Saturday, June 27, 2009

not really more than meets the eye

i don't have any interest in discussing whether Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a good movie in cinematic terms. i think it's best to assess a film based on what the film is attempting to accomplish. a small dramedy can be brilliant and still be small. it's not Titanic; it's not trying to be. (for a brilliant small dramedy, by the way, go see Away We Go.)
a popcorn movie can be just a popcorn movie, brain candy, escapism, whatever, and that's fine. it's fun!
of course, it's possible to be a popcorn movie and also be intelligent, and interesting, and have great character development, and a story that holds together, AND be lots of fun. as in, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Batman Begins or Titanic or Notting Hill or 3:10 to Yuma or Amelie or Pirates of the Caribbean [only the first one] or ...

here's what i want to note about Transformers 2.

1. there are no strong female characters in it. at all. Megan Fox plays the bimbo hot girlfriend ho-bag. there's the mother, who's ditzy and funny and looks crazy most of the movie, and she's endearing, like a 21st century Lucille Ball. so, she's not powerful. there's the temptress girl at college who is, of course, another ho-bag.
that's it. no women in leadership in the military or in politics. no female autobots that i saw, and if there are any, who can tell? no women professors at college. no women soldiers. (well, i did see one. she has one line.)

2. there are virtually no people of color who are strong. there's the african-american solider played by Tyrese. but no leaders in the military or politics. no one powerful enough to serve as a significant presence. there's the college roommate, who's hispanic, but he turns out to be a goofball.
there ARE two autobots who are ostensibly african-american. what's their job? comic relief. one is step-it and the other is fetch-it. or, one is amos and the other is andy. they're hollywood stereotypes of the silly, dumb black guy.

3. it's all about dicks. what are robots' giant arms and legs and rockets and missiles and lasers and swords and cars and trucks and jets and helicopters? what are the giant guns of the soldiers? what is the car that turns into a weapon? they're all phallic symbols, all the young-man's-disease of 21st-century hollywood showing off its adolescent culture's desire for empowerment. like teenage boys (and lots of grown men who are still just teenage boys inside) who are constantly swinging their machismo around, and engaging in the ancient ritual known as dick-stomping (mine's bigger! look at this stick/staff/sword/gun i carry! look at this car/jet/truck/boat i drive! look how far i can hit/throw/kick this ball! look how fast i can run/drive/aim and shoot! i'm bigger than you are! you're a jerk/nerd/loser! look at me! i'm a big boy!)

and that's why there are no strong women in the movie. the energy of the boy is intimidated by the energy of the strong woman. and, sadly, that's why the men of color are reduced to stereotypes and stooges: it's all about white adolescent boy energy. which, when the game is for white boys only, is wrong and anti-american.

i am all for good masculine running and playing ball and driving. i, in fact, drive a truck. and i love fishing and shooting guns and playing softball and golf and poker. those things of themselves are not the point.

the point is, this is a movie that has nothing to offer but adolescent white boys dick-stomping vicariously through gigantic toys. and it's not exactly what i hope 21st century culture is learning about what really matters, and what is worth living for.
however, if that's what you're into, go for it.

my wife and i saw it yesterday afternoon and it was fun. a little boring, but the robots were cool. and lots of shit blew up. so that's entertaining. although, after the hundredth explosion, which in this case would be the first five or six minutes, it can get a little old. and the movie is 2 1/2 hours long. just fyi.


happytheman said...

you can't make me not see it.

Meris said...

Thank You! Well said...

KJ said...

wow. interesting perspective, not only for this movie but i think US culture in general. And the BIG issue in my home right now. Not sure how you replace that message at home when kids are bombarded by male dominance messages everywhere else.

journeyingrick said...

happytheman - nor would i even DREAM of keeping you from experiencing such a lovely little cupcake of manliness!
i mean, not when some of my favorite movies are Animal House, Van Wilder, and The Outlaw Josey Wales .........

Anonymous said...

I wonder what happens if you see Transformers and Gran Torino back to back? Confession/redemption of the white/male/dick stomper?
I think Transformers is what James Dean/Marlon Brando/Clint Eastwood means in some odd way. Good news/bad news is that American machismo has always had its deeply ironic sensitivity. We (the american white male) kind of know that the world of Transformers is not good for women or blacks or anyone else really, and we sort of worry about our own fascination with the muscle car and/or the muscle.

Harvestar said...

But there are female autobots!! Arcee was the original one, I believe.

The motorcycles are girls. If you had the toys (like my husband does ;) ) you'd see that they have high heels.

They only have a few lines and one gets blown to smithereens, but they're there.

Since my husband has all the toys (yes... all of them - he started when he was 8 and still has all those), it was waaay cool to see how the toys translate to the screen. :)

However, the incredibly offensive astronomy professor was personally offensive to both of us. (and uncalled for!)

JW said...

I think I'll pass on Big Robots Part Deux... but my current want-to-see list includes:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

500 Days of Summer

The Hurt Locker

Food Inc.

JW said...

Oh, also Away We Go.