Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sexism and Racism in Transformers Sequel

So, for Independence Day celebration, my family went out to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It was actually pretty good for a sequel. I’m not a big fan of the whole Transformers franchise, but the movie displayed cool special effects and had a generally entertaining storyline. However, there were certain parts I find worthy of criticism, namely the sexual objectification of the love interest and a “Terminatrix” redux, as well as racist stereotypes manifesting in the comic relief.

Mikaela Banes, the girlfriend of protagonist Sam, is constantly depicted in sexually alluring poses. I don’t remember the first movie well enough to know if that was an issue there, but it certainly exists in the sequel. She is a bit of a subversion of cliché in that she works in her father’s garage, but as her body is used as eye candy for the perverted male viewers I cannot find the character the slightest bit progressive. If anything, it just adds a style to her status as a sex object in the film.

The “Terminatrix” redux is a Decepticon spy sent to get close to Sam. While all the other Transformers took the form of anthropomorphic machines, this one appeared as a sexy girl with robot features. Initially, the character appeared to be a sexually aggressive co-ed who tempted Sam away from his long-distance girlfriend.

Looking sexually attractive at every moment, she manages to pin him down on his bed and tries to kiss him as he more or less rejects her advances. The camera focuses on her rear with her thong underwear visible as a robotic tail tipped with a needle comes out. Like the T-X’s finger drill, the Decepticon’s tail carries a seductive sway. Of course, she’s interrupted by Sam’s girlfriend who catches him kissing the Decepticon, who just looks like a hot girl at this point, tail retracted.

Breaking up with Sam, Mikaela runs off, and the Decepticon then openly attacks him. Her tongue extends into a long tentacle-like appendage, which she uses to pick Sam up by his neck and throw him across the room. Her tongue is physically similar to her tail, and has the same sort of sexual qualities associated with it. A chase scene ensues, and Sam is reunited with Mikaela, who runs over the Decepticon and would seem to kill her.

And finally, we have the twins. Reinforcements called in by Optimus Prime, the twins Skids and Mudflap embody racist stereotypes. They are essentially dull-witted black urbanites who are obsessed with displays of bravado and have dopey physical appearances, Skids possessing a gold tooth. While it is a plot element that only ancient Transformers can read the glyphs Sam has encoded in his brain, the twins’ denial of their ability to read specifically falls in line with the stereotype of illiterate black characters.

In conclusion, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a generally entertaining movie. However, it possesses sexist and racist elements that make aspects of the film very unappealing. I can only hope for a future film with both awesome special effects and a progressive theme.

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