It's Nuts That Indiana Jones Carries A Whip

It's Nuts That Indiana Jones Carries A Whip

When we teach you about how archaeology isn't really like Indiana Jones, we jokingly point out that real archaeologists don't carry whips. Of course, you know whips aren't really an archaeological tool—Indiana carried one because he's also an action hero, and it's his signature weapon.

Except, that's still weird. Because a whip is not a weapon. Meaning, you'd have some trouble killing, injuring, or incapacitating someone with a whip if they have a gun on you, as keeps happening to Indy. Whips make loud noises (useful when dealing with livestock, or for general showmanship), and when you whip someone, you hurt them, but it's no good for fending someone off or defeating them. The only way you can really whip someone is if they stand still and take it, either because you're already in a position of authority over them or because that's their kink. 

The Last Crusade tell us why Indiana Jones carries a whip. He got it during a run-in with a circus as a kid, and the whip belonged to a lion tamer. But that not actually the reason the character has a whip, any more than the reason Han Solo's name is "Solo" is a military recruiter gave it to him—that was just the in-universe backstory invented years later.

Here's the real reason Indiana Jones has a whip. He has a whip because Zorro had a whip, and the character ripped off Zorro's style. Zorro's whip tricks were just as silly as Indy's, but it made sense that he'd at least carry one because Zorro was a horseman. Indiana isn't—he does jump on someone else's horse in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he doesn't use the whip during this getaway. 

Republic Pictures

Now here's a poster for Zorro's Black Whip, a misleadingly titled movie that does not feature or even mention Zorro

In fact, Indy doesn't use the whip that many times in Raiders. He uses it to swing over a pit early on (a pit he later manages to jump successfully without his whip), and he uses it to climb a statue. Zorro did pretty much those exact same stunts, though in real life, you can't really use a whip as a grappling hook and then pull it back down afterward, unless it's made of Elvish rope. We can only think of two other times Indy uses the whip in his original film. Both times, he's yanking guns out of men's hands, once in his introductory scene and then another time later on, at Marion's. The whip plays no part in the final third of the movie. 

The script would have had him use the whip on a final opponent, and this would have been more elaborate than a quick disarm. When he crossed paths with that master swordsman in Cairo, the two were supposed to fight at length, him with his sword and Indy with his whip. We're having trouble fully picturing just how this fight would have played out, but they'd storyboarded the whole thing. In the end, with everyone hot and tired and Harrison Ford not feeling up to it, they scrapped the fight in favor of a punchline: Indy just shoots the guy.

Sources disagree on exactly who thought of that idea. A lot of movie trivia compilations call it an "improvised moment," which isn't accurate—in the moment, everyone on set knew Ford was going to fire his prop gun. Harrison Ford claims credit for the change himself, and he says he wanted to lose the fight because he was sick with dysentery ... meaning, he really needed to poop. Though, Ford also claims that the swordsman was played by the real-life best swordsman in the world, found by Steven Spielberg following a global search, but that's not true; he was just a prolific British stuntman, Terry Richards.

It makes sense that Harrison Ford couldn't do every action scene that was written for him. The man was nearly 40 years old. Clearly, his career as Indiana Jones was at an end. 

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