Danger Gal Friday: Marion Ravenwood

Spoilers follow, so be warned if you haven’t yet seen Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

This week’s Danger Gal Friday profile is on Marion Ravenwood from the Indiana Jones saga. Twenty-seven years ago, Karen Allen took on the role of feisty heroine Marion Ravenwood, proprietor of a bar in Nepal, and returns to that character in the recent Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie.

Marion challenged stereotypes from the beginning by owning a bar on the edge of civilization, and even out-drinking the men there. All through the first movie Marion constantly stood up to Indy and her actions followed her own compass.

With this new movie, we get a rare glimpse of a woman’s lifespan and see that Marion is still considered important even though she’s no longer the ingenue. In fact, it’s clear from The Crystal Skull that Marion has really come into her own, created a life for her and her son even though Indy left her. I think she let Indy off a little easy, but I have to admit that even I would have a difficult time staying angry at the likes of Indiana Jones.

I agree with the Women In Hollywood blog that Marion’s character was a “much more realistic foil and partner for Indy than the women who followed.” WIH reminds us of some of the great roles for actresses in 1981 when that first Indy movie came out, such as Silkwood, Norma Rae, 9 to 5, Yentl—and I would add to that Empire Strikes Back. I think these kinds of roles set the bar for me of what I expect from Hollywood when it comes to female characters in movies. As a young girl at the time I was spending afternoons pretending to be Princess Leia and Marion Ravenwood. I’m not seeing these kinds of roles for women currently, and hope that changes soon.

Multiple Universes sums up perfectly why Marion’s character is one hundred ways to awesome:

If there’s one thing cooler than the return of Indiana Jones to THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL then it’s the fact that his first, and best love interest Marion Ravenwood will be accompanying the adventurer for the first time in 27 years. Sure Indy’s gotten busy with a Shanghai chanteuse and a Nazi spy in that time, but none of these ladies had the moxie of this hard-drinking, hard-punching tomboy. As personified by the raven-haired Karen Allen in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Marion Ravenwood became an icon of female derring-do as she got herself into one fix after the other between basket chases, devious monkeys and slithering Egyptian snakes.

I’m glad that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas haven’t watered down Marion at all in the new movie. The Feminist Spectator points out that:

. . . Karen Allen, returning as Marion, has fun representing a middle-aged woman who’s more than a domestic help-mate for Indy. She drives their get-away cars over cliffs, confident that they’ll all survive; she delights in fighting off evil physically and intellectually; and she never cowers in the face of the fearsome or revolting challenges that confront Indy’s party on their way to the story’s happy finale. Watching her take such energetic good fun in being part of the crew brings a welcome point of female identification to the typically masculine (and male) action story.

The Feminist Spectator didn’t so much appreciate the happily ever after ending, specifically the “conservative conclusion in marriage,” but I don’t see this as any sort of “taming” of Marion. I see it as two soul mates finally getting it that they’re happier together than apart. Since we get to see Indy appreciate a very active Marion in this second movie, I’m confident these two will continue on other adventures together. Karen Allen might love to nest and knit, but I can’t see Marion sitting back while Indy has his adventures. I also can’t see Indy wanting her to miss any of the action either.

As an aside, I’d love to see a comic, or even another movie, showing what adventures Marion has had in the intervening 27 years.

The Feminist Spectator also points out that Cate Blanchett’s character is an interesting one in her own right, and is not simply a one-dimensional foil for Indy:

Likewise, Blanchett’s villain, with her silly black helmet-hair and her icy blue eyes—however ridiculous the character or her recycled Cold War conflict—provides a fun display of female power and ingenuity. With two women in central roles—one good, one bad—the Crystal Skull offers more gender balance to the action-adventure plot.

Just like Montag, I think that “Indiana Jones without Marion Ravenwood is like a Reuben sandwich without sauerkraut.”