Another Example of Kneejerk Cries of “Mansplaining” Not Actually Helping Anything or Anyone

Posted: October 13, 2017 in Entertainment, Life, Movies, News, Politics

In online discussions, the term “mansplaining” is fast becoming nothing more than the same kind of copout in discussions that “TLDR” has long been used for. You often see it used by intellectually lazy or cowardly people who can’t defend an incorrect statement made when faced with facts and don’t have the integrity to simply say they got it wrong. But it’s also become a way to attempt to skew the argument from the very start or to attempt to create a situation where what’s being presented cannot be argued against. I’m not sure if that’s what Max Landis was attempting to do or not with his tweet, but either way it’s a shame as it undercuts a rather interesting possible discussion about the inspiration of an iconic character’s look and the occasional basic human failings when it comes to recollection of events.

People- even people who can say, “I was there!” -can have issues when it comes to accurate recollection. I see it in my job all of the time with people who have no intention of deceiving while incorrectly insisting that they’re right about a detail from nowhere near as far back as this matter’s issue was. Moreover, we’ve all seen it when we’ve seen one public figure or another in front of an audience discussing things they were a part of and getting aspects of it wrong. Moreover, we all know someone who has spent years telling a story one way who then discovered that they had an aspect of it (maybe even a vital one) wrong even though they were there. Usually, they discover their error because of some form of documentation (family photos, newspaper clippings, school yearbooks, etc.) around the event.

An issue that often causes the error in their recollection is the error that is apparently at play here. They were under a mistaken assumption at the time they were involved in whatever it was they are later discussing, and they then built their version of events into their memory skewed by that error. This particular event revolves around Max Landis blasting a guy on Twitter for trying to “mansplain” to his mother, costume designer Deborah Landis, the particular inspiration for the Indiana Jones outfit.

I actually have a serious problem with him trying to claim this is mansplaining. From what he presents on Twitter, it’s absolutely nothing of the kind. A man made a statement, his mother replied while getting a fact wrong, he corrected the fact, she basically stated it didn’t matter because she was there. He wasn’t condescending, he didn’t attempt to insult her or put her down, and he wasn’t making comments indicating that he felt she couldn’t possibly know what she was talking about because of her gender. You can see the exchange her highlights here.

While I understand Max’s desire to defend his mom, I think he may be somewhat off base here on more than simply describing this as mansplaining. How exactly is he off base here besides that? Because, weirdly, the guy in this Facebook exchange is not entirely wrong even as Deborah Landis doesn’t appear to be entirely right. This makes things a little problematic as well, because, by her own comments on Facebook, she provided Jeopardy with the question.

Let’s take a quick look at some facts.

The individual discussing the Jeopardy question on Facebook is in fact absolutely correct about two things. First, Steven Spielberg has stated a number of times that The Greatest Show on Earth was a huge inspiration to him throughout his career. Second, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) was released before Secret of the Incas (1954).

Deborah Landis seems to believe (or at least often imply when discussing this) that Secret of the Incas came first and thus it’s the inspiration because the timeline would be Incas to Greatest Show to Raiders. Her often stated recounting of it comes across as her saying that the source inspiration is Incas because it came before Greatest Show reused the basic costume design and thus Incas is the template. But the actual release dates mean the sequence is Greatest Show to Incas to Raiders. If you apply the logic she seems to have been using over the years, that makes The Greatest Show on Earth the original source for the template.

You also get the impression here from her comments and from Max’s defense of her on Twitter that she’s been very clear about it being Secret of the Incas for years now. This is not the case. She has in fact stated in multiple interviews that she screened both Secret of the Incas and The Greatest Show on Earth (and other films) with Spielberg before working on the outfit. Here are two of those interviews from recent years.

Oh, I should note here that you’ll see her reference a film called Lost Treasure of the Incas. There’s apparently no such film. That’s not even a known alternate name for Secret of the Incas that I’m aware of or can find. So her recounting of events has been wrong in two ways for years now; the release date and the name of what she saw as the key film.

