the bastardisation of Hindu culture through the cartoonishly evil Mola Ram, his cult of midless zealots and their worship of the goddess Kali as an evil deity rather than her usual image as a paradigm of positive change.
Hell, the film even managed to squeeze in a “white saviour” narrative by having a helpless village under the control of Mola Ram and are in need of Indiana Jones to save them.
It was almost like Spielberg and Lucas purposely made Temple of Doom super racist just to piss off as many people as possible.
It’s not just South Asian culture that got lampooned in Temple of Doom as East Asia got some of the casual racism spotlight with Short Round, Indy’s young Chinese sidekick.
Sure the kid is pretty switched on and can handle himself well in a tough situations, but it’s also pretty clear that Short Round exists as comic relief through his accent, his “funny” pronunciations of certain words and acting as a big foreign contrast to Indy’s white-ness.
And what kind of Asian name is Short Round anyway? Spielberg and Lucas clearly busted a brain cell coming up with that one.
With so much problematic content going on in Temple of Doom, it’s perhaps no surprise that The Last Crusade went back to Nazis as the baddies. Perhaps Spielberg watched the final product and realised that they’d went way too far off the deep end and landed into racist territory.
It’s unlikely we’ll see another Indiana Jones film like Temple of Doom because of how the culture has shifted since 1984, not to mention the fact that Harrison Ford is 77 and is probably a bit over everything at this point.
But then again, maybe they’ll lean into that and turn Indy into a racist old grandpa for the next film that’s in the works.