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Michael Bay Defends ‘Transformers’ Racial Stereotypes

June 24, 2009
Mudflap and Skids

Mudflap and Skids

Among the criticisms leveled at Michael Bay’s rock ’em, sock ’em Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are charges that two of Bay’s secondary robot characters, Mudflap and Skids, promote offensive racial stereotypes. The director doesn’t disagree — he just doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

Lest you think that these critics are being hopelessly, knee-jerkingly PC, consider the following: The comic-relief robots have enormous jug ears and bug eyes. One of them has a gold tooth. They speak in a high-pitched, rapid-fire drawl that calls to mind Chris Tucker and the Wayans brothers (as reported here by Erik Davis, the voices were done by black actor Reno Wilson, and comedian and voice talent Tom Kenny, who also voices Spongebob Squarepants). Their “street” dialogue runs along the line of one of them suggesting “popping a cap” in another robot.

“We’re just putting more personality in,” Bay told the Associated Press. “I don’t know if it’s stereotypes – they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors. This is kind of the direction they were taking the characters and we went with it.”

Mudflap and Skids are hardly the only thing that critics are finding wrong with Bay’s sequel, but in a film that’s chock-a-block full of things to hate, it still stands out as one of the most egregious botches. In her review in the New York Times, critic Manohla Dargis wrote that the characters speak with “conspicuously cartoonish, so-called black voices that indicate that minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood as when, well, Jar Jar Binks was set loose by George Lucas.”

“I purely did it for kids,” the director said. “Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.”

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One Comment
  1. nmezib permalink

    Yeah, that reminded me of the first movie, in which the Pontiac Solstice autobot (Jazz?) spoke in urban, black, “ebonics” dialect

    it pissed me off even more when I saw that he was the only autobot to be killed.

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