“So he sent me the script. The script made absolutely no sense to me because it had lots of ghosts coming out of the Ark of the Covenant, and you’re trying to imagine what it’s like on paper, and that’s hard, right? So I read the script, and then I came back down to LA and we continued to talk about it. Steven and I sat and watched a couple of movies together. We watched China, which is an Alan Ladd picture from the 1940s; we watched the Lost Treasure of the Incas, starring Charlton Heston as Harry Steele. It was made in 1952, and he [Heston] really wears the costume, more or less, of Indiana Jones. Then I watched The Greatest Show on Earth, in which Charlton Heston wears a brown leather jacket and a brown fedora, pretty much the costume of Indiana Jones. And if that wasn’t enough, Steven used to run Saturday morning adventure serials, where a lot of these guys, because it was just post-war, were wearing flight jackets and brown fedoras.”


“[Stephen Spielberg and I] both knew that Indiana Jones’s character was based on an archetype, and we immediately knew what the costume was meant to be. In the early planning stages for Raiders of the Lost Ark, we screened some movies: China, with Alan Ladd, wearing a brown fedora and leather jacket. Then, Lost Treasure of the Incas, released in 1952, with Charlton Heston wearing exactly the same costume. And then into The Greatest Show on Earth, with Charlton Heston, again, wearing a leather jacket and a brown fedora.”

So, not only are there interviews out there where Steven Spielberg discusses the fact that The Greatest Show on Earth was hugely influential in starting him on the path to being a filmmaker and that he’s paid tribute and homage to it in various films, but she herself has given interviews where she does in fact cite The Greatest Show on Earth as a source of inspiration for Indiana’s costume and one of the films she watched with Spielberg when she “was there” way back when.

There’s also the matter of what other sources the inspiration and design may have come from during the early going of getting Indiana’s look locked down. For one thing, she entirely leaves out Jim Steranko’s early design work for Indiana Jones in pretty much every interview with her I’ve seen or read.

“In suggesting scenes he wanted visualized, George offered only the most minimal detail. So, I began with the image of Indy in the desert because it offered the best showcase to reveal his demeanour, clothing and props. He would sport a bomber jacket (like George wears), a beat-up fedora (not unlike Fred C. Dobb in Treasure OF Sierra Madre), and carry a whip (similar to the hero of Zorro’s Fighting Legion). I added the Sam Browne belt (military strap over the right shoulder), the WW1 garrison belt for the holster, and the khaki shirt and slacks.”


“After meeting with Lucas and Spielberg, Steranko went off to do four paintings to develop the look and feel of Indiana Jones in several scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As far as direction, Steranko was told give Indiana a jacket, “one like George (Lucas) wears,” which would be a leather bomber jacket at the time (a jacket that wouldn’t last too long in Raiders of the Lost Ark).”

“Steranko personally added the Hobbs Fedora hat and the diagonal Sam Browne belt, staples of the Indiana Jones look. The name, “Indiana was the name of George’s dog, and I think Jones was just pulled out of the air,” was already established, as was the presence of the trademark whip, as it was present in the initial script.”

And that’s exactly what he was saying in interviews in the old film magazines back when the film came out and has been saying consistently since then. He’s also referenced the look of Doc Savage (minus the many rips in the shirt) on the covers of some of the old pulps as a template a few times.

Now, if you’re still with me, you’re probably wondering why I’ve devoted (minus the quote counts) roughly 1,000 words to something as seemingly trivial as what film inspired the costume for Indiana Jones and a son being maybe too hotheaded and initially insulting about defending his mom. The simple answer is in fact that I’m not actually writing about either of those two things.

What I’m addressing is the ignorance and the stupidity of people screaming “MANSPLAINING!” at the drop of a hat these days and how it negatively impacts what could otherwise be intelligent discussions.

There’s a lot here that could spark interesting discussions when you look at it, and there are certainly a ton of places to have those discussions. Once Max Landis launched his tweet, the story was picked up by the various outlets that flood social media with minor stories (Uproxx, Raw Story, Distractify, Buzz) but was also soon picked up by outlets like The Miami Herald and outlets as far away as The Irish Examiner and the Belfast Telegraph. But all of them start the conversations off with headlines as dishonest as Max’s tweet. They all declare across the top of the page that a fan tried to “mansplain” to the woman who created the costume.

