Transformers – a film about robots from space that can change into cars and trucks – was released just prior to the July 4th. The storyline is that evil robots have come to destroy earth. Good robots team up with the
On the face of it, Transformers would appear to be a film directed at the pre-teen male audience, but I’d like to examine some of its underlying assumptions. The story starts with American military forces in
Initially, the Pentagon is unsure as to who the enemy is. The brass ask, is it
Eventually, the evil robots are exposed as the source of the attack on Earth. Of course, the good robots come to the humans’ rescue. In this, they are aided by the
Air attacks are not as accurate as they are portrayed. Non-combatants, including women and children, are often killed by air attacks. Homes and neighborhoods, shelter, water and sanitation, people’s livelihoods are destroyed. In the military parlance, this is called “collateral damage.”
It is estimated that since the March 2003 assault on
So, here is another assumption in Transformers, that high tech weaponry is a good thing, and that it is only used to kill the bad guys.
At one point, we witness a good robot doing amazing things. Well, who could have come up with such clever gadgets? “It’s probably Japanese,” the hero says. Then a good robot does something even more amazing. “It’s definitely Japanese.” Perhaps this is intended as an in-joke for those who are aware that Transformers started as a Japanese toy in the 1970s. The TV programs were effective advertisements for the toys.
Let’s take a little closer look at the assumptions here. Japanese aren’t demonized in the way that, say, North Koreans or Iranians might be. (Indeed, former Prime Minister Koizumi deployed Japanese troops in
If anything, the Japanese might have been responsible for building good robots. In the end, it turn out that both the good and bad robots are aliens from outer space – but powerful weapons are manufactured by “our side” aren’t labeled WMDs.
Perhaps it is useful to view Transformers as a parable about the role of militarism and the weapons industry in our present-day mythology. The evil robots are akin to WMDs in the hands of rogue (Axis of Evil) nations. The good robots are akin to “our” high-tech weaponry. Transfomers serves as a morality play for the next generation to be taught the lies of our times.
2. Nick Turse. Did the
3. Gilbert Burnham,