Women of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Welcome to the second installment of the “Women of” series at 365 Star Wars (the one series that does not always stay within the Star Wars universe).

Earlier I took a look at Raiders of the Lost Ark (Marion, you are the best!) Today I’m looking at the sequel (but really prequel) to that film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Let’s get started!

The film opens in Shanghai in a club run by a shady guy Indy is not happy to see. The first character we see in the entire film is entertainer Willie Scott, shown above surrounded by some dancers. I mentioned to Blast Points Podcast when we chatted about the women in Indiana Jones productions my favorite behind the scenes story from the film. Kate Capshaw (who played Willie) rehearsed several days for these dance numbers but her red dress was so tight she couldn’t actually do any of the moves when they filmed the scenes. I always thought Willie was intentionally shown as a not-great performer from the beginning. But more on Willie later.

This realistic dancing scene is then followed by an elaborate (not realistic, but delightful) Busby Berkeley style dance number. Associate Producer Kathleen Kennedy is in there somewhere on the dance floor (I’d like to think in the screenshot below).

After Indy is poisoned, chaos breaks out in the club and we see lots of club workers and attendees running for their lives. Someone tells people at parties “I’m the Cigarette Girl Harrison Ford accidentally punched in Temple of Doom!”

But let’s get back to Willie. I know a lot of people don’t like her. And that’s fine. I DO like her. And I think she has gotten a bad wrap over the years. Yes, she’s annoying. Especially at the beginning of the film when she’s complaining about breaking a nail during a car chase. But I think Willie was always supposed to be an exaggerated character, mostly for comic relief. Everything her character does is intentional and I think Kate Capshaw really embraced this role and made it her own.

I like how Willie argues with Indy, isn’t afraid or intimidated by him, and is focused more on her comfort and survival than immediately swooning over Indy. I also think it’s hilarious that even though Indy spends a good portion of the beginning of the film wanting her to shut up or get out of his way the second she puts on a pretty outfit and they have a moment to breathe in the film Indy starts flirting with Willie like he just bought her a drink at a bar. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The next scene with female characters is in an Indian village where the children have all been stolen. We see several women pleading with Indy, Willie, and Short Round for help, and then a few women bring the group food.

The villagers do convince Indy to help them (there’s also a treasure to find!) and they head off for Bangkok palace.

Screenshot from the scene where Willie puts perfume on an elephant, gets thrown off, and then melts down about being outside in the elements when she’s an inside person. You will find this scene either annoying (if you don’t like Willie) or relatable (if you too are an inside person). I think it’s quite funny AND relatable.

Inside the Palace there are some dancers and musicians that are women. All the rest of the people outside and inside the palace are men, including all the dinner guests.

Here’s the outfit Dr. Jones just can’t resist! “You look like a princess” is a line only Harrison Ford could get away with in a film.

Shooting this bug scene would have literally killed me FYI. Kudos to Kate Capshaw for asking for a valium before shooting this sequence.

Inside the creepy sacrifice temple it’s a female-free zone. Which tracks as women don’t do super weird stuff like this. Even in fiction. I always thought it was odd in the scenes with the child slaves that you can’t see any of the abducted girls. Where are they? But I wonder if there are some girls in these indoor scenes and it’s just not obvious. Girls are more obvious in the scene where the children escape the palace.

Most of the rest of the film is Indy, Willie, and Short Round trying to get away from the last of the cultists (all dudes). They, of course, succeed and we see a lot of happy elders, happy parents, and happy kids back at the village.

It’s a happy ending for Indy and Willie to end the film. We know it won’t last since Indy isn’t with Willie during Raiders of the Lost Ark but I’m sure Willie found her happiness elsewhere (Back in Missouri? Princess in a non-creepy palace? Successful singer dripping in diamonds?). But let’s not let this Willie speculation distract us from the fact that Willie Scott is the only named female character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! Will this change in the next Indy film – Indiana Jomes and the Last Crusade? Not by a lot, really. But I’m still looking forward to revisiting the film!

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