First, again, the exchange they had was not him mansplaining. To claim it was is stretching an already idiotic term to ludicrous levels. Based on information and interviews that have been out there for decades now, he made a statement about the Jeopardy question. She replied by saying he was wrong and making an incorrect statement about film release dates to bolster her point. He pointed out (quite politely) that she was wrong about the release dates. Hell, had he wanted to do anything close to “mansplain” things to her he could have in all honesty had a field day on her comment. She states in her post that “Raiders of the Lost Ark is almost frame for frame Secret of the Incas.” Uhm… No. I like Secret of the Incas. I’ve seen it a number of times. I don’t know what film she’s remembering here, but Raiders is damned sure not a frame for frame anything of Secret of the Incas. Find it and watch it if you don’t believe me. She then responds to his comments by turning to the “I Was There!” rebuttal in her next post.

Because, you know, that always makes John Byrne’s “I Was There!” recollections right 100% of the time.

Second, ignore the genders for a moment. No, actually, don’t do that. Change a gender. Change Deborah Landis into Robert Landis and reread the exchange. No one bats an eye. It’s just two people having a discussion. Change Stanley to Sarah and reread the exchange. No one bats an eye. It’s just two people having a discussion.

Further, by ignoring gender in their exchange there may even be interesting discussions about inspiration for iconic creations in a medium where there are multiple sources of inspiration and multiple talents all working on one concept either as a team or as separate units answering to a single ringleader. There are fascinating discussions to be had about creations in collaborative mediums and how many people and varying sources of inspiration sometimes actually have a part in what we ultimately see the first time or the 100th time. It’s no different than what I discussed about Deadpool and other comic creations some time ago.

But the knee-jerk screaming of “MANSPLAINING!” by so many on the topic pretty much kills that in its tracks wherever you look. The declaration of “MANSPLAINING!” is an almost instant challenge to many in this day and age to disengage their brains and take a position based on the charge of “MANSPLAINING!” with little to no actual facts at their disposal while refusing to budge from that position in any way no matter what facts are presented.

Across multiple forums and in many threads; what could be a fun discussion on an ultimately unimportant matter of fan trivia has been ground to a halt because of a false and idiotic rallying cry for those who would rather declare victimization and misogyny on such matters rather than honest difference of opinion based on the facts and 36 years of interviews that make the current claim somewhat squishy. The mindless declaration of “MANSPLAINING!” means to some that they can never back down, no matter the facts presented, even on something this relatively trivial. This idiotic, meaningless term often used by the intellectually lazy and the intellectually dishonest has the same effect when used in discussions on far more serious matters.

If it were limited to matters as relatively meaningless as this, it would be wonderful. But it’s not. Just as there are already threads filling up with those who are intellectually lazy and dishonest and incapable of holding their own in a discussion of the most minor importance here, there are just as many or more doing the same thing elsewhere in discussions on politics, social issues, local and world events, and a host of other matters that have importance and impact on our lives. The same people who are intellectually incapable of having a discussion- a discussion mind you, not even a debate –about the process of creativity and the degree to which recollections can change or be off in just the smallest but most crucial ways without resorting to screaming “MANSPLAINING!” at the drop of a hat to silence/ignore a POV they don’t want to acknowledge while making themselves feel smugly superior to others are the same people who do that more often and more obnoxiously on topics that have far more importance and matter more.

I’d say it’s something of a shame, but it’s more of a disgrace that we’ve allowed intelligent discourse in our society to degrade and devolve to this level. We have actually reached a point where we have allowed idiot children who are incapable of having an intelligent discussion to control and to frame discussions and debates on matters both this trivial and on matters that are of great importance to what goes on in this country.

There’s an old saying about how if you can’t handle the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. In a way, that applies very much to the “MANSPLAINING!” screamers (and others) who add nothing but noise and obstruction to discussions and debates. If you can’t handle intelligent, adult discussions, get out of the conversations. And, maybe, while you’re away for a bit, figure out how to start acting like intelligent adults.


