It’s been an odd couple of days with the reviews for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen coming in like mad – some of them thoughtful pieces on why the film sucked, some insightful arguments about why it didn’t, some simple attacks on Michael Bay for being successful at making a mindless movie with a lot of things blowing up. But perhaps the strangest element to come out of the film is the cries of racism (or just plain lazy writing) being flaunted around the internet.
It all revolves around two characters – Skids and Mudflap – who are decidedly moronic side characters that resemble, well, they resemble some pretty awful black stereotypes. One has a gold tooth, they both talk in a crass urban slang, and apparently most people are shocked to the hilt in a scene where both characters appear to be illiterate. CHUD labeled them “Little Black Sambots,” and I think that’s the most succinct, clever way to put it. Especially because the visual look of them is fairly close to the old-school style of subversive stereotypical caricatures of black people made popular back in the 1920s.
I had a chance to speak with screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman about the issue, and they had some surprising things to say. They’ve already claimed in other interviews that the gold tooth and several other elements were Michael Bay’s idea, but when I talked to them, they moved beyond that to claim they were disappointed by the characters.
Cole: I heard that the gold tooth was Michael Bay’s idea, but do you have any response to those who found The Twins offensive?
Orci: Number one, we sympathize. Yes, the gold tooth was not in the script, that’s true.
Kurtzman: It’s really hard for us to sit here and try to justify it.I think that would be very foolish, and if someone wants to be offended by it, it’s their right. We were very surprised when we saw it, too, and it’s a choice that was made. If anything, it just shows you that we don’t control every aspect of the movie.
Cole: Were you offended by them?
Kurtzman: I wasn’t thrilled. I certainly wasn’t thrilled.
Orci: Yeah, same reaction. I’m not easily offended, but when I saw it, I thought, ‘Someone’s gonna write about that.’”
A fairly level-headed response, I’d say. It will be interesting to see if the outrage about the characters continues, but it’s interesting to know that even the screenwriters of the project were none too happy about the portrayal of those characters within the film.
What do you think?