Boba Fett’s book redeems a problematic Indiana Jones gag
The Book of Boba Fett Episode 3 contains a riff on an Indiana Jones gag that is apparently a deliberate effort to improve on the problematic original.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Boba Fett’s Book, “Chapter 3: The Streets of Mos Espa,” now streaming on Disney+.
In the midst of her veritable rain of Easter eggs, Boba Fett’s Bookthe third episode of extended its reach beyond star wars. The swoop gang featured in “The Streets of Mos Espa”, for example, drew heavily on the rock opera Who’s Quadrophenes, as well as George Lucas’ affinity for hot rod culture. But that extends to other Lucasfilm properties, especially at one point in the episode’s climactic continuation.
The moment is a reference to the years 1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, during a similar chase through the streets of Shanghai in the opening sequence. The original scene was deeply problematic: a superficially fun moment tainted by the kind of racism that has since earned the film plenty of criticism. Boba Fett’s Book took the humor and delivered it without the racism, saving the notion in the process.
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The cursed temple opens with a nightclub confrontation between Jones and Chinese mobster Lao Che over a cremation urn recovered during an unseen archaeological dig. The altercation erupts into violence, leading to a chase through the streets of Shanghai as the mobsters pursue Indy and his friends to the airport. During the chase, Indy’s car is slowed down by a rickshaw. Short Round, behind the wheel, wildly waves the driver out of the way before stepping on the accelerator. The rickshaw driver soars into the air, flailing his legs as he grips the handles as the car sends the two-wheeled vehicle into a produce stall.
It’s a naughty moment in a scene that’s meant to be a lark, and sadly it’s far from the only one in The cursed temple. The rickshaw driver becomes the target of physical humor, played as openly ridiculous before being sent to a heap. Combined with the ugly stereotype of sneering gangsters and various peasants comically diving for cover, the scene becomes hard to watch. The rest of the film is no better, replacing Chinese stereotypes with Indian stereotypes without even a blink of an eye. Director Stephen Spielberg has distanced himself from the film over the years, saying “there’s nothing of himself” in its content.
Boba Fett’s Book carefully revisits the concept, being careful to avoid any racist overtones or implication. It comes in the middle of a chase scene filled with riffs on action movie cliches, as the hapless assistant to the mayor of Mos Espa unsuccessfully tries to outrun Fett’s freshly created swoop bike minions. This includes a variation of the Sheet of Glass snap involving a portrait of Jabba the Hutt, and a version of the Fruit Cart trope as the wizard’s speeder is buried in a collection of alien fruit from a block.
Amidst the chaos, a droid rickshaw driver attempts to cross the lane, with a pair of Bith in the transporter behind him. The assistant’s speeder slashes the back of the rickshaw, sending it spinning comically as the swoop bikes spin around them. It’s a minor moment, but director Robert Rodriguez signals the riff by showing the assistant gesturing wildly earlier in the chase in a close match with Short Round’s moves in The cursed temple. The droid weaves through a rotating globe that serves as its legs, while its head is much like that of a grasshopper, with four antennae that wiggle as it goes about its business.
which retains the physical humor of Temple sequence while shifting the end of the joke away from the nasty racial coding. star wars hasn’t always been successful with such transfers, but in this case, the attention shows. Rodriguez wanted to note the moment without condoning racism, and used the trappings of star wars‘ pretend to help do it. In the process, Boba Fett’s Book turns the silent joke into a mea culpa on behalf of Lucasfilm, acknowledging that filmmakers must always strive to do better.
A new episode of The Book of Boba Fett arrives every Wednesday on Disney+.
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