Friday, October 22, 2010

On toy robots and masturbation

OK, it’s actually just an excuse for another retro review, but hey, how long will it be before somebody googles that exact phrase? (If that was you, by the way, welcome!)

So, Transformers then. Big action movie, fun special effects, every Hollywood cliché in the book, Megan Fox as eye-candy, and a happy ending. If any of that tickles your fancy, you probably saw this already, and if it doesn’t, you don’t care. So why, I hear you ask, are you blogging about a movie whose sequel has already been blogged to death?

Well, out of curiosity as to what the greater Christian public actually makes of films like this. There is, it must be said, a lot of good stuff in the movie – as with any good movie of this kind, the heroes are there to demonstrate self-sacrifice, justice and defending the weak, as well as looking cool and kicking Decepticon butt. This is all good. There is a lot of violence and reckless destruction of stuff, but it’s all cartoon violence, there’s no gory stuff and the body count is not excessive. Our hero, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is an ordinary teenage guy, who just wants a cool car and a hot girlfriend. Although some may consider this shallow (and rightly so), it’s also realistic. That’s what teenage guys want out of life. OK, so I generalise, but that’s a moot point, as during the course of the movie Sam discovers more noble traits like friendship, honour, and bravery, and generally matures over the course of the movie. Again, all good.

Although some Christian reviews I perused took issue with Sam’s shallowness, there did seem to be a problem with the sci-fi elements. In the movie, the good and bad Transformers are looking for the ‘AllSpark’, the means by which they were given life. It seems to me you can take this one of two ways; either it’s an allegorical version of God, or it’s a grotesque blasphemy. As this is just a story, surely it would be better used as an allegory, a way to teach children about the creation of man, than blamed for encouraging them to grow up worshipping robots? Yes, kids will want the toys, yes they will fantasize about worlds inhabited by shapeshifting robots, but I expect most will know it’s not real. And really, is there anything wrong with imagining – or even believing in the possibility – that God created life elsewhere than on this random chunk of rock we call home? And, at the risk of leaning towards the grotesque blasphemy, that such life may be completely unlike ourselves? I guess I’m just biased though.

Oh, yes, you were wondering when I would get to that bit weren’t you? Yes, there is an awkward scene where Sam’s parents think they’ve caught him masturbating, and a conversation about his special alone time ensues. Yes it was unnecessary for the plot, and unsuitable for children of a certain age, but films have ratings for a reason after all (in the case of Transformers, 12/PG-13). I suppose it may have given the teenage audience a slightly embarrassed moment of humour, but in its defence, the moral outrage it caused among Christian movie-goers probably saved the sci-fi elements from more of a bashing.

My take? Sam is a teenager. OK, most mums wouldn’t tackle the subject quite the way his did, but treating it as taboo, and calling it the ‘M-word’ in your internet review, are not going to make it go away. I don’t have the answer, but in our increasingly sexualised society (see Mikaela in this movie for an example) we shouldn’t be walking out of films that mention it, and we shouldn’t be ignoring it.

Hence, I suppose, my title for this post :)

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