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An Open Letter to Amy Farrah-Fowler, Ph. D.

Sunday, October 13th, 2013 | Posted by eeknight

Puzzled Indiana JonesDear Dr. Farrah-Fowler,

Regarding your erroneous conclusion that Indiana Jones played no role in the outcome of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I can only express disappointment that your usual disciplined reason failed you in this instance.

Let us explore your thesis and remove Indiana Jones entirely from the equation. The year is 1936 and the Nazis are exploring a sand-covered ruin of a largish ancient Egyptian city (Tannis, a major religious center, was comparable to Thebes) in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Without the headpiece to the staff of Ra, brute manpower would not have been equal to the task before them in the short time available to the Nazis. The only similar ancient city destroyed by catastrophe and quickly preserved in such a manner is that of Pompeii. As you are no doubt aware, Pompeii has been excavated and explored off and on since 1748, and intensively between 1924-1961, yet we still have not progressed much outside the main streets or into second floors and basements. The Nazis, in theory, would have until the outbreak of war in September 1939 at the very latest to carry out their dig, a span of 3 years. Unless you posit the British Army would have been willing to let a detachment of Afrika Korps poke around Egypt within spitting distance of the Nile in wartime. If you believe that, I have a piece of the True Cross made out of Georgia Sweetgum you may be interested in buying.

I think we can dispense with the idea that the Nazis would have found the Ark without the headpiece to the Staff of Ra.

The Nazis knew Abner Ravenwood had collected the headpiece. They were seeking Abner (not his daughter Marion), not in Tibet where he perished in an avalanche, but in the United States, as the intercepted cable shows. The Nazis were following a cold trail in the wrong part of the world. I will even go so far as to grant that the Nazis knew of the connection between Indiana Jones and Ravenwood’s teenage daughter Marion, which no doubt was a minor scandal at the time (let he who has never noticed a Catholic school teenage girl, in her plaid skirt and white kneesocks, cast the first stone). The connection would have come up in their investigation into Ravenwood. Only by following Dr. Jones from his departure on the Pan Am Pacific Clipper were they able to discover Marion’s bar in Tibet. No Dr. Jones boarding the Clipper, no Marion’s bar and the headpiece.

Marion RavenwoodTo think the Nazis would have found Marion on their own is to fall victim to a common cultural trait here in the USA: the tendency to believe Nazi propaganda about their superiority and efficiency. To put it in the vernacular, the Nazis sucked at just about everything, especially when chasing their master-race phantoms around the globe. While they did carry out a number of curious archeological expeditions of various scales, what they were seeking was proof of a superior Germanic-Aryan bloodline going back into the dawn of time. As this was a deranged myth dreamed up by some second-rate intellects of the latter part of the 19th and first third of the 20th century, the Nazis were, as Harry Callahan memorably put it, “shit out of luck.” I could claim that my family forebears sat on a throne equal in power and influence to the Holy Roman Emperor of Charlemagne’s time and put money and resources toward digging up evidence of that throne and title, but it wouldn’t gain me anything because no such evidence would be found. Many a Nazi expedition foundered similarly. Major Toht’s search for the headpiece would have been crippled by the inability to gain or trust Jewish sources and he would have been regarded with suspicion or hostility by the learned men of the time (I commend you to Oxford’s Professor JRR Tolkien and his response to Nazi authorities on a minor matter for some idea of how Toht would have been rebuffed by highly educated men and women).

So, no Indiana, no Marion, no Marion, no headpiece and all that follows from it. Your conclusion, Ms. Farrah-Fowler, is in shambles. But allow me to give the rubble of your logic a few more kicks, imitating the Mongol treatment of Baghdad in 1258.

