Thursday, 25 June 2009

Droidz N The Hood

Posting record-breaking opening day grosses for a Wednesday, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is already shaping up to be one of this summer's biggest hit movies.

Despite the fact that most critics seem to equate watching the movie with staring into the spinning blades of a Kenwood Chef for two-and-a-half hours, the big-budget sequel has proved itself critic proof. No doubt director Michael Bay is laughing all the way to the bank, even whilst planning to blow it up and film it from 14 angles in slow motion.

But it's not just the critics who've laid into this orgy of clanking cogs and pyrotechnics. A number of concerned viewers have expressed dismay at the addition of two new robots, Skids and Mudflap (both of whose names have unpleasant scatalogical connotations), who seem to be based on horribly outdated racial stereotypes.

These two comic relief characters speak in street slang, claim to be illiterate and come from 'da hood'. One even has a gold tooth - but don't worry if that sounds ridiculous. This is, after all, a film that features an older transformer called Jetfire, whose age is represented by his beard.

With the controversy growing by the minute, Michael Bay and the voice performer Reno Wilson have argued that it's just for fun. Not so, say hotshot writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who have expressed (rather belated) dismay at the distasteful interpretation of their script. Kurtzman said in an interview with, "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."

This kind of gross ethnic stereotyping is nothing new, just ask Mickey Rooney who played Holly Golightly's 'Japanese' neighbour in Breakfast at Tiffany's, or anyone who had to sit through two hours of George Lucas' Rastafarian frog Jar Jar Binks.

With breathtaking effects, astonishing character designs and globe-trotting scale, it's easy to see how far summer blockbusters have come since Jaws first scared people off the beach and into the cinemas. Unfortunately, when it comes to race, the ground we've covered isn't nearly as impressive.

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