Episode Number: 114
Episode Title: The Mummy (1999) (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Ana: Listen, we’re getting into a rhythm of watching all of our faves and slowly destroying them.
Renay: I don’t know. They’re still my faves. Welcome to Fangirl Happy Hour: Vault Edition, where we’re going to be discussing the 1999 cult classic The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.
Ana: Nothing will ever as bad as Valerian so we’re clear and good to go. Let’s read the official description of this movie and then you will see part of the problem.
Renay: “An American serving in the French Foreign Legion on an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Hamunaptra accidentally awakens a mummy that wreaks havoc on him and his crew.” This is revisionist history.
Ana: And also it places Brendan Fraser as the main character of the movie when obviously he isn’t.
Renay: No, the main character of this movie is Evie. She is the main character!
Ana: Of course! And maybe—debatable—the mummy, but it’s definitely Evie! It’s her story! She gets him to guide her! She releases the mummy! She is the person who gets kidnapped by the mummy! She’s the one who defeats the mummy in the end! So there you go. She’s the heroine—the main character of this movie—and the reason why I love it so much.
Renay: I love how Rachel Weisz performs this role, it’s just perfect. And I really like how often she ends up saving herself.
Ana: Because, frankly, he’s not good at his job. Is he?
Renay: I think he’s a good adventurer, but as a guide, maybe not the best.
Ana: Mmmm. Plus, he’s American. And we know how this movie feels about Americans. [laughs]
Renay: I totally loved how much this movie drags Americans and drags them to hell via the mummy.
Ana: And their affection for guns and how they do not work against a mummy.
Renay: As Ardeth Bay says, no mortal weapon can kill this creature. Ah, Ardeth Bay. I said on Twitter this morning when I was watching the first part of this movie, that I thought it was just wrong that instead of getting the Ardeth Bay spin-off we got The Scorpion King, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Now The Scorpion King is straight up trash! But did I watch these films when they came out? Indeed I did, because I loved this series. They made a third Mummy movie starring Brendan Frasier but Rachel Weisz wasn’t in it. I think they recast her or didn’t even include her somehow, and I was like, “I’m not here for this.”
Ana: I don’t even remember that.
Renay: Yes, that’s because it was garbage. I mean, I didn’t watch it, let’s be clear. I stuck firm to my position that the series ended after The Mummy Returns.
Ana: I don’t remember watching The Mummy Returns.
Renay: Oh look, another Vault episode!
Ana: Yeah, I would be up for that.
Renay: However. I have some feelings about the fact that this movie was written and created by men, but yet there is a romance here that I absolutely love that I think is one of the best parts of the film. I get really upset at all films after this. Because I didn’t start getting into film like watching film until the late nineties, early 2000s. Having seen this movie I would go to all these other adventure slash action movies and the romances would be garbage. So this movie ruined me for every single action-adventure movie with a romance.
Ana: Listen, I really liked the romance here and I think it really works. And I think they are charming together, they have chemistry and it’s funny, but if you think about it, really think about it, do they have any actual conversations with each other? When she’s drunk. More or less. [laughs] It’s like—what is this based on? Chemistry! Which is a great science.
Renay: Well, I guess I don’t think about it like that. I would never think about it like that because movies are a series of vignettes. They’re not the whole thing. You don’t see the empty spots that the film didn’t fill, and I’m a fanfic writer so obviously I fill those in myself. And I think that a film that does such a good job of building a relationship over the whole film that feels real and tangible and like something that might last, like this movie did, like that’s a real success. For me.
Ana: No, yes, no I agree, I agree, it was just like afterward I was thinking, “Well, hold on, why did we get that impression?”
Renay: Rick was an adventurer and Evie wanted to be in the field, and they complemented each other really well. I also got the sense that neither of their lives were very stable, and so when they came together as these complementary pieces, they found some stability that they were lacking elsewhere.
Ana: That’s true and I think that another thing is that he really admired and respected her opinion. And he never looks down on her because she was a woman. I think that was very important, too.
Renay: This movie was like feminist in really Feminism 101 ways, but I still appreciated it.
Ana: I agree. I guess my one thing that made me a little bit, “Mmmm” is the casting of white people as Egyptians.
Renay: Yeah, that always wigged me out because she was like, “Oh yeah, my dad was white and my mom was Egyptian,” and I’m just like, “You do not look Egyptian, Rachel Weisz, I’m sorry.”
