What's a summer tentpole without a little controversy?
The guaranteed blockbuster is barely 24 hours out of the gate and already much ado has been made over twin autobots Skids and Mudflap from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, whose over-the-top, hip-hop-inspired vernacular and stereotypically black-sounding voices are, at best, racially and culturally insensitive and, at worst, grossly ignorant and offensive.
Meanwhile, the movie blog UGO suggests that the Transformers sequel has something to offend everyone—Muslims, Asians, Jews, Italians, Scots, German, the French, women...but that's another story.
The main focus of the latest round of finger-wagging (George Lucas, who unleashed the subservient, suspicously accented Jar Jar Binks on unwitting Star Wars fans in 1999, can identify) are Skids and Mudflap.
When they're not going incognito as Chevy concept vehicles, they sport gold teeth, can't read and cite their place of origin as "da hood."
The New York Times' Manola Dargis describes their voices, provided by Tom Kenny and Reno Wilson, as "conspicuously cartoonish" in a way that indicates "minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood" as when The Phantom Menace reared its head 10 years ago. And AP critic Christy Lemire referred to the autobots as "Jar Jar Binks in car form."
But most (if not all) critics ultimately swept the inane characterizations—which we should really file under "action-script laziness" more than anything else—into the greater cinematic garbage pile along with the rest of the film (minus the kickass CGI effects, of course).
And, as CinemaBlend's Josh Tyler reminds us, Skids and Mudflap are more than "a collection of every bad stereotype imaginable, not targeted at any one ethnicity."
Like Jar Jar, they're simply annoying.
Audiences will continue to argue the various levels of offensiveness Transformers provides. If the ethnic stereotypes don't get you, something else probably will, whether it's the inordinate amount of skinniness among the actresses or one character's "pubic-fro head."
But as was the case with Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, the biggest sin here is that an obscene amount of money was spent building a bombastic visual spectacle atop a flimsy, cliché-ridden script.
Oh, and make sure to watch for our story this weekend about Revenge of the Fallen smashing June box-office records.