Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guest Column: 'Transformers' Racist?

Note: we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo?, like to broaden our coverage of the national discourse by occasionally turning to voices and viewpoints not represented by our regular contributors. To discuss recent cinema, we turn to's most prolific user-reviewer, Sound.Wav. He divides his time between his two jobs as a tech writer and as a moderator at the website Television Without Pity.

'Transformers 2' Shows Us How Little We Transform Ourselves

I am not an avid filmgoer when it comes to showing up in the theaters. I abhor the expense—really, six dollars for popcorn? do I look like Cornelius Vanderbilt?—the discomfort from insufficiently capacious seats, the jeers from those who prefer I do not stand up during the screening to avail myself of the free refill on the most voluminous beverage option I've purchased.

Most of all, I abhor the attack on my senses from a movie that has no regard for one, let alone five of them. Yes, indeed, I can smell a stinker from the opening theme music; the want of taste makes my face contort, and remaining untouched by narrative leaves me as cold as returning home to my apartment.

Surely you recall my scathing review of the first Transformers film, which I ghost-wrote from the comfort of my own home theater, ensconced with popcorn and a Foam Dome accoutred with Arizona Iced teas, my IM alert maxed out, lest I miss out on the latest of raids. Well, based on that alone, I would never have seen Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in theaters, but the following account merely reinforces my boycott:
LOS ANGELES — Harmless comic characters or racist robots? The buzz over the summer blockbuster "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" only grew Wednesday as some said two jive-talking Chevy characters were racial caricatures. Skids and Mudflap, twin robots disguised as compact hatchbacks, constantly brawl and bicker in rap-inspired street slang. They're forced to acknowledge that they can't read. One has a gold tooth.

"It's done in fun," [director Michael Bay] said. "I don't know if it's stereotypes — they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors."

"I purely did it for kids," the director said [referring to a violent movie with swearing, sexual content and rampant destruction]. "Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them."
This is altogether too much. It is not to be borne. But, worse of all, I have come to understand that this is but the tip of the iceberg. By assiduously following AintItCool, I have learned of the following transgressions/incidents/egregiously racialized interludes:

Mudflap begins the film as a set of wheels and literally steals everything else he's made of.

Skids keeps shoplifting lotto tickets and tries to eat them whenever he gets one with three matching watermelons.

Neither can stop sucking down bottles of 10W40.

Mudflap refuses to communicate via holographic messages because he's terrified of ghosts.

Both miss a huge battle due to an engrossing story told by their favorite detailer down at the Autoshop.

Skids can only transform into an off-white 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

Mudflap begins courting a beautiful female Transformer who has 8 Transformer children with different last names, and the only thing they can't transform into is what their dad looks like.

Skids robs a White Ford F350 and then rear-mounts and violates a white Mercrury Villager.

Mudflap has the ability to shotgun a Gucci Purse and produce 30 knockoffs from a hatch in his chest.

Whenever Skids sees a black hatchback, he won't shut up about how much storage space the rear has.

Mudflap wears ionic rear thrusters in front because it looks cooler.

Both deliver long tedious monologues when they see a trailer of chained new cars passing down the freeway.

Mudflap was entrusted with the safety of the All Spark Cube, but the Decepticons were able to easily steal it thanks to his insistence on leaving it behind the counter of the AMSCOT Payday Loan.

One of the other Autobots threatens to junkyard them if they don't stop illegally downloading the data file to Kentucky Fried Movie.

Mudflap refuses to use a mudflap.

Whenever Skids has to do something dangerous, Mudflap starts fanning himself and yelling, "OH, DON'T DO THAT!!!"

Both accuse Shia Labeouf's character of using them as dumb muscle, lying to Optimus Prime and trying to tie the Autobots' fight to a war they're not even involved in.

Mudflap develops a telepathic relationship with a small boy but is killed while attempting to rescue him because he suddenly appears on a Decepticon's Infrablack sensors.

This panoply of racial indignities cannot be ignored in the sense of commentary. But it can—and will!—be ignored on the big and small screens. Of this offal, though it may surprise you, this commentator desires none. I am left breathless at the irony of the name of this film, Transformers, and how much it shows our society incapable of adapting itself to inclusion of all persecuted and maligned groups — be they black, hispanic, homosexual or husky.

Hitherto I had believed the name Michael Bay to be synonymous with quality. I can assure you that hereafter I will not even deign to IM such a falsehood!

1 comment:

  1. Skids and Mudflap? They should have named them Nipsy and Flip instead if they wanted genuine negro-culture accuracy.


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