By Tara M. Clapper, The Geek Initiative’s Senior Editor. Initially published on The Geek Initiative
Optimus Prime makes a big mistake in the latest “Transformers” movie: he defends humanity. This installment proves even more regressive than “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” formerly my least favorite movie. Since the last film was tolerable and my husband is a fan of the animated “Transformers” series and movies, I decided to give the fourth installment a shot.
Typically I adore plots that involve characters defending humanity – whether it’s an alien robot like Optimus Prime, the president in “Independence Day,” or the god of thunder. Unfortunately, all of the humans in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” fail to prove they are worth redemption.
Not Dating Him, LOL! He’s My Dad!
The human side of the story begins in Texas, complete with idyllic sunset. There, we meet Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). But there’s a catch – the relationship between Cade and Tessa is ambiguous at first until we realize Cade is the widowed parent of Tessa. There’s nothing wrong with the age difference (it’s great to see a young parent who supports his daughter), just that it’s presented so you may first assume the two are dating. Additionally, Tessa’s uncle figure makes more than one creepy comment about her before their relationship is established as well.
Women Are Objectified Again. And Again…
Male characters objectify women throughout the film. We are led to believe this is pretty much their purpose in good old Texas, but the primary objectification occurs with Tessa as the subject…or rather, the object.
Tessa primarily serves as character development for Cade and Shane (Jack Reynor), her tan Irish racecar driver boyfriend. The two spend most of the movie fighting over what Tessa is allowed to do, who she belongs to, and who is worthy of protecting her. They seem to disagree with what the 17-year-old should be allowed to do with her body. Tessa, of course, just stays quiet except for the occasional ‘but daaad,’ and lets the men decide her fate in all regards.
There were also some fake bots that looked suspiciously like Arcee. Bumblebee refers to these fake bots as ‘things.’
Even when Cade tells Tessa she wasn’t a mistake (because she was unplanned), he makes sure to remind her that she’s the best thing that ever happened to him.
Tessa Is a Victim
Tessa serves as a victim in most of the film. She’s a victim of:
- Her mother’s death
- Her father’s lack of responsibility
- An agent pointing a gun at her within the first 20 minutes of the film in order to make her father cooperate
- Robots, robots, and more robots – somehow everyone else can roll out of the way but for Tessa, who remains paralyzed with fear
- While restrained, she is nearly a victim of alien tongue penetration – yes, it really does get that rapey
- Denial of education as she is rejected for a collegiate scholarship
- Fear of heights, despite the male characters’ innate ability to traverse suspended cables in moderate winds
- Men deciding who is responsible for her while she isn’t even awake
The Role of Tessa
If Tessa had a role other than victim or possession, her character might be redeemable. I spent most of the movie vacillating between ‘she’s already so weak, I hope they don’t fridge her’ to ‘now she’s just annoying; put her out of her misery.’ Not only did I lack sympathy for Tessa, she just seemed intentionally helpless. No wonder the men were fighting over who had to bear this burden of protecting the farm girl.
That’s the thing, though – in the beginning of the movie, Tessa finds out that she doesn’t get a college scholarship. She doesn’t even tell her father; instead, she starts to justify staying at home because no one else is there to take care of her father. He doesn’t even notice she’s upset.
At least she has a role – she cooks and makes sure he has food and she cleans the house. While it isn’t what she wants out of life, it’s something – except in true Michael Bay fashion, her house blows up less than 15 minutes later, leaving her without the backup role of homemaker.
The movie has a lot of white people in it and many Asians who fit neatly into stereotypes (especially martial arts master). Aside from a few random agents, the film contains no African-American actors…except for one. He’s just a tiny robot guy with a ‘black’ accent. He gets trapped and experimented upon and when a white man of authority is tired of hearing him complain about it, he electrocutes the robot to make him stop talking.
The little robot, meant to be comic relief, becomes free – and declares he’s “free at last” – because nothing says ‘it’s not racist, he’s just a robot’ like a racially exaggerated, electrocuted robot blatantly quoting/mocking Dr. Martin Luther King.
Confusion in Humor
At various points in the film, I think some of the characters’ misogynistic comments are supposed to be exaggerated; unfortunately, the blatant sexism taking place in the ‘who possesses Tessa’ trio makes it nearly impossible to tell exactly where the line is drawn – if there even is one.
Sexism in Language and the Vagina Monster
“Don’t bitch out on me.” This is one of the more disturbing lines in the film. What’s even better – Tessa’s father is the one who says it to her boyfriend. What’s more disturbing is that Wahlberg not only agreed to say this line multiple times, but brought his wife and children to the movie’s premiere.
Someone else gets called a bitch – this time by Hound (John Goodman). He lays out the curse while he’s taking care of a villainous vagina monster – that is a vagina dentata alien who offended him by ejaculating fluid onto him.
Michael Bay Films…Now With More Machismo!
I’ve heard it before. Us pesky feminists, always complaining about how women are treated unfairly when men endure so much. Well, Bay’s film has something to offend you as well, especially if you happen to be a less-than-perfect-looking bearded dude or a guy not working in a high level of government. Anything other than that – including a large chunk of the film’s demographic, I imagine – is a stooge. Several ‘normal guy’ characters (including male scientists) are portrayed as not manly enough.
He Who Has the Biggest Peen
So who actually gets to decide what Tessa does with her life and her body? Her dad. That’s because he’s the one who strokes the big giant
penis sword first.
What I Liked About This Movie
- Very occasionally, some women in the movie had heroic moments. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed by the rampant sexism of the males.
- Dinobots and explosions are cool.
- The poor editing was hilarious. One moment, Cade’s crying out about injustice and two seconds later a bad cut scene reveals his sudden serenity.
- Despite being in a survival situation, Tessa is sure to find some time to make sure her nails are painted a trendy periwinkle about three-fourths of the way through the movie. Obviously she has her priorities straight.
Trivia – Possibly Unrelated, But I’m Thinking No…
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger once worked as an executive assistant at The Fox Network, also known as the company that airs Fox News and the company that canceled “Firefly.” Draw your own conclusions.
(Re-published with permission)