In appreciation of Evelyn Carnahan O’Connell, the nerdy hero we need
There is a brand new installment in the collection of movie remakes no one was really looking for. The Mummy opened last week and almost immediately flopped. It is a modern adaptation of a 1999 adventure film which was itself a remake of a 1932 film of the same name, and much like a copy of a copy, something isn’t quite right about 2017's The Mummy.
It's missing something that was present in its '90s predecessor.
I’m not talking about the only-in-the-'90s action heroics of Brendan Fraser. I'm referring to Evelyn Carnahan O’Connell, the real hero of the story. And a really nerdy one at that.
She knows her value
Early on in The Mummy, Evelyn is put in an awkward position. After making a big mistake while attempting to shelve books and knocking over a series of shelves, her boss expresses his contempt for her, wondering why he puts up with her in the first place. Without missing a beat, Evelyn begins listing her many credentials.
Much of Evelyn's motivation in the movie is based on feeling inadequate in a world of men. She has an itch for adventure, sure, but most of her actions are spurred on by her need to prove herself to the men in her field. She wants to join an elite group known as the Bembridge Scholars, but they've rejected her based on experience. In addition to sparking her curiosity, the mystery of Hammunaptra also allows her the opportunity to prove herself to the men who continue to look down on her.
And then, of course, there's everyone's favorite scene in the entire first movie, in which Evelyn proudly declares that while she may not be a swashbuckling hero like Rick, she's proud of what she is.
She's the only one who has any idea what’s going on
Speaking of proving herself to the men, somehow, despite the fact that both their group and the one led by the Americans are supposed to know what they're looking for and where to do the looking, Evelyn is frequently the only one who really has any idea what she's doing. While both groups find treasure early on, Evelyn is the one who is able to improvise, who is able to find artifacts and rooms and a supernatural mummy who was buried alive and cursed as punishment for his actions while he was alive.
Sure, that last part didn't end up being great news in the end, but it took some skill to find it after they were driven from their original digging spot by jerks.
She doesn't back down
I'll be the first to admit that Evelyn sometimes made bad choices. After all, it was her own curiosity about the Book of the Dead that led to Imhotep waking up and trying to destroy the world in the first place. But if we're going to get on her case about that, then we also have to recognize that she tries to put it right and that she's the only one of all the people who went exploring Hammunaptra who is at all interested in even trying.
When Imhotep gets the upper hand, she willingly sacrifices herself in order to save her friends, allowing him to kidnap her for a blood sacrifice in hopes that they could win the war even though they lost this particular battle.
She saves everyone's asses, frequently
Okay, here is the big one. Evelyn might not be necessarily qualified for action and adventure and the saving of the planet, but she does it more than once and she uses her brain to do it.
As the mobs are descending on her and her friends, Evelyn has to make quick work of a massive bit of translation in order to figure out where they'll find the one book that will kill Imhotep and save the world. While under threat of death, Evelyn manages to do what even her heroes at the Bembridge Scholars were unable to do: she figures out the true burying place of the golden book of Amun Ra.
It's reading and translation once again that saves their asses in the climax of the movie with Evelyn again having to read an ancient language while in the middle of a battle, turning Imhotep mortal just in time to save Rick's life. Could you do that? I didn't think so.
And this isn't even to mention the fact that she saves Rick's life right at the start of the movie, rescuing him from execution. It also doesn't touch on the multiple times she saves his and everyone else's lives in the sequel, The Mummy Returns (2001), but she does that through more traditional fisticuffs rather than through creative application of smarts and stubbornness.
Evelyn may not be an action hero in the traditional sense. She doesn't know how to fight or shoot and she doesn't swing into action with her fists flying, but there is no denying she's a hero to nerdy girls everywhere. Instead of fists, she has books and adorable glasses and a kick-ass card catalog. She outsmarts, outwits and outlasts all her compatriots, standing them down and surviving despite all their naysaying and sexist remarks.
Plus, she's got a great fashion sense. So many hats!