Indiana Jones sparks nostalgia

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New ‘Indiana Jones’ film recalls simpler, and safer, days

People have long been nostalgic when it comes to popular culture.

The “good old days,” some theoretical time and place when life was simpler, easier, somehow better, have been pined for ever since, well, the good old days.

But with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, set to open May 22, we’re now nostalgic for nostalgia.

What we remember so fondly – the first three Indiana Jones films, set in the 1930s – were themselves the movie version of looking back to the original popcorn flicks.

They returned the audience to that storied simpler time, not just in the tales they told but in the way they told them.

It’s been 19 years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, since Indy last picked up his bullwhip and set out on an adventure. But now he’s returned, and judging from such indicators as the viral spread of the film’s preview online (a phenomenon that certainly didn’t exist in 1989), we’re eager to return with him.

Not just him, either. It’s a summer of looking back, with films like Get Smart, Speed Racer, The Incredible Hulk and more hitting screens. Clearly, people are seeing comfort in familiarity. Uncertain times call for some measure of certainty; movies with recognizable characters from the past are about as safe a bet as exists.

“My feeling is that Indiana Jones now represents to many of us a moment of national confidence and relative safety, especially for those who were kids in the early ’80s and who are now raising kids,” said Anthony Pomes, the director of marketing and publicity for Square One Publishers. He knows a little about nostalgia, having worked on projects with former Monkee Mickey Dolenz and TV star Dick Van Patten. “The terror of 9/11 was 20 years away from those of us who went to see Raiders (of the Lost Ark), and it feels so marvelous to have Indy back with us again.

“In a way, I think it makes us all feel nostalgic for a time when our enemies were ‘over there,’ in Cairo or Nazi Germany, not flying directly over our heads on the home front.”

Ken Kleszynski, a professor of performing and fine arts at the University of Portland (Ore.), finds a similar comfort in the films.

“When one is younger, one is often not aware of, or disregards, the many uncertainties in life,” he said. “As one ages, one realizes how many there are, from health and financial issues to simply driving a car. Something one always can count on, then, provides some refuge from this uncertainty.

“We could count on Indy when we were kids. We remember that, so hopefully we can count on him now.”

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