By Marc Bernardin
Updated November 06, 2007 at 04:00 PM EST
Credit: Everett Collection

is a hero. If you grew up in the latter half of the 20th century, this is a given. Encoded in our social DNA. (Or is it RNA? Nevermind… questions like this are precisely why I became an entertainment journalist.) In any poll of the Greatest Action Heroes of All Time, he’ll consistently rank in the top 5.

And we can all agree that a hero’s job is to save the day, right? To stop the bad guys from carrying out their nefarious plan, whatever it may be. That’s their raison d’etre, pardon my French.

Then follow the jump to find out why we were all wrong about Indiana Jones. To see why, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he’s not a hero… he’s a bystander.

addCredit(“Raiders of the Lost Ark: Everett Collection”)

Now, the theory that follows isn’t mine. It’s been attributed to Marv Wolfman, the legendary comic book writer who, among other things, created Blade the vampire hunter, wrote DC’s seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths, and has put words in the mouths of characters like Spider-Man, Superman, Doctor Strange, and countless others. (Basically, he’s got teh skillz.)

To paraphrase Wolfman: In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis’ big plan is to locate and open the Ark of the Covenant. Indiana Jones tries to stop them at every turn. He fails. Because at the end of the film, the Nazis still get the Ark and open it. Look at it this way: if you remove Indy from the film, the outcome is the same. The Nazis go to Marion Ravenwood in Tibet and get the headpiece of the staff of Ra. They already know where the Map Room is, so — possessing the actual headpiece which will give them the right height for the staff — they find the Well of Souls easy-peasy, put the Ark on a truck, and drive it to a submarine bound for the island. (Or, they could’ve flown it there as planned.) Then, they open the Ark and everyone dies.

While I can’t lay claim to this theory, it saddens me to say that I wholeheartedly agree with it. All Indy does is slow them down and cause a little property damage. He never stops them from getting the Ark. And, I guess, he saves Marion’s life. But the Nazis win. (Oh, and by the way, remember that fertility god statue Indy was after in the film’s open? Belloq gets it.) Not only is Indiana Jones a completely reactive character, his actions dictated entirely by what other people do, he’s a big honking loser.

Am I wrong? If you can tell me how Indiana Jones does, in fact, save the day, the 10-year-old in me will thank you from the bottom of his heart…