Ana: There was some people of color, but apart from Oded Fehr who plays Ardeth, the Medjai who protects the city, I think everybody else was white. We end up excusing it because of nostalgia and because it is genuinely a feel-good movie, but for example if this movie was cast today, and it had been coming out today, I think we would refuse to go and see it. Just like we did with Gods of Egypt.
Renay: Yes but also because Gods of Egypt didn’t sound good at all. This at least sounded good.
Ana: It sounded awesome to me because I love Egypt and I really wanted that movie to be good, and I was like, “But there’s no way that I’m gonna go and see it with this cast of like white people as Egyptian gods!”
Renay: Also the people of color there were, specifically the guy who plays the library director slash secret society member—he was Indian.
Ana: And the girl who plays Anck-Su-Namun, she’s from Venezuela.
Renay: And all these people die.
Ana: And all these people die.
Renay: Our extremely attractive Medjai is the only one who survives. And also gender diversity in this film is not great.
Ana: Oh my god, that’s true! [laughs] It’s only Evie! And then the desiccated mummy. Wow. That one I did not even realize.
Renay: Funny how that happens, right? And I think I don’t realize it and think about it very often when I’m watching this film it’s just because she’s so great, but I really wish that they could have found a way to include another female character somehow. What if Jonathan could have been her sister instead?
Ana: That’s true.
Renay: But women aren’t funny. Shut up! Imaginary grumpy person from the distance, women are hilarious. For example: I am a librarian.
Ana: [laughs] She’s really funny in this movie!
Renay: Okay, so what do we think about the ahistorical nature of this film?
Ana: It’s fantasy so fuck it, right?
Renay: White people, why you gotta go to another country and be gross?
Ana: That’s that element, too. First of all, he’s already there as part of the French Legion, which is bad. Evie’s there as part of British imperialism to get things back to the British Museum, and then they go and they awaken an ancient evil that kills a lot of Egyptians, but they survive.
Ana: I have another question for you that occured to me in the end. Why—why—does everybody think that Imhotep was evil? He was not evil. He was having an affair with the woman that he loved; he was caught; and then the fucking pharoah cursed him—and her—to the most horrendous death ever, and up until that point he hadn’t done anything evil.
Renay: Well he murdered the pharaoh.
Ana: Eh, which we can argue was a tyrant, and was about to kill them because they were having an affair.
Renay: But is murder ever—
Ana: But does that really—no of course, murder is never excusable. Does that really qualify him as the greatest evil of all time that will bring back the ten curses or whatever? He was having an affair then he killed a dude! By that metric, who else is evil? Everybody in the movies. It just seems very disproportionate! [laughs]
Renay: The curse that they put him under was disproportionate to his crimes? Okay, that’s fair. I could see that.
Ana: And then of course the whole legend is so EVIL and I’m like, “He just killed a person! Why do you fear him so much!?” If he had been like this huge priest that was causing things in Egypt and then he had died because of that, it was have made much more sense.
Renay: I don’t think it was so much that he was evil, it was just that the curse he was placed under made him evil.
Ana: I mean, if you consider how he died, it’s understandable. [laughs]
Renay: I mean, he was evil because he enslaved a bunch of Egyptians to his cause.
Ana: No, but he already had a reputation for being evil before that!
Renay: Well, that wasn’t his reputation, that was just humans.
Ana: Ah, okay that’s a good point, that’s a good take on this, Renay. I like that.
Renay: It was humans building it up because of their knowledge of what he might do if he came back, because he was so pissed about the curse he was placed under.
Ana: That’s fine. I’ll accept that.
Renay: Well, because the Medjai, you get the feeling—and maybe the movie says this explicitly but I don’t remember—that they were descendants of the people who mummified his priests alive and buried him. An ancient order that is set to protect him from rising because they understood that the curse they put him under was gonna cause a lot of shit if he ever woke up, because he was gonna be extremely angry.
Renay: As we sit here trying to work through the plotholes of this movie, of course, why not, why not Ana, why not use our time this way?
Ana: [laughs] How else would you like to use our time?
Renay: I don’t know. What’s your favorite part of this film?
Ana: I like everything with Evie in it, and I like the chemistry between her and Brendan Fraser’s character—Rick, right? Rick. I actually think the special effects stand the test of time. They were pretty good. It’s just generally speaking a really good adventure movie which I tend to love. I would wonder how Indiana Jones would stand the test of time.
Renay: I’ve never seen any of those films all the way through. A lot of people are like, “Indiana Jones was my formative adventure/action/exploration film!” but this one is mine.
