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3 Reasons Why Indiana Jones Will Always Be Cooler than Grey’s Anatomy

February 4, 2011

I will admit to a certain bias. I hate Grey’s Anatomy. I have always hated it. I hate hospital shows in general – probably because I hate hospitals, despise doctors, and distrust the medical establishment. But since I have always hated Grey’s Anatomy and my wife, for the exception of one season, has always been a fan of the show, it has maintained a place in our television line up.

My wife, whose love, patience, and tolerance is unparalleled among women and among humanity as a whole, often makes fun of the shows I like to watch. Cartoons, for example. In spite of the fact that I will be 38 years old this month, I still enjoy watching old Tom and Jerry, Loony Tunes, and (when I can find them) Woody Woodpecker. I have mentioned many times before, in writing and in various conversations over the years, that I owe much of my basic cultural knowledge – as well as my interest in such things – to cartoons. I learned about classical music as well as some tidbits of American History from Bug Bunny. (Think about the WW II era cartoons with the BUY WAR BONDS digs.) I learned about the limits of critical thinking from Wyle E. Coyote. I learned about jazz and the blues from Tom and Jerry cartoons. I learned my first lessons about the nature of chaos and anarchy (which is not the same thing) from Woody Woodpecker.

I also have soft spot for certain superheroes, and if there’s a hero flick out, I will make a point to watch it at some point, even if it’s a character I’m not all that interested in. The only exception to this was the 2006 Bryan Singer (who should have known better) debacle, Superman Returns. Not that I think Christopher Reeves was the be-all-end-all Clark Kent; but the truth is it may take some years before that franchise can really be resurrected. The genius of Superman is that he is an icon of the American Dream. He’s an immigrant who made good and dedicated his life to protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is not the world we live in anymore, if it was ever how the world was anyway.

[For the the record – my favorite superhero has always been The Incredible Hulk, and my second favorite is Spiderman. I also developed a fascination for The Shadow, well before the Alec Baldwin movie that, while it wasn’t great, was honest to the original radio show and early serial magazines. That the post Prelude to a Kiss Baldwin is himself a bit cartoony and seems to know it helped.]

Growing up in the 70’s and especially the 80’s I also grew up loving Star Wars. George Lucas is a mediocre writer and myopic director – look at every Star Wars flick EXCEPT The Empire Strikes Back if you don’t believe me. That was the only movie he didn’t direct and have absolute control over. It moves better, the lines aren’t as awkward, and what little romance there is isn’t horrible. Lucas can’t write a love scene to save his life. (Think: Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The only thing that saved some of those lines was Natalie Portman.)

I also grew up enamored with Indiana Jones, from Raiders through the trilogy. I didn’t even mind Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though I wish somebody would tell me what’s so interesting about Shia LeBeouf. Okay, so he got to kiss Megan Fox in that Transformer movie. For $10 bucks and some jello shots, I could probably kiss Megan Fox – though I would need to get my shots updated afterward. I don’t mind that Harrison Ford is older, or that Indiana Jones is older. In ten years when some unimaginative Hollywood douche decides to “revive” the Indy Franchise – which will ruin it beyond all recognition – I’ll be wishing for a Raiders/Temple/Crusade/Skull marathon.

My wife calls these movies – the ones I like – boy/man movies. She has learned, over the last ten years (8 of them married) that I need these things in my life. They’re a a little silly, and I recognize their silliness. But silly and goofy aren’t the same thing, and it occurs to me that I can outline, quite clearly, why Indiana Jones – which is silly – is now and will always be cooler and more culturally relevant than goofy Grey’s Anatomy.

1.Indiana Jones made history and archeology cool, and encouraged people to become historians and archeologists. Grey’s Anatomy makes hospitals look, at best, like rabbit farms and, at worse, a junior high school.

First of all: If there’s an archeologist out there who was a growing up during the 1980’s who claims not to have been impacted by Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Temple of Doom he is lying. Granted, real archeologists don’t wear fedoras, carry bullwhips, and get to kiss Karen Allen and Kate Capshaw. Real archeologists probably aren’t hounded by sex-starved co-eds.

But history, studied properly, is a long record of blood, wars, heroes, villains, success, and failure. If this weren’t the case, Hollywood would have been fucked a long time ago… as well as William Shakespeare. And the more we learn about history, the more we learn about the our own civilization. Rome fell for a reason. So did the Mayans. So did the Aztecs. So are we.

History is cool. Archeology is one of the ways we have of filling in the gaps and telling the story of the human race.

