Friday, June 26, 2009

Autobots and the N word

So I traversed the intolerable Georgia heat to go see Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, and trudging the miles of parking lots at Stonecrest.... nah... I couldn't wait to go see the latest Transformers movie. They're the greatest thing since the invention of Jesus!!! .... nah, that doesn't work either...

Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about this movie, because I couldn't seem to get the plot in my head straight. The glimpses I had of it from and from the kid's books at Borders just didn't seem to add up. Turn's out, that was a correct assumption. So overall, I'd give it a 3.5 stars out of 5. But I don't have to give a review, because, as one of my friends shared on his Facebook profile, someone did an amazing job already. Try this review on for size. The only thing about it was that I didn't like it as well as the reviewer did. Read it with the appropriate cynicism, and that should work. Read it from

The interesting thing about the movie was that in the past few days, around the corners of Yahoo's news about MJ's passing, was a story about two Autobots that were "racially stereotypes." Mudflap and Skids are twins, and the voices and appearances make them ghetto goofballs. Reports have gone on about them being stereotypes of African-Americans, and the media has gone all Jar-Jar on everyone, saying how people should be offended at the two characters. The reality, however, couldn't be farther from the truth. I say this because I was at Stonecrest Mall watching the movie... in a packed theater, with the majority being African-Americans. And so as the "offensive" characters came onto the stage, all I heard were the people laughing. There was nothing offensive about them. They could either identify with the twins, or, more likely, saw that it was a parody of ghetto behavior and found it comedic.

In fact, I found it more offensive the way that paltry humor, that which would be found in American Pie would be attributed to Autobots. Now, maybe my fanboy status is showing, but the Autobots that I knew were above the base behaviors shown by Wheelie, Jetfire, and the Twins. Jetfire especially, as he was the noblest of warriors on the TV show (well it was Skyfire on there.) I couldn't wait to get Skyfire for Christmas that year, as the elegance and power of that sleek, white adonis of a Transformer (don't laugh) was amazing! And now they've turned him into an ancient SR-71 Blackbird that farts parachutes. And the joke about Devastator having gonads was just stupid. There was so much bathroom humor in the movie, that I would much rather have been offended by that rather than the Twins ethnic caricatures.

I think that the real issue here is that the media is creating something to be offended about. A good movie creates a little press, a bad one, even less. But a controversial one...a ton of press. And in the 24 hour news world, that's gold. So create a stir where there doesn't have to be, and if there's no offense made, get offended anyway. It's a good act, but one that has been done too many times. It's a tiring facade, one that I can do without.

Nor would I be particularly offended by George Lucas' use of Japanese aliens for representatives of the Trade Federation or of Jar-Jar Bink's obvious African look. In fact, I wonder whether Lucas actually thought of the racial stereotypes before he did them. I would much rather think they just happened, without thought to what the public might think. However, I think Michael Bay created Mudflap and Skins with the exact purpose of making them Afrian-American "ghetto goofball" robots. It's what he wanted. Because Bay knew that it wouldn't offend the groups that he wanted to attract to the movie, and he didn't care what the critics thought. He enjoyed pushing the envelope.

The problem is that, in my opinion, he pushed it too far, too often, and it made Transformers 2 look more like Austin Powers 2 in scope and feel. Take all the great stuff from the first movies, double, and stuff as much of it as possible into the sequel. Sometimes that works, but usually, it doesn't. Michael Bay better be careful that the third movie doesn't become an unneeded sequel, like the third Batman movie was.

My recommendation is to go buy the 20th anniversary DVD set of Season 1 of the Transformers G1 show from Borders (only $24.99 as of the day I wrote this.) and remember the good times.

One last note, upon seeing the trailer for the G.I. Joe movie, I shutter to think how bad that movie is going to be. Leave the pro-military, 80's cartoon action figure movies to the guys with the metal skin.

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