Let’s take the movie from the imperfect copy the Nazis acquired from Toht’s scarred hand, and, improbably, remove Indiana Jones from that point on in the story. All the half-headpiece gained them was a redoubling of efforts in “the wrong place.” Clearly, there were tensions between the Nazis and their single talent on site, Rene Emil Belloq. Belloq, who certainly wanted the Ark for his own purposes, was advocating, if anything, slowing down the shambolic Nazi efforts — “using a bulldozer to find a china cup” as he put it. Gaining the bad copy of the headpiece turned a massive, diffuse expedition accomplishing little (“The Fuhrer expects progress!”) to a massive, concentrated effort in the wrong spot. Hitler was more pragmatic before the outbreak of the Second World War and may have decided to cut his expenses in Egypt (another Nazi myth was that the German economy had worked some kind of miracle; in fact it was on greased rails to catastrophe had the war not saved it) and recalled the expedition. In the daggers-out world of 30s Nazi party politics, Colonel Dietrich would have been privately complaining to Himmler (who ran these odd little schemes) about Major Toht and Belloc, Toht would have been putting together a paper trail against Colonel Dietrich saying that a drunken, whore-chasing Frenchman was leading him by the nose, and so on. I’m sure you’re familiar with the nature of bureaucrats, when matters go amiss, to shift over from rectifying the situation to making sure that blame falls on a political enemy. With infighting and blame-shifting among the principals, Himmler and Hitler would be all too ready to abandon Tannis as a fiasco. So that brings us, inevitably, to this conclusion: no Ark without Jones getting to the map room in the Well of Souls with a staff of the correct length and the original headpiece.

I’m sorry to reduce you to your flesh-toned granny panties in this intellectual game of strip poker, Ms. Farrah-Fowler, but you started it. I am afraid it’s time to remove this last bit of control-panel modesty remaining to your argument, but mess with the fedora and you’re going to get licked by the bullwhip, lady. Go ahead and blush as reason strips you right down to your pink little blossom.

Let’s dispense with Jones keeping the Ark off of the Flying Wing — bound for Berlin, I might add, not a secret sub-pen isle in the Aegean. Do I need to argue that this makes it a good deal easier for our G-2 men to recover the Ark after its opening, thanks to the actions of Dr. Jones and Marion in the tail-gunner cupola? Or the truck chase where Dr. Jones recovers the Ark, a sequence that you must have slept through, I might add (I can’t believe you missed it because you were making out with Dr. Cooper) and take it from the Germans finding the crate on Captain Katanga’s steamer, The Bantu Wind.

Raiders of the Lost Ark endingI’ll grant you everything else you were wrong about in the whole damn movie if you seriously consider the film’s climax. If you’re unfamiliar or inexperienced with the nature and Aristotelean resonance of a “climax,” look it up. Over the years, I’ve helped some small number of women with issues in understanding the concept, and was warmly thanked for it, I might add.

As you are a woman, I’m rather shocked and surprised at your indifference to Marion’s fate. I have to say, you are one titanium-titted bitch if by this point in the movie you don’t give a poisoned date for her outcome. Yes, Indiana Jones is unable to do much about the Ark, lacking the nerve to blow it up with an anti-tank weapon that hadn’t been invented in 1936 (an admitted flaw in the film, but then “only Allah makes a perfect rug,” as they say in the Levant). He does, however, save Marion’s life by urging her to keep her eyes closed as the Ark is opened. Only some misogynistic lump of unflushed excrement responsible for shows like Two-And-A-Half Men would want to see the resourceful, independent, comfortable-with-herself Marion Ravenwood dead.

QED.

Your disappointed friend,

Eric

Postscript: I suggest a serious self-reassessement, or maybe a cat scan of your processing lobes, and then a rewatch of Raiders of the Lost Ark before you compose your apology, not to me, but to the fans of Indiana Jones. It needn’t be very long. You could probably do it in a paragraph that would fit on a title-card.

19 Comments »

  1. [...] An Open Letter to Amy Farrah-Fowler, Ph. D. [...]

