I try not to think about race and racism, despite the fact that I'm a woman of color and I work with a lot of people of color and my program serves only people of color. I figure that I deal with enough of racism and associated crap at least 40 hours a week. Sometimes, on the weekend, I try not to think period. I prefer to just sit down and be entertained.
Like seeing a movie.
This past weekend, Jesse and I watched The Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Like with the first movie, I lowered my expectations as low as they could go so I wouldn't be disappointed afterward (this totally worked for the first one). Even with my low expectations, I would've never anticipated this.
Imagine my horror when I saw the Autobot twins, Skid and Mudflap.
Let's just analyze their appearance, shall we?
Right now, you're probably thinking, those are some pretty ugly autobots. Well, they are. While all the other autobots, look strong and majestic, the twins are goofy looking and small. Notice the small heads in proportion to their body. Note that Optimus Prime (the leader of the Autobots) carries himself with strength and power.
The twins' heads? Don't they remind you of something? I don't know about you, but they look like monkey heads. It's the small size in comparison with the body, the large ears sticking out at the sides. They also have mouths that protrude slightly. Speaking of mouths, both twins have bad teeth and one of them has a gold buck tooth. None of the other autobots look like animals, not even Bumblebee whose name comes from his colors--yellow and black (in the original cartoons, Bumblebee was a VW bug so the name made more sense).
By now, you're thinking...so the twins are ugly. What's offensive about that?
Well, the twins are black. You know this by the way they talk. They jive talk and are the only autobots that speak in slang. Moreover, the twins are constantly fighting with each other (I guess blacks are belligerent). Of all the autobots, they are the most immature. Even during one of the most serious scenes of the film, they fight for no reason, which then annoys Bumblebee and he has to pull them apart. Their behavior and antics are at a Jar Jar Binks level of annoying.
Oh, and did I mention the twins can't read? In the first movie, Optimus Prime tells Sam that they learned English through the Internet. I'm assuming that the twins didn't care to learn the language or maybe they've never seen the Internet. Which would be OK, except the language they are asked to read is an autobot language. Some bit-character decepticon is able to look at the text and determine that the text is in this autobot language although he can't read it, but the twins can't even identify it as such. That's just ridiculous.
According to an article I read, the twins are voiced by a white guy. While I'm not saying that a white person shouldn't provide the voice for a black animated character, it pisses me off that this is the voiceover person's impression of what young black men are like.
Michael Bay himself has dismissed the controversy saying that the twins are supposed to appeal to young people. He wanted characters that would reflect the younger generation of today. Well, perhaps Mr. Bay ought to spend more time in urban settings where young people hang out because young people are nothing like the twins.
First off, most young people can read. Young people don't look like apes. AND young people are not always breaking into fights. As far as using these characters appealing to a young audience, Mr. Bay has failed. Badly.