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Lessons from Indy
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So after watching all three Indiana Jones movies in short succession (and, in the case of Temple of Doom, for the first time ever), I think I've figured out one major reason why Indiana Jones is such a fun series hero, in a way that what's-his-name in Sahara and ditto in National Treasure (ohhhh, those were awful films!) just weren't: he isn't perfect. It sounds so obvious, but in both National Treasure and especially (I've NEVER seen it so exaggerated!) in Sahara, the heroes are built up to be just awesome. And - everyone around them spends all their time saying so! Their sidekicks don't just support them, they toady up to them and tell them how brilliant they are, and what good ideas they're having (just in case we missed that). There's even a particularly sick-making moment in National Treasure when the sidekick says worshipfully: "I wish I could marry your brain." This is sooo not appealing in a hero.

Indiana Jones makes mistakes - not generically stupid mistakes (which are bad and make us worry about the intelligence of a hero) but mistakes that ring beautifully true to his character. He's very, very good at lots of things, but his focus on them can cause him to make terrible mistakes, because he isn't paying attention to other things. Whenever he looks smug (which was the hero's default expression in Sahara as he did brilliant maneuvers to the delight of his sidekick), we know that the thing he just did - that one he thinks was so smart? - that was a bad, bad mistake that will go very wrong for him. And not only do his sidekicks not toady up to him, they spend most of the time arguing with him - and they're often right. Does this make us think badly of him? Are you kidding? What a great hero! I have so much fun watching him. And I'm trying to remember that as I work on Kat by Starlight.

Great series heroes are intensely themselves, they bounce off people who challenge them rather than patting them on the back all the time (or, worse yet, worshipping them uncritically), and the mistakes they make are because of who they are. (Canarynoir mentioned a great example of this from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in one of her posts about the book - when one character announces how dangerous it suddenly is to say a particular thing, you just know there's no way Harry could ever resist saying it, just to prove he's not afraid - and of course, as it turns out, he can't resist, because that's who he is for better or worse, and he ends up getting not just himself but everyone he loves in horrible trouble because of it. Because J.K. Rowling loved her character for his flaws, not just his strengths.)

Mm, I'm feeling happy. Bring on more fun movies! :)

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