Recently a friend posted the following as a status on Facebook.
Dear friends who keep telling me Transformers 3 is some great sin against nature: You can keep saying it all you want, but it won’t make the rest of us not love it. Michael Bay making the movies he likes to make does NOT stop anyone else from making the movies YOU like to watch.
There is plenty of room for everyone.
Bottom line: I am having way more fun than you are. Sucks to be you!
I am sure plenty of people enjoyed this movie, even plenty of good people. Personally I can’t stand all the explosions; I’m too jumpy. So just to be clear, I haven’t seen this movie. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t see either of the other Michael Bay masterpieces from the franchise so I’m not speaking from personal movie watching experience.
I will grant my friend this: he didn’t say that the movie wasn’t a sin against nature.
I kid, I kid. I don’t think the movie is a sin against nature; I think Michael Bay has 99 problems and they are all misogyny and he probably thinks the Bechdel test is a joke.
So the way I see it there are two options for Mr. Bay. Either he reads this sort of commentary about his works of art:
Only two featured characters in the large ensemble Transformers cast are women, and none of the Transformers (alien robots, for the uninitiated) are female. And the two female humans consist of an unmitigated sexual object and a caricatured mockery of female leadership.
and thinks ‘Why is that a problem?’
or he thinks ‘No, really, why is that a problem? I’m a dude and I watch movies with Sylvester Stallone and I’m not on steroids. So obviously all this feminism stuff is crud and movies have no connection with self-esteem.”
I wish I had enough fingers and toes to count the ways that is complete bull. If I had a dime for every stupid man-child who allowed himself to be convinced that he is the yardstick by which everyone’s mental stability should be measured… But I digress.
I’ll let Caroline Heldman tell you why that’s a problem (thanks Mr. Bay for asking!)
Normalization of female objectification causes girls/women to think of themselves as objects, which has been linked to higher rates of depression and eating disorders, compromised cognitive and sexual function, decreased self-esteem, and decreased personal and political efficacy. Ubiquitous female sexual objectification also harms men by increasing men’s body consciousness, and causes both men and women to be less concerned about pain experienced by sex objects.
Or Geena Davis
What we found was that in G-rated movies, for every one female character, there were three male characters. If it was a group scene, it would change to five to one, male to female.
Of the female characters that existed, the majority are highly stereotyped and/or hypersexualized. To me, the most disturbing thing was that the female characters in G-rated movies wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as the female characters in R-rated movies.
And then we looked at aspirations and occupations and things like that. Pretty much the only aspiration for female characters was finding romance, whereas there are practically no male characters whose ultimate goal is finding romance. The No. 1 occupation was royalty. Nice gig, if you can get it. And we found that the majority of female characters in animated movies have a body type that can’t exist in real life. So, the question you can think of from all this is: What message are we sending to kids?
Between these two pieces of evidence what I extrapolate is that Michael Bay thinks women are for sex; women are the sexy version of ‘people’ (read: men). Michael bay only has two ‘real’ female characters in his movie because they make a comment about sex (and really isn’t that the only thing they’re good for?). The rest of his characters are male because those are the ‘normal people’ who can be protagonists and accomplish things (who would want to put those things in the hands of a woman? – which is of course where the ‘caricatured mockery of female leadership’ comes in.)
But to answer Geena’s question about this PG-13 movie, what message are we sending to our kids? Because remember, this isn’t like porn where we’re pretending kids aren’t watching. This movie came out just before a holiday weekend, theoretically so families could see it with their middle/high schoolers.
Fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.
Don’t think this movie directly tells little girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice? How about the opening of the movie which follows Girlfriend Girl’s scantily clad butt up the stairs before we even see her face?
I don’t want to attack anyone for enjoying this movie. That’s not my goal. I can concede that a movie can be entertaining and a potentially harmful product of our patriarchal culture at the same time. Many are.
And I don’t want to forget about all the boys and men who are just as hurt by these images as girls and women. This hegemony doesn’t help anyone. Patriarchy is equal opportunity in one way only. It’s willing to hurt you no matter who you are.