I’ve been back and forth about whether or not I should post this…as I don’t usually use my blog to offer up movie reviews. I’ve done it once or twice, but I don’t make it a habit. But I recently saw the new Transformers joint and I thought – for the benefit of those who have not seen it - I’d provide somewhat of a review. This is not a review in the traditional sense. Admittedly, this post provides less analysis of the film, focusing more on certain other dynamics. More on that in moment.
In a word, the movie was just a’ight. To its credit, I was spellbound by the amazing visual effects, as I was with the original. While a bit overkill at times, I was in awe at the mastery of the crew and their work. But that simply wasn’t enough for me. Without giving anything away, the plot was about as weak and tepid as it could possibly be. I suspect that establishing a decent plot in a sequel becomes secondary if the film maker is trying to saddle off previous storylines. So to make up for it, there were tons more explosions, mind-blowing graphics, a much higher body count, lots more noise, and a little more fodder for prepubescent teens.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film – and where I get away from the traditional movie review - were the accusations that the movie was inbued with an element of racism and cultural mockery. Truth be told, I was already given an idea of what to expect while engaged in a discussion over at Malik’s spot. But the inquisitive part of me (and, to keep it real, the part of me who is a childhood fan of the Transformers franchise) wanted to test the waters for myself. So I went to see the flick.
Let’s put it this way: the movie confirmed everything I read about it.
Two film charcaters in particular - Mudflap and Skids – were the source of heavy criticism for perpetuating racial stereotypes. They certainly lived up to the hype.
This is nothing new, considering Hollywood’s consistent history of reinforcing urban cultural stereotypes; mostly in a libelous (albeit, often indeliberate) way. Regardless of [Director] Michael Bay’s innocence in creating these characters, certain attributes of theirs (having gold teeth, being dull-witted, using broken language, having an inability to/lack of interest in reading, and displaying outright silliness) are often negatively ascribed to black folks. So I definitely peeped the racialized undertones. Even the some of the writers picked up on this:
Cole: I heard that the gold tooth was Michael Bay’s idea, but do you have any response to those who found The Twins offensive?
Orci (writer): Number one, we sympathize. Yes, the gold tooth was not in the script, that’s true.
Kurtzman (writer): It’s really hard for us to sit here and try to justify it. I think that would be very foolish, and if someone wants to be offended by it, it’s their right. We were very surprised when we saw it, too, and it’s a choice that was made. If anything, it just shows you that we don’t control every aspect of the movie.
Cole: Were you offended by them?
Kurtzman: I wasn’t thrilled. I certainly wasn’t thrilled.
Orci: Yeah, same reaction. I’m not easily offended, but when I saw it, I thought, ‘Someone’s gonna write about that.’”
***Digression: These writers are two smart cookies. For one, they were smart enough to use passive voices to make their point known. Staying alive in their field of work means they can’t be too critical of the people they work for. But that did not stop them from also admitted that these two characters could at least potentially trigger ill feelings with minorities. That, to me, is where racial sensitivity starts. Instead of meeting black feelings with apathy, they had at least a modicum of appreciation of how blacks could possibly perceive this. So kudos to them. End of digression.***
While I was watching this flick, something happened that I should have predicted, but did not: most of the black folks in the audience (making up a little over HALF of the theatre I should point out) were rolling in the aisles each time these two clowns hit the screen. For all the analysis done by many of my blogging contemporaries about the stereotypical nature of these characters, and for all the talking we did about how/why these two characters should be offensive, there were still a great deal of black folks who openly embraced them.
This revelation (along with the enduring black support given to the Tyler Perrys and the B.E.Ts of the world) is now forcing me to acquiesce to the understanding that my cousins ‘nem are – quite frankly – perfectly content with insipid B.S. propogating explicitly offensive notions about our culture. In fact, we enjoy it…as if we somehow bask in undervaluing ourselves. So I hearby announce that I give up. I’m done. I feel deflated to point of abject capitulation; perhaps the same way my boy Huey felt during R. Kelly’s trial:
Simply put: Despite our best efforts to preach the evil of certain things, ignorance will always win. No matter what.
Throwing in the towel has never been my thing; especially when it comes to topics like race relations, for which I am extremely passionate. But I am now convinced that this kind of fight is pointless. I suppose I should have read the signposts early in the game. The moment I heard college educated people describe Tyler Perry using words like “genius” (yes, this really happened), I should have known that I was in for a fight I could not win.
My sanity is too important to keep this up.
Watching black people freely embrace the same racially regressive nonsense that we should abhor has caused me to re-evaluate whether or not I should even bother anymore. I’ve gone from being somebody who was once vehemently impassioned to somebody who has stopped caring.
You might say that I’ve been transformed.