    Pingback by Withouth Jones | Karavansara - October 13, 2013 10:53 am

  2. Brilliant.
    Just absolutely brilliant.

    Comment by Davide Mana - October 13, 2013 10:54 am

  3. YES! I figured i would see a rebuttal somewhere on the net, but i didn’t expect it to be here.

    Raiders is one of the best movies of all time. One that is kind of getting pushed to the side as the years go by.

    Comment by Glenn - October 13, 2013 11:42 am

  4. I guess I’m not internet savvy enough to know what this is all about.

    It would be nice for the less enlightened of us to have a small intro paragraph explaining who and where you are responding to.

    Comment by James McGlothlin - October 13, 2013 3:20 pm

  5. It’s a fictional letter to a fictional character on a fictional television show who made a bad argument about a fictional movie. I disagreed.

    Comment by eeknight - October 13, 2013 3:41 pm

  6. Brilliant, E.E! I’m glad you posted this so I didn’t have to. All of your reasoning is spot-on, and I’m glad you focused on what was my first reaction to Amy F-F.’s argument: Indie saved Marion’s life at least 3 times during the movie! If nothing else, he succeeded in saving the life of the woman he loved. In wartime, with all its horror and destruction, the tides of history roll like tsunamis over men and women caught up in the current of death. All we can do during those times is help each other–SAVE each other–and that’s what Indie did in RAIDERS. He saved Marion from the Nazi’s. So even if you “blame” him for the Ark falling into Nazi hands, you have to give him credit (which Amy F-F. doesn’t) for saving Marion from torture and death at the hands of ruthless Nazi bastards.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 4:03 pm

  7. (Because even if Toht and the Nazis had found Marion Ravenwood without tailing Dr. Jones, they would certainly have murdered her–or worse–to get the headpiece of Ra.
    Toht made that clear in his first interaction with her.)

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 4:07 pm

  8. My first reaction to Amy’s statement was this was the opinion of the show’s writers, not hers. I never lost sight of that. The teleplay was written by both a man and a woman: Steve Holland and Maria Ferrari from a story by both a man and a woman: Jim Reynolds and Tara Hernandez. It is the opinion of those writers as well as that of director Marc Cendrowski. Even within the show’s context, your personal attacks on Amy’s character were uncalled for. She is merely pointing out what she considered a flaw in the writing technique of the screenplay. The relationship she and Sheldon have is based on that kind of honesty about how they see things. The difference is Sheldon in retaliation then deliberately set out to destroy something she cherished.

    Second, not one of the intelligent men in the series were able to rebut her analysis. Three of them have PhD’s and all have been watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for more years than most people. If I remember the episode clearly, they brought up all your arguments and found them unsatisfactory. But most of all, Raiders is a favorite movie of mine and I doubt very much that Amy’s opinion will change my enjoyment of this rousing tale. Is it going to spoil the enjoyment of anyone who saw this BBT episode?

    Third, your analysis is based on the fact the Nazi’s would not have found her in Nepal if Indy hadn’t led them there. According to the movie, it was the Nazi’s discovery of Tanis that set all this in motion. Army Intelligence contacted Indy because of a Nazi communication with the words “Tanis development proceeding…acquire headpiece of Staff of Ra…Abner Ravenwood.” In fact Army Intelligence knew Indy was coming back before Marcus did.

    So, the Nazi’s were already looking for the Staff of Ra. Indy wasn’t the only archaeologist in the country or in the world for that matter. Yet both the US and the Nazi’s went to him probably because of his known association with Professor Ravenwood. How did they find this out? Indy tells Army Intelligence Ravenwood is somewhere in Asia. All he has is rumors. He doesn’t have the exact location. Yet several scenes later he is on his way to Nepal. The Nazi’s were taking the easy way by following Indy.

