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more than meets the eye

Does Michael Bay Allow Robot Racism to Thrive in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?

For a movie that features Decepticon testicles, a "lap dance by a Decepticon posing as a nymphomaniacal freshman," and John Turturro in a G-string, we're not surprised that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is currently saddled with a 20 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, the newest opus from director Michael Bay (Armegeddon, Playboy Video Centerfold: Kerri Kendall) will likely prove itself to be the very definition of a "criticproof" movie; it pulled in some $16 million at midnight screenings last night and industry estimates have it headed toward an opening 5-day weekend in the $160 million to $175 million range. However, Michael Bay is coming under a bit more fire than usual from critics for this film, and it's not just because it's big and dumb and loud (which, by all accounts, it is). Some are alleging that two of the robots in the film, twin Autobots bearing the name Skids and Mudflap, can be viewed as racist stereotypes.

Movieline was the first to take note of this, in a post published last week, where Kyle Buchanan pointed out that the two robots "are voiced in a way that clearly designates them to be the 'black' robots. Also, Skids has a gold front tooth (no, I’m serious) and both cannot read." Whoops! For those of you who just experienced visions of Jar Jar Binks dancing through your head, you're not alone: Both New York's own David Edelstein and the New York Times' Manohla Dargis picked up on the same thing, the latter noting that the characters' voices were "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."

Not yet having seen the movie ourselves, we can't exactly weigh in on whether Skids and Mudflap actually exhibit racially insensitive behaviors. For what it's worth, though, Michael Bay isn't having any of it. "Listen, you're going to have your naysayers on anything," he told the AP. "It's like is everything going to be melba toast? It takes all forms and shapes and sizes." Um, we're not as well versed on the culinary arts as our brethren over at Grub Street, but we're pretty sure he meant to say "vanilla" and not "melba toast." Still, we're going to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on this one, mainly because we're fairly certain that he was way too preoccupied with inventing new and exciting ways for the camera to linger on Megan Fox's breasts to even realize that people might be offended by a couple of illiterate, "jive-talking" robots.

Jive-talking twin Transformers raise race issues [AP]

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount