July 05, 2007


[Updated July 6th: please check out my first follow-up post and my second follow-up post, as well as the links at the end of this post as well. Thanks!]

Several weeks ago, Cody said "Is is just me, or does all the publicity for Transformers involve that woman's cleavage? What's that about?" Oh, the mixed feelings. On one hand, I appreciate it that my husband seems to have been paying attention to my ranting about movies. On the other, since I knew we were going to see the movie no matter what, I didn't want to hear that it might be as bad as I feared for "that woman," whose name is Megan Fox.

Since I hadn't paid any attention to the marketing except for one cleavage-free trailer, my only other information about Fox's role came from a review by Maryann Johanson at her site FlickFilosopher. She had this to say about Fox's character Mikaela:

She actually gets to do some cool action-movie stuff later on, and generally fares much better than the standard action babe sidekick usually does.

Could it be?

I knew Megan Fox's character wouldn't be a main character, but I'm always interested to see a film where the woman is the sidekick and yet manages to be a strong character. Would they pull it off? After 144 minutes of giant robot movie, I didn't get everything I would have wanted.

Does the horny teenage boy who saves the world end up appreciating Mikaela as a person, not just a hottie? Yes. Is there a heck of a lot of objectifying Mikaela before we get to that point? Yes. Does Mikaela have her own personality? Yes. Does she pick up an electric saw and save the horny teenage boy by hacking up an evil robot? Hell yes!

Does she then spend a lot of the movie following the boy around? Unfortunately yes, until the very end where she seems to come back to life again and jumps into the fray. She doesn't seem to need rescuing any more than the average human in the film, and in trade for being a sidekick she does get a cool scene with a tow truck.

Maybe I've just spent too much time watching movies that are awful to their heroines, but I did agree with Maryann that Mikaela turned out a better than I expected.

Transformers suffers from the same "all the world is white" issue that most action movies do, but there was one role that intrigued me. When the other female character, brainy-but-gorgeous scientist woman, says "Only the best hacker in the world can decode this" and steals a top-secret file from the Defense Department, I sure wasn't expecting her to take it to a young African-American guy who's playing Dance Dance Revolution with his cousin. Part of that is my own racism, and part of that is because I'm so used to seeing the kind of person that Hollywood would fit into that slot. Anthony Anderson's character Glen is not that guy. He's not the typical pale white high school student with no social skills. He's a mix of goofy and panicky and geeky and tremendously skilled, and I thought it was a great casting move. Why shouldn't this man be a top notch hacker?

I'd rather have seen more people of color cast, as always. In addition to Anthony Anderson, I counted two characters who were played by people of color and who had speaking roles - and one of them gets razzed by his teammates for speaking Spanish. I didn't know what to make of all that, but it didn't quite sit right with me.

I'd also rather see a movie where we don't have to go through the "I'd do her" phase with a female character before accepting her as a person. Granted, this was from the point of view of the horny boy who saves the world and may have been correct characterization for him, but I don't give out stars for that. Finally, I'd like to have seen more women in speaking roles. We get one who's beautiful and one who's brainy (but also beautiful), and that's it.

In the end, though, I thought it was a mixed bag - but Mikaela and Glen push it a notch above typical. So I give Transformers 2 stars. Honestly, I'm as surprised as anyone.

Other commentary:


(I had the same thoughts about Glen too.)

I think I can shed some light on the soldiers, though.

one of them gets razzed by his teammates for speaking Spanish. I didn't know what to make of all that, but it didn't quite sit right with me.

Okay, I was surprised by how true to life the military stuff was and this was actually one of the parts. A lot of people in the military are full citizens from Spanish-speaking areas or immigrants working on their citizenship, so I've seen a lot of Airmen who speak Spanish primarily, and who get razzed for it by the mostly conservative other Airmen. And, like with feminism, a rapport develops between the people with different backgrounds and the "Speak English" joking is part of it. I have sat through that scene with the language discussion several times before and I was just struck by how familiar it all seemed until the redhead broke in with a non sequitur about weekends. (Not that we never wistfully discussed home, but the conversation usually flowed more naturally too it).

I think someone involved in the movie was using their personal experiences in the military during those scenes, and as unsettling as it probably looks to an outsider, its usually part of an all around friendly banter.

Interesting review, and thanks for linking to the other one. I didn't go see it, but friends pretty much confirmed what you said.

Know what film you might like to watch is The Cleaner, if you haven't seen it yet. True, it's a crappy action-comedy film full of racial-ethnic stereotypes and jolly dumb black guys that I could barely stand to watch, but Lucy Lu's character is freaking AWESOME. I figure you'd appreciate her.



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