    According to your statement, “the Nazi’s sucked at everything.” Yet, they did manage to find Tanis and who is to say when they investigated deeper, they wouldn’t have found Marion’s location. How did Indy know where to go? At any rate it was after the discovery of Tanis, the Staff’s importance became relevant and the search began. When the movie started, this search was only in its beginning stages and to assume that the Nazi’s would not follow every possible lead I believe is unrealistic.

    If Indy were removed from the movie, all the other dangers to Marion would not have occurred. Belloq was the one who involved her when he met her in Tanis and without Indy, Marion wouldn’t have been there. It’s very specific in the film that the Nazi’s FIRST offered to buy the headpiece. She had already taken Indy’s money. If Indy were out of the picture, why would she turn down this opportunity since she wanted to get out of there.

    As far as your statement “let he who has never noticed a Catholic School teenage girl in her plaid skirt and white kneesocks cast the first stone” is concerned. In the 1930’s there were very few laws protecting young girls from older men. In some areas of the world this is still true. The movie doesn’t say how old either Marion or Indy were at the time or the difference in their ages. Your added note about the knee socks and plaid skirts is not only immaterial but borders on offensive.

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - October 13, 2013 5:10 pm

  9. Barbara: Points taken, but all of EE’s arguments were NOT discussed by the male characters on the show. Also, the fact remains that Indie SAVED MARION’S LIFE. Toht was the first to approach her, and she said she’d tell him where the headpiece was; he said–in one of the most famous lines–”I know you will…eventually.” He was going to torture her (then probably murder her) with a red-hot poker. Indie shows up, rescues her. Later, he rescues her from Belloq when she’s held captive in the tent. Finally, he saves her from destruction at the end of the movie by tell her to close her eyes and “Don’t look at it!” Three times, Indie saves Marion’s life. So Amy’s contention (along the BBT writers’ contention) that he had no affect on the story is entirely wrong. Even if you refute all of EE’s statements, Indie still affects the story by preventing the death of Marion Ravenwood. Now, you could argue that the life of one woman was of no consequence to the story, but to do so would be to miss the whole point of the story. That goodness matters, and the evil ultimately loses.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 6:39 pm

  10. Drat! I meant to write “…and that evil ultimately loses.”

    (I dearly wish we could edit the typos in these posts…)

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 6:40 pm

  11. Barbara, I’m sure “Amy” appreciates your taking the time to defend her from lil’ ol’ me, a Midwestern Bohunk writer with a community college degree and bad credit. Who knows how she might react to such uncouth attacks without your Silver Bracers? I understand lack of couth is a contributing factor to attacks of both the Vapors and Female Hysteria.

    But let me respond.

    Paragraph 1 – What attacks on Amy’s character, exactly? Where I praise her “disciplined reason”? Where I assumed she didn’t engage in tawdry snogging sessions with Sheldon and paid attention to the movie? Where I found it incredible that, as a woman, she wouldn’t feel some kind of kinship with Marion and care about her outcome? Where I assumed that such a strange failure of perception and reasoning might be due to a medical condition, since nothing else would explain such a shoddy argument? Where I credited her with the ability, as an adult, to admit to a mistake and apologize? I didn’t call _her_ a titanium-titted bitch, but a female viewer who treated Marion’s outcome with indifference. I’m sure praising someone’s reason is an insult on DC’s Bizzaroworld, and if you are in fact visiting from that planet, have an enjoyable trip back to Htrae and don’t not let the starship door fail to hit you anywhere but not against your butt on the way forward.

    Paragraph 2 – I don’t understand this argument at all. Whether or not any of the guys could refute Amy is immaterial to my arguments. They didn’t employ any of them. A Ph.D. in physics doesn’t make you anything special in passing judgment on plot or characterization. Also, I never accused Amy of ruining Raiders for me or anyone else (Cooper & Co. are another matter). I accused her of having a crap sandwich of an argument.