And this is how idiotic some people will get when “MANSPLAINING!” is invoked in order to come up with reasons why someone isn’t really wrong for saying that a film that was released in 1954 was released in 1952 and that the film that was actually released in 1952 was released after the one released in 1954.

While both comments (and many other responses I didn’t screen cap) are stupid beyond belief given what they’re attempting to rationalize, I have to give Tynell Duncan the win for Most Pants on Head Stupid Comment of the Month award and place him in a very high spot in the competition for Most Pants on Head Stupid Comment of the Year award.

  1. James Byrne says:

    Here is my take on all this mansplaining controversy.
    1952. – THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH is released, the whole world goes to see it, again and again. It’s got a blonde trapeze artist who screams her lines like a banshee, a killer clown, a Catholic priest blessing a train full of midgets, obese people being compared to hippos, Hopalong Cassidy, dwarfs being tossed around by clowns, Bing, Bob and Lamour on the road again, hundreds of Eisenhower supporters eating popcorn, and a German talking psychopath who crashes his car into a train. It also stars Charlton Heston geared up in a brown leather jacket and a fedora. The 6 year old Steven Spielberg goes with his daddy to see it and is instantly hooked on it. He remembers the train crash and Heston’s costume. At home he films his toy train set crashing into a car over and over again. The Heston film then wins the Oscar as Best Picture over HIGH NOON, a western starring Gary Cooper with support from Thomas Mitchell.
    1954. – SECRET OF THE INCAS is released. Heston is once again wearing a brown leather jacket and fedora as he plunders Inca treasure in Cuzco, Peru. Heston and Thomas Mitchell argue all the time over which of their movies really deserved the Oscar. Heston tires of this, and throws Thomas Mitchell off the summit of Machu Picchu (I made that bit up!)
    1973. – George Lucas writes a screenplay he calls “The Adventures of Indiana Smith” but it gets shelved for the time being.
    1979/80. – George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decide to make an action adventure based on the serials they saw as kids. Spielberg and costume designer Deborah Nadoolman watch a few movies in an empty cinema to gain inspiration for the movie hero’s costume. They watch an Alan Ladd movie, CHINA, and two Heston movies, SECRET OF THE INCAS and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. Spielberg and Nadoolman keep replaying the Heston Incas movie, and they both decide that that is the ‘look’ they want for their hero, now named Indiana Jones.
    1981. – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is released and people go to see it, over and over again.
    1982-1990’s. – In numerous interviews Spielberg never mentions SECRET OF THE INCAS once, when asked who inspired him to create Indiana Jones. He always cites Zorro, Flash Gordon, and Bogart in TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, but never Heston as Harry Steele. Deborah Nadoolman is interviewed and cites CHINA, both Heston movies, but sometimes calls it TREASURE OF THE INCAS. She also incorrectly states that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is a shot-for-shot remake of SECRET OF THE INCAS.
    7 Oct 2015. – The biggest quiz show in America, JEOPARDY, has a final question in which the contestants are asked to name the movie character inspired the costume of Indiana Jones. The answer is, Charlton Heston as Harry Steele in SECRET OF THE INCAS.
    7 Oct 2017. – Somebody called Stanley on Facebook gets into a little tiff with a lady called Deborah Landis about that JEOPARDY answer. Stanley has no idea that she is the Indy Jones costume designer. He reckons it was Heston in the circus movie, not INCAS, and cites a Spielberg interview as ‘proof.’ Deborah doesn’t check the dates of the two Heston movies and gets them wrong in her reply to Stanley. Then Deborah’s son, film director Max Landis, cannot believe that someone has the audacity to argue about the inspiration for Indy’s costume with the actual costume designer, so types three expletives in capitol letters mocking Stanley on his twitter account, plus photos of Harry Steele Heston next to Indy Jones Harrison Ford. They are identical. Max’s tweet goes viral and all hell breaks loose on the internet. Deborah is accused of being wrong on her Heston movie dates, Stanley is labelled a mansplaining moron, and everyone gets in a tizzy. What fun!

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