From Episode 1, Season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy, it was clear what the show was about. Sex. And not even good sex. Rather, it’s implied sex and implied nudity. (Ever notice that when an hour long drama-esque show wants solid first episode ratings, implied nudity is always involved? I submit for your consideration the first episode of the underrated and  ill-fated cop drama/ comedy The Unusuals, staring Amber Tamblyn – who flashed a red bra within the first 5 minutes.) The whole first season, as well as every season except the current one, always comes back to whether Ellen Pompeo will simply fuck Patrick Dempsey, or have the strength to really fall in love with him. And after that affair got predictable, the writers put Sandra Oh in bed with Isiah Washington, Katherine Heigl in bed with Justin Chambers, then T.R. Knight, and then Justin Chambers, and then that guy who always plays dead husbands, and then Justin Chambers again – only to give her cancer.

Lately they’re trying to redeem themselves with topical discussions of PTSD (that’s Post Trauma Stress Disorder) and gay adoption using not bad on the eyes lesbians. You know you’re reaching that shark jumping point (think Fonzi on Happy Days) when you have to rely on the one common denominator that will guarantee an audience: hot chick on chick action. Only, it’s not REALLY hot chick on chick action. It’s only IMPLIED chick on chick action with some on screen kisses that aren’t worthy of even low grade porn. And before you tell me about how important it is to talk about cultural issues like gay marriage and gay adoption, keep this in mind:  if McDreamy and McSteamy came out of the closet as gay lovers who decided to adopt a kid, believe me, that would never fly in prime time. Dueling penises and rug burn blow jobs– no. Some boob to boob action with implied mutual muff diving– yes.

2. Indiana Jones is a homage to a genre of serial pulp literature, television shows, and movies, as well as indicative of the hero mythos that has been a part of the human collective unconscious for as long as we’ve bothered recording, retelling, or remembering anything. Grey’s Anatomy is a nothing more than a soap opera with a budget, pays homage to nothing, and is reminiscent of a day-time TV genre whose purpose was to entertain bored housewives in order to keep them home and from thinking about getting jobs.

Indiana Jones is reminiscent of another globe trotting adventurer, Allen Quatermain, played campily bad by a too gay to play straight Richard Chamberlain (along side a pre-boob job, pre- Basic Instinct beaver flash Sharon Stone) in King Solomons’ Mines and later by Sean Connery in the underrated literary/camp flick League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Quatermain made his first appearance in the 1885 book King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Indy is also in the group of rugged heroes, like Robin Hood, Daniel Boone (think the Fess Parker television show), The Lone Ranger (radio and television), as well as Wyatt Earp,Wild Bill Hickok, and Billy The Kid. (Keep in mind: I’m referring to the pop culture created caricatures of these people, not the actual historical people.) Like Quatermain, Indy is a man of the world, as wary of women as he is the bad guys. But unlike Quatermain, Indiana Jones is American, and like many American heroes, often misunderstood and is sometimes thought to be a bad guy. Of course, we know better.

Grey’s Anatomy is one more variation on the daytime TV drama genre known as Soap Operas – a term coined by the 1930’s American press because these “family drama” radio shows – and later the early television counterparts – were unwritten by companies that manufactured cleaning products. These shows were marketed primarily to women and children. While they, like the early action shows Indy pays homage to, are also serial in nature, this is where the similarity ends.

[Note: There is a difference between paying homage to a genre and being another watered down variety of it. Paying homage denotes not only respect, but also a respect of the inherent absurdity. Indiana Jones is never quite as suave as he thinks he is, and half of his successes are almost dumb luck. He’s also afraid of snakes. McDreamy and Co. reflect none of the absurdity of the genre or its characters, and the plots are overwrought and weighed down with pretense.]

3. Watching Indiana Jones makes me think about all the histories we have yet to discover, the things about ourselves as humans and as a civilization that we don’t yet know, and makes me want to visit a history museum or read books on the subject. Watching Grey’s Anatomy makes me want to avoid hospitals and doctors in general — and in particular, any hospital or doctor in Seattle.

We never know as much as we think we know, and this is the little nugget of truth beneath all of the Indiana Jones movies. And because we never know as much as we think we know, we should never take any idea, fact, theory, hypothesis, myth, or hair-brained idea, for granted. From this perspective, the only thing we should ever be absolutely sure of is that we can never be totally sure about anything, and this should drive us to learn and to be more.

The only nugget buried under the hubris of any Grey’s Anatomy episode is that the marketing people have got American television audiences figured out. There are no great and inherent truths to be found in whether Ellen Pompeo opens her legs for McDreamy, McSteamy, or that veterinarian played by Chris O’Donnell. And if you’re about to say “Yeah, well, sometimes people DIE on the show. That’s a larger truth: everybody dies”, then might I submit that needing a badly written prime time soap opera to tell you that is uncovering an even more disturbing truth – you’re a naïve moron, or you’re under the age of 10. If you’re under the age of 10, you’re doomed to outgrow your innocence. If you’re a naïve moron – well, go buy some soap. I can do nothing for ye.

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