Remember back in 1999, when the world went DOG NUTS over Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace”???
It wasn’t because he was one of the most annoying movie characters of all time . . . even though that was pretty much true . . . but because he supposedly embodied negative black stereotypes.
Well, a similar controversy is beginning to grow over two robots in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”.
The robots are named Skids and Mudflap. They transform into compact Chevys, and they basically spend all their screen time fighting with each other, and bickering in “jive” or “ebonics”, if you will.
They also can’t read . . . and one of them has a gold tooth.
Not surprisingly, some people say these robots are reinforcing negative African-American stereotypes . . . and they’re not happy about it.
“New York Times” film critic Manohla Dargis says the characters were given, quote, “conspicuously cartoonish, so-called black voices that indicate that minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood as when Jar Jar Binks was set loose by George Lucas.”
And Tasha Robinson, associate entertainment editor of “The Onion”, adds, quote, “They don’t really have any positive effect on the film. They only exist to talk in bad ebonics, beat each other up and talk about how stupid each other is.”
Like Lucas before him, Michael Bay is defending his jive robots. He says, quote, “We’re just putting more personality in.
“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.
“I purely did it for kids. Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.”
He adds, quote, “Listen, you’re going to have your naysayers on anything. It’s like is everything going to be melba toast? It takes all forms and shapes and sizes.”
Controversy or not, “Transformers” opened huge on Wednesday. It grossed $16 million from midnight screenings alone. Theaters around the country added extra early-morning shows to meet the demand . . . and those figures haven’t even been counted yet.
That puts “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” third on the list of all-time highest-grossing midnight screeners. “The Dark Knight”, not surprisingly, holds the record, with a midnight take of $18.5 million.
In second place is “Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith”, with $16.5 million.