My favorite scene in all of the Indiana Jones movies and the key to their true meaning, in my opinion, is in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The swashbuckling archaeologist is, remember, a college professor, and in that movie we see him in front of a classroom. He is droning on in his glasses and tweed suit, as the students in his class for the most part are dozing off or not paying attention. Then during his office hours he begins the process of saving the world.
This is academia, as I know from experience and vocation, a perfect encapsulation of us professors’ self-image. Yes, in our obsessive preoccupation with our fields we are boring and inconsequential. But when we do our RESEARCH we are exciting and world-changing!
I would love to see more of Indy’s day job in the movies. While he is flying on that DC-3 with the line on the map tracing his route to exotic climes, is he grading papers? Before taking off for the Temple of Doom, did he struggle to get his grades in? As he was trying to find the Holy Grail, did he have to interrupt his quest for committee meetings and to deal with student complaints? I know that he prevailed over Nazis, cultists, and Communists, but, given his retrograde attitudes and his politically-incorrect archaeological practice of plundering indigenous peoples of their culturally-significant artifacts, I’d like to see his battle with the college’s tenure committee.
All of his adventures would have had to take place, apart from a few sabbaticals, over summer vacation, that blissful time for academics that we are now entering.