Ana: I guess you are ten years younger than me, and that would be—that’s true, because I watched my first Indiana Jones when I was around eleven, twelve?
Renay: And my mom always loved this movie called Romancing the Stone?
Ana: Yes! With Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas.
Renay: And I remember she tried to make me watch it and I’m like, “What the hell is this?” I was not impressed, let’s put it that way.
Ana: I watched it multiple times I haven’t watched it in twenty years or something. Maybe we should add that to the Vaults, too. Maybe we should do like old adventure movies. Have you watched The Goonies?
Renay: Yeah, I’ve seen that.
Ana: Those are the ones I was watching when I was a kid. And I think it was probably older when you watch them.
Renay: I don’t know. I missed a lot of things. I didn’t have a theater and I had to wait for them to come to television, and then I had to wait for them to come to a channel that I had, so I feel like I missed out on a bunch of stuff?
Ana: Did you ever watch ET?
Renay: Yeah. I actually got that as a gift, like a VHS copy of that as a gift, one Christmas.
Ana: The Mummy is like a new Indiana Jones ten years later, but with a better female character. Although Indiana Jones did have good female characters. If I remember correctly.
Renay: Let’s not assume. We all know your memory, Ana.
Ana: We all know my memory. Yeah, okay. What is your favorite part?
Renay: My favourite part of the film is the whole jail scene. Jonathan is like, “Uh, I really don’t wanna go talk to this guy I pickpocketed, can we go?” and just how snarky and offended that Rick and Evie are to each other. I mean, I don’t condone like the non-consensual making out, that’s not cool.
Ana: Yes, I was like, “That was my first comment of the movie that I made!” Like, what the fuck did he just kiss her for?! [laughs]
Renay: And then I liked how they foreshadowed a bunch of stuff, which maybe is really obvious and I’m not really all that clever for noticing it, but it’s at the very beginning when Evie destroys the library and the caretaker is like, “I would rather have a plague of locusts than have to deal with you!” And I’m like, “Well, guess what dude, you’re about to get your wish!” And then when we meet the Americans, the guy comments on how he can’t see anything without his glasses.
Ana: That’s true, that’s true.
Renay: They do a lot of that, they drop these little tidbits and if you’ve seen the movie multiple times like I have, because I own it, you start to pick up on it.
Ana: So I hadn’t seen this in years and I didn’t remember anything, so I didn’t remember the librarian dude was part of the group that was protecting the city, so the first thing he did was to destroy the map, set fire to it, and I was like, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?! YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCHOLAR!” But of course he had a reason to do that, because he was part of the sect, right? So that was really well done.
Renay: The first sign that maybe he’s not on the up and up. I like that the film shows them, after they escape, having the gold, which relates more to my like appreciation of the sequel, because the sequel deliberately follows through on that moment, and I just like that the continuity is there. I really like the connection that that leaves you, you’re like, “Oh my god, they’re going to be fucking rich,” and then next movie they’re fucking rich.
Ana: On treasure stolen from Egypt, sure. I would like to watch The Mummy Returns.
Renay: And then finally the moment where the boat catches on fire and O’Connell is like, “Hey, Benny, I think you’re on the wrong side of the river!” and Evie has to go and get whole new clothes. He was like, “Yeah, we could have got the camels for cheaper, all they wanted was your sister,” and Jonathan was like, “Oh, tempting, isn’t it!” and then there’s this whole thirst scene between Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz and it was so good for me!
Ana: Do you know, when I was in Egypt I was harassed so much. Walking around, people offering camels for me. And I apparently was worth two camels only. But it was very unpleasant.
Renay: Yes, I imagine it was.
Ana: That’s what I got from that scene. I was like, “Well, this is not funny.” [laughs] It happened to me too! [laughs] I love Jonathan, though. He’s so wrong, but it’s so funny.
Renay: I still think he would have been a great sister, though.
Renay: We kinda talked about thirst because Brendan Fraser is dirty and gross, and then he cleans up and Evie’s like “I’d—I’d hit it.” But Brendan Fraser is a fascinating actor. Have you read that article that went around where somebody did an interview with him, and it was heartbreaking? Ana; I did, yes.
Renay: And then every time in that film that he was doing a super physical scene where he looked like he might get hurt, I was just like. “Oh my gosh.” He’s a very physical actor.
Ana: Definitely recommend reading that article to anybody who hasn’t read it yet, it’s another #MeToo, but also going further in different kinds of abuse he has suffered in his career, and how it went down. He seems like a genuinely nice guy.