    Paragraph 3-5 – If its and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. The Nazis had bupkis until Indy looked for Abner and his medallion in the Himalayas and they were able to follow him. Anything else is a “so what if they did/so what if they didn’t” argument. You can’t win, Darth. Strike me down and my reasoning will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

    The Nazis _did_ suck at everything, historically and in terms of the movie. Let’s stick to the movie, because I don’t want to bore you with Albert Speer’s memoirs.

    -They were looking for Abner in the United States.
    -They had Indy outnumbered 5 to 1, plus they had machine pistols, in Marion’s bar and they still lost (and accidentally burned the place down).
    -They hired Crazy Abdul’s Discount Assassins (“If you can find cheaper killers east of Suez, we’ll refund double the difference”) to kill Indy and put a guy who’d bring a scimitar to a gunfight in charge.
    -They parked an unattended fueling truck a horseshoe pitch away from their only goddamned plane.
    -A truck full of soldiers, a staff car, a scout car with a heavy weapon, and a motorcycle patrol couldn’t deal with a guy on a horse.
    -They allowed a stowaway to hop a ride on a friggin’ submarine. -They let a Frenchman have access to liquor and the only white woman within 150 miles.

    Suck suck suck suck suck. With that kind of record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marion sold Toht a decoder ring from a box of Cracker Jack for $1500 and decamped to spend the rest of 1936 in Palm Springs.

    Paragraph 6 – If Indy were removed, I think I’ve established that the Tanis dig would have gone about as well as the Nazi expeditions to find traces of ancient Germans in the Himalayas.

    Paragraph 7 – For more on the relative ages of Indiana (born 1899) and Marion (born 1909) and their affair in 1925, see George Lucas’s original treatment. Also the line “I was a child. I was in love.”

    And if you’re offended by the knee sock and plaid skirt comment, I’ll have you know that my wife turns into Meryl Streep when she puts hers on for a game of “Young Lady, Report to Principal Paddlebottom’s Office” every other Saturday night. Please please please report me to the Bureau of Offensive Humor, Fake Letters Department, Risqué Asides Section and cc me all correspondence. There are handy butthurt forms you can print out all over the internet.

    Comment by eeknight - October 13, 2013 7:02 pm

  12. BAZINGA.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 10:06 pm

  13. Thanks, John. It just cheezes me off, knowing I’ll never write anything half as good as Raiders my whole life, to see it run down in a crappy fashion. What they should have done was have Amy repeat several arguments fans have been having for years (the submarine, the flying wing, what were all those damn snakes living off, grad student Indy messing around with his prof’s teenage daughter). Even the most die-hard Indiana Jones fan would have chuckled in recognition.

    Comment by eeknight - October 13, 2013 10:23 pm

  14. Eric,
    The disparaging remarks about yourself, me and/or Amy surprise me on the Black Gate forum. I usually find all the discussions here to be more intellectual and fun.

    First of all, Amy’s premise was that the protagonist in Raiders was unessential to the story. So removing Indy from the story and what do you have?

    How did the Germans find Marion and would they have paid for the headpiece.

    Payment for the headpiece is easy. Thot DID tell her he was willing to pay more for the headpiece. It’s right in the movie. When he first walks in and Marion greets him, they talk of Indy’s interest in buying it.

    Marion: Why, are you willing to pay more?
    Toht: Most certainly? Do you still have it?
    Marion: No but I know where it is.

    It was in response to the prospect of torture that Marion agrees to tell him where it is. In reply he says “Yes, I know you will.”

    I rewatched BBT and the guys do discuss Amy’s theory in two places. Not all of Eric’s arguments are discussed though. One instance is at the lunch table in school and then at the end. They offer one theory each time and it is Leonard who offers the counterargument both times.

    Sheldon who has watched the movie 36 times at his own admission defies Amy to find a story flaw and when she does, he spends more time trying to get revenge on her than trying to refute her statements. The guys don’t come up with anything either.

    It’s not a question of ifs and buts, candy, nuts or even Merry Christmases. The issue of how Indy found Marion is not an IF question. He does find her. So it’s a matter of HOW.

