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Screengem: Indiana Jones’s Hat

Indiana Jones is essentially a superhero: usually the bowtied and bespectacled Prof. Henry Jones Jr., he has only to climb into his chosen costume to become Indiana Jones, whip-wielding discoverer of the Holy Grail and insouciant scourge of the Nazis. And, while his revolver is ever-ready, his whip indispensible and his jacket unmistakable, only his hat – that miraculously un-battered brown fedora – is an icon.
Ever since the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Arc, when Indy risked his arm beneath a rapidly descending door rather than leave his favourite headgear trapped in a tomb, his hat has been among the immortal movie objects. By 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was iconic enough that its shadow was sufficient to announce its owner’s reappearance after 19 years’ absence from cinema screens.
The hat’s significance to Jones is similar to its significance to us. For all his derring do, Jones is far from indestructible – and he knows it. He prizes his hat because it represents, for him and for us, the key to his transformation from ordinary to extraordinary. We know that sporting a red cape or pulling our underwear over our trousers won’t make us able to soar like Superman – but the way Indiana Jones wears his hat, something we could all imitate, suggests that, dressed for the part and given the right opportunity, we just might be able to step outside our workaday selves and realise the superheroism we’ve always secretly suspected was hidden inside us.

By Scott Jordan-Harris

Scott Jordan Harris is a writer and freelance critic. He contributes to Film International and his blog, which evangelises the joys of great films, can be seen here. He first went to a cinema to see Disney’s Pinocchio and the loud music, combined with the scary whale, made him cry. He was 22.

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