Indiana Jones: The Tones of Orientalism

Orientalism is a common theme that overshadows one’s culture with an imperialistic lens, adopting the culture. Orientalism is present in cinema, food, and pop culture. One specific place I want to focus on the presence of orientalism is Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is a very popular family movie series that demonstrates the common ideology of orientalism and the westerner’s perspective on other’s cultures.

In the first installment of the series; Indiana Jones: Raiders of the lost arc, while Jones is in Cairo Egypt he encounters a talented swordsman. We see townspeople gather while Jones and the swordsman duel. This short scene is super popular as the fight choreography is incredibly impressive, however, this scene is meant to shock the viewers at how violent the people in Egypt are. This very short scene holds a lot of weight for the perception of Egypt since many of the series’ viewers are kids and this may be their first impression of Egypt.

In the second movie; Temple of Doom, there were many events that were intended to shock viewers or almost disgust them. In one scene they are attending a cultural dinner someplace where Indiana Jones is venturing off too. One element at the feast that was supposed to shock the audience was a mass amount of food. There wasn’t an obscene amount, but the clear intention was to signal that Jones was in a new place with “not normal” customs.

I grew up watching the Indiana Jones series and was surprised to see while looking back at the poor taste and judgment they had while conveying the simple story of finding some treasure. I can see how this orientalism can hurt cultures as they perpetuate untrue stereotypes to others, even at such a young age. The Indiana Jones movies are marketed as family movies, meaning kids are watching these movies and unintentionally forming these biases on these cultures based on untrue tellings of them. I do think that in the future filmmakers can do a better job at this, but for now, it’s very evident that orientalism can be seen in the media almost everywhere.

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