Was Indiana Jones a Sexual Predator?

Karen Allen recently weighed in on her character Marion's romantic history with Jones

Indiana Jones
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
Corbis via Getty Images

It’s been 40 years since Indiana Jones walked into Marion Ravenwood’s bar and got punched in the face in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in that time, a lot has changed about the way society views things like grooming and engaging in sexual relationships with underage teen girls. That has led many to reexamine the scene in which the fictional archaeologist’s romantic history with the younger Marion is hinted at.

“I’ve learned to hate you in the last 10 years,” she tells him. After Jones insists he never meant to hurt her, she responds, “I was a child! I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it.” After he apologizes, she says, “Do you know what you did to me? To my life?” In a recent interview with Uproxx to celebrate the movie’s 40th anniversary, actress Karen Allen, who played Marion, weighed in.

“I guess you could say [there are sinister undertones],” Allen said about the scene. “I think I say I was 16. I don’t know. That’s always what I imagined is she was 16, he was 26. And he was her father’s student. And it’s left very mysterious. We don’t even know what it is. I mean, they could have kissed a few times, and she was just completely bowled over, and he could have just not wanted to get involved with someone so young. And maybe my father would have been furious at him.”

“I mean, what’s great about it is we don’t know what the circumstances are,” she continued. “So she obviously cared deeply for him. He may have cared for her, too. But, in the end, decided it was a dangerous situation and he didn’t want to be involved. I mean, I guess, when something is as vague as that, you can color it any way you want to color it. I’ve tended to color it, sort of, that it was quite innocent. When she says, ‘It was wrong and you knew it.’ I mean, I think maybe he led her on in some way. But when she says she was a child, I think she meant she was 16. Something like that.”

Ultimately, she says, “I don’t think of him as a pedophile. That’s the direction some of these people are going.” But a 26-year-old man pursuing a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old — even if they just kissed — is creepy at best (and an actual crime at worst). If anything, it’s a reminder of just how commonplace this sort of exploitation of teen girls was both on- and off-screen back then; the fact that no one batted an eye about it until decades later is telling. But we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes rectifying the issue of older, full-grown men sexualizing underage girls, and reevaluating the pop cultural touchstones we grew up with is a good step.

The truth is, as horrifying as it already is for Indy to have been romantically involved with a 16-year-old, it could have been even worse. The transcript of the 1978 story meetings for the film between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan reveal that the three men considered making Marion as young as 11 at the time of her “affair” with the action hero. Check out a snippet of that conversation below:

Lawrence Kasdan: I like it if they already had a relationship at one point. Because then you don’t have to build it.

George Lucas: 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.

Kasdan: And he was forty-two.

Lucas: He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship.

Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.

Lucas: He’s thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve.

Lucas: It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.

Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.

Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it’s an outrageous idea, 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. 

The whole thing is vile. It’s victim-blaming at its worst. (We’re really going to call a 12-year-old kid “promiscuous” and go with the idea that “she came onto him” to explain why our hero was engaged in some sort of physical relationship with her when she was still potentially too young to have even gotten her first period?) Note how Lucas asserts that her being 16 or 17 “isn’t interesting anymore”; the implication is that so many full-grown men were sleeping with underage teenagers back then that it’d be too boring unless her character was made to be even younger.

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