    But it is the last scene on BBT that is so interesting. Howard (I think) states that without Indy the Ark would not have been safe in that warehouse. Leonard points that “technically” Indy was supposed to take the Ark to a museum to be studied and he couldn’t even do that. Again they give up.

    But Leonard skirts the problem. Perhaps if he had gone back a bit further on that argument, Amy’s statement could be refuted. IMO, it can be proved that the protagonist, Indiana Jones was essential to the story which would validate all the arguments seen here. Indy did take the Ark to a place where it would be lost forever. Without him it would have been left where it destroyed the Germans and who knows who would have come upon it. Maybe they too would be destroyed until eventually someone would find a way to use it. For good or evil? Who knows.

    Yeah, I know it’s another if but then so is life itself.

    Oh, and I have nothing against kinky sex. I just don’t think it’s appropriate on this forum.
    BB

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - October 13, 2013 10:43 pm

  15. Refrained from posting this morning, as I wanted time to ponder, but my original response still seems appropriate:

    Wow. I hope you treat real women better than fictional ones. However, with the blossom comment you seem to be shifting from attacking the role to attacking the actress, so perhaps not.

    And now having read Barbara’s comments, I agree in that I’m surprise to see this article on BG.

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - October 13, 2013 11:03 pm

  16. The guys on BBT (the characters) have displayed time and time again their complete ignorance in matters creative (i.e. non-scientific). They are avowed experts in SCIENCE, nobody’s arguing that. But when it comes to comics, movies, and other forms of storytelling, they are woefully inadequate. These characters are not ARTISTS–not even amateur, part-time artists–they are singly dedicated scientists. None of them has a hope of refuting Amy’s argument because they have no understanding of storytelling, story structure, character theory, etc. (EE did point this out in his previous post, I’m just confirming and expanding on it.) I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being specialized in science–just that these scientists aren’t qualified to critique RotLA. That includes Amy–who doesn’t understand the story OR the genre from which it emerged.

    Also, let me say it again: INDY SAVES MARION’S LIFE. THEREFORE HE WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE STORY.

    You don’t REALLY think Toht was going to PAY for that headpiece? Come on…he was Nazi sadist and she was a defenseless young woman. He couldn’t wait to start the torturing.

    “You call him DOCTAH JONES, lady!”

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 13, 2013 11:05 pm

  17. Ah. Structurally, isn’t the Ark the Antagonist? It’s on a seek and destroy. It used Indy to get it into the hands of the Germans then had to shake him off a couple of times so it could get in place to do a St Valentines on the Nazi occultists.

    That’s why the climax *feels* right. The Ark wins and reveals its purpose.

    Comment by M Harold Page - October 14, 2013 6:22 am

  18. I thought I’d heard all the Raiders arguments but Page there brings a new one to the table! If so, Belloc is the real villain of the piece. Dietrich and Toht were small fry. It could have melted Himmler and a bushel of SS bigwigs at Wewelsburg.

    Comment by eeknight - October 14, 2013 8:48 am

  19. First off, I’d like to thank this argument for giving me an excuse to watch Raiders on a Monday afternoon when I should be winterizing…everything, really.

    After watching the film again, I have to agree with Mr Knight, though I think everything after the fourth paragraph hurts his argument.

    The assertion is that Indiana Jones plays no part in the outcome of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This assertion was made by the character Amy Farah Fowler in season 7, episode 6 of The Big Bang Theory.

    Thot follows Indy to Marion, who is in Nepal. (this is where you write QED)

    I don’t see how going on and on, and in a condescending fashion helps prove the point.

    Of course you can argue that Amy’s accuracy is immaterial to the joke. Don’t you hate it when you introduce your girlfriend/boyfriend to a movie or book you love, and the point out some obvious flaw you missed?

    I think the joke would have worked better with Star Wars.

    Comment by darangrissom - October 14, 2013 7:26 pm


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