Posted by: Ophelia | June 25, 2009

Buzz kill

Sigh

Sigh

So by now even if you haven’t seen the movie I’m sure you’ve heard some buzz about the new Transformers movie. Namely about two robots new to the movie franchise called Skid and Mudflap. Here’s some sources: The Huffington Post, and Chud. I just saw it last night. My reaction to the twins was exasperation. Their whole premise smacked of effort and I found it difficult to believe that Bay was not going for a Sambo meets JarJar Binks effect. The audience reaction is what intrigued me however. The audience did chuckle at the twins but the movie thought they were funnier than the audience did. They never got big laughs and the audience did not perceive that their constant fighting was supposed to be funny. The movie gave them more face time and more lines than most of the new characters  and while some people found them heh heh funny (notably whenever they would utter a swear or called someone a “pussy”), there were no guffaws. It gave me some hope that people can enjoy themselves at a movie without characters like that. Also the movie came equipped with the traditional–women who only talk about men and serve no real purpose save to run in slow motion from explosions.

Why would I go see such a movie? My fiance reserved tickets weeks ago. He has been into the Transformers since he was a kid. When we moved there were three full trashbags of Transformers action figures that came too. According to him, he had no idea the movie would be so bad. But I do wonder what if anything he would have noticed about the movie’s message about sex and race had I not been there. In fact he seemed utterly dejected once I explained what I had heard about the characterizations, however, I think it was more about realizing that he was dragging me to a movie that I didn’t want to see and less about outrage about the messages.

These were the heroes he grew up with and he was so excited for another movie even though it was undoubtedly going to follow a hackneyed plot that featured tons of explosions. He never for a moment had to consider any deeper message because well, the messages aren’t talking about them. The movie says that white dudes like him can be heroes no matter how nerdy. The media normally talks to him, not about him, and he did not really get why I was so irritated. To me it felt like a double whammy, not only did they have the tried and true hot chicks with no ambitions they decided to throw in tired sambo robots. The movie did not speak to me so much as about me as if it was impossible that I would be in the theater (although the ever presence of tired stereotypes normally ensures that I will not be there). I tried to get my fiance to empathize with me, likening it to someone physically assaulting one partner–the other shouldn’t continue the association. However, in this case it was a childhood friend of his that betrayed me, and it was clear he did not know whose side to pick. He was willing to ignore the indiscretions because, well, they weren’t about him. They rarely if ever are. To a degree I think I was jealous that I do not have the ability to ignore sexism and racism. There is plenty of media I can no longer tolerate–lots from my childhood, that I lost. I wish that I occupied a position  that the media spoke to and not about so that when I pontificated on race/sex, I could do so from an abstract point of view. I wish a movie was just a movie, or characters that just so happened to walk/talk/look like stereotypes could just be robots with nothing else to them. At the same time, it sure would be nice to see a movie without tired stereotypes being trotted out as if they enhance the experience. I wonder why the media thinks that white dudes like my fiance can’t enjoy something unless it has sexism/racism/testicle jokes.

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Responses

  1. In my defense, when you explained to me the depth of the stereotypes they were using right before the movie, I was about ready to throw away the tickets. I didn’t know about the two ‘twin’ characters being portrayed like that when I bought the tickets, and the reason I decided to keep them was because we spent the money, and I was hoping it would be at least a little entertaining. I was also trying to put myself into your position while watching it, and I believe I did see a lot of what you were talking about, and I felt it.

    Even when you compare the different stereotypes (grizzled old Scottish veteran, the towel-headed Egyptians/ Jordanians or whatever, the women), the ‘ghetto black stereotype was by far the most offensive. Usually they put these characters in the background, but they had the most lines of any robot. They were useless and there really was no excuse. And after something this bad (and INTENTIONAL), nothing could save the movie. Explosions do NOT fix race baiting.


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