Renay: Hollywood just seems so gross. Any sort of work like that, with that much money involved, is gonna have serious problems, but when you’re watching films, you just don’t really think about it? When you’re watching these people act out these roles you don’t think about whether people are keeping them safe, if they’re taking care of them, and I just think that that article highlighted how much we take for granted from people who are actors and actresses.
Ana: It’s very similar to the story that Uma Thurman was telling about her experience with Quentin Tarantino. She also got physically hurt.
Renay: And I think about the interview that Chris Evans gave where he talks about that helicopter scene in Civil War where he was like trying to hold the helicopter, and how it hurt his arm; his arm still hurt.
Ana: Oh my god! I didn’t know!
Renay: And then I think about Dylan O’Brien who was on the scene of that—The Maze Runner film, and he got super, super injured and they had to like pause production for six months or something? A long time. It’s not really clear how serious it was, but it was serious enough for some of the reports to be like, “He almost died!” I just sometimes feel like we can get disconnected from the fact that actors that are playing these roles are people, so that Brendan Fraser article really made me think about that when I was watching this film. Brendan Fraser was a staple of the movies I watched, like I really Encino Man. I’d be afraid to watch that now. I loved George of the Jungle, and Bedazzled, I really liked that one too, because it’s like the quintessential Nice Guy becoming an actual human being.
Ana: See I think I was already a little bit older when his movies came out, because I haven’t watched any of them.
Renay: Rachel Weisz is another actress who I’ve always really loved. I loved her in Constantine even though people drag that movie all the time. I still love that movie; I don’t care.
Ana: I think I liked it too when I watched it.
Renay: Having never read the comics.
Ana: I haven’,t either.
Renay: I just went into it as, “Oh look, this is a movie!” and anything that Rachel Weisz says I tend to like, although recently she’s done more dramas that I’m not super into.
Ana: What else did she do?
Renay: She was in The Brothers Bloom, which was the first role where after The Mummy that I sat up in and went, “Oh wow, she’s this really great actress!” and I thought she did a great job in this film, and the sequel, which I’m going to have you watch.
Renay: At the end of our discussion of The Mummy, how many space bees are you gonna give it?
Ana: I’m gonna give it three and a bucket of honey.
Renay: I’m giving it four, because I still think it holds up really well, and I’m just gonna drop it a star for all the racism and colonialism and sexism. Good to watch, but also good to watch with the historical context so you can learn something and it can be educational.
Ana: Okay. [laughs]
Renay: Ana is so dubious right now.
Ana: [laughs] Okay.
Renay: This episode was brought to you by our patrons.
Ana: We appreciate you all so much, and if you’d like to support our show and make future Vault episodes possible you can follow us on Patreon.
Renay: Our music is by Chuki Beats and our show art is by Ira. You can commision them at justira.tumblr.com.
Ana: All our transcripts are available at fangirlhappyhour.com. Our patrons make them possible, too, and help us pay Susan for her awesome services.
Renay: If you have anything to share with us, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ping us and let know your thirst level for Brendan Fraser in the Mummy.
Ana: You can follow us on twitter at @fangirlpod, and at fangirlhappyhour on facebook and tumblr.
Renay: Remember to drink water regularly throughout the day. Hydration is power.
Ana: Especially if you have thirsting over the person of your dreams.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Renay: You look so dubious already! [laughs] We haven’t even started!
Renay: You just had this expression on your face like, “Hmm, here we go with this!”
Renay: Don’t question fantasy logic, that way—
Renay: — lies magic. No. That way lies madness, that’s where I was going with that.
Ana: Yeah, I was like, “Hm, this is a new saying! That’s interesting!” [laughs]
Renay: Renay is bad at idioms, who knew?!
Renay: I feel judged, Ana! I feel so judged!
Ana: No I’m not judging! I’m not judging. Anubis will judge you when you die.
Renay: Oh my god, that reminds me, did you ever watch that Sesame Street movie?!
Renay: Where Big Bird goes to this museum and meets the spirit of this little kid and he has to wait for his soul to be judged at the end against a feather?
Renay: Listen, if you wanna be emotionally scarred, you should find this scene on Youtube. I bet it’s there; and then you should watch it and be like, “Holy shit, kids movies were like hardcore, even the Sesame Street ones.”
Renay: I should really read a book on Egypt so I can learn about the actual Egypt. Probably.
Renay: Okay, where’s my document? [sigh] Here’s my document, under your face.