A History of Violence

by Zach Oat May 23, 2008
Indiana Jones: Scientist or Criminal? Shanghai, 1935. Indiana Jones saunters into the Club Obi-Wan to engage in a little bit of black-market antiquities dealing. He has the Urn of Nurhaci -- we don't know where he got it, and we don't wanna know, but we can assume it was obtained illegally -- and he wants to trade it to businessman/gangster Lao Che for a large diamond... which presumably has some kind of historical value, and isn't just a ginormous diamond. Even if it does, this whole situation is still highly illegal, especially since he has a partner holding a concealed gun on everybody, and, just in case the deal wasn't illegal enough, a hostage -- nightclub singer Willie Scott, whom he threatens to stab with a fork. If a cop were to show up, Lao Che would be citizen of the year, and Indy would be in for a Shanghai surprise. Verdict: CRIMINAL.

Here's where Indy decides to bust up the place. Finding out he's been poisoned by Lao Che, Indy hurls a flaming kabob into the stomach of one of Lao Che's henchman. (Yes, he'd been drugged, but he threw that thing with precision aim -- he clearly knew what he was doing.) Chopping down Club Obi-Wan's enormous gong with a sword, Indy smashes through a window (kidnapping Willie Scott in the process) and jumps into a car driven by his illegally hired child labor, Short Round. Aaaand then he takes the child (and his hostage) out of the country. We're sure that Child Protective Services, if such a thing existed in 1935 Shanghai, would love to talk to him about that. Verdict: CRIMINAL.

Ironically, Indy's time in India is fairly crime-free, really. He eats a big dinner, he eats a bug dinner, he defends himself against an assassination attempt, investigates a secret passage, avoids getting killed by an elaborate death trap, and -- okay, okay, he tries to steal some rocks from a religious organization. But it's a murderous religious organization, and one of the rocks wasn't even theirs. Then Indy finds out that they're using child laborers and suddenly comes over all self-righteous. Hypocritical? Maybe. A wake-up call for his own misuse of a minor? Definitely. Verdict: SCIENTIST.

Now here's where things get tricky -- is Indiana responsible for anything he does under the influence of the "black sleep of Kali Ma"? I don't know where "brainwashed by a blood cult" fits into the modern legal landscape. (Actually, in the 1950s it was probably a valid legal defense. It happened all the time, if 1950s B-movies are any indication.) Not that he really did much while brainwashed; he smacked Short Round around, and he almost lowered Willie into a pit of lava. Are either of those really jailable offenses? Aren't they both kind of understandable, in fact? Verdict: SCIENTIST.

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