Monday, July 30, 2007

Transformers: More than meets the eye

While others were off paying homage to dramatic and comic greats the likes not seen since Homer, I was catching up on my pre-Three Weeks movie watching in the form of Transformers. I didn't have a strong desire to see the movie and had been wondered how, though quite cliched throughout it's advertising campaign, it could prove to be such a powerful box-office draw. Could there be that many dorky kids that grew up in the 80's around? (A. Yes)

In short, I found Transformers to be the most important piece of U.S. foreign policy engagement since Rocky. While the movie was most certainly about really cool big cars turning into even super-cooler big robots, it was also about American self-perception utilizing our finest ambassador, Hollywood (where, in general, there is a sort of transitive property between hot women, cool cars and vigorous policy disputation).

While the current administration has taken many important steps to ensuring stability and security, it has also generated many moral and esteem deficiencies. Though our efforts to reinstate calm have been largely successful, we have done so using policy and rhetoric which is less than righteous. We have tortured, we have abducted, we have threatened, we have raped, we have murdered, we have sown chaos. As these years have not kept to the pristine mythology of American values of conflicts passed, I believe people are really questioning the premise of American moral high ground (as presidential hopefuls like Joe Biden point out). To add to that, we have lost much of our sense of economic security as the manufacturing hub of the globe, particularly manifest by the precipitous loss of confidence in our auto industry. For years it was this dominance that was the hallmark of American economic supremacy.

Along comes this movie. Standard summer cinematic fare with silly humor, gorgeous women, things that go BOOM and big shiny cars. In this movie however, all the cars are manufactured by GM. I can't remember the last time I looked at a GM car and felt car-lust. This movie did it--it instills a confidence that American manufacturing is still vigorous. The movie is also closely coordinated with the US Military and Lockheed Martin, Lockheed and GM using their own resources to keep the movie under budget.

The movie depicts with action-packed scenes of American soldiers fighting along side arabs in Qatar, it shows the incompetence of American intelligence, and the resourcefulness of American ingenuity. It even shows wrongful torture (albeit of a robot). All these issues cut to the core of the contemporary American political discourse. By the end it is clear that Megatron and Opitmus Prime are conducting a micro polemic on American values. Do our errors show us to be malevolent and evil or do our aspirations show us to be good? Obviously, because it is Hollywood America wins and we are proven to be good and we do redeem ourselves. The movie also pokes fun at President Bush asking for a twinkie in the middle of a crisis and ends with a sarcastic endorsement of government vigilance and transparency. It knows what it is trying to do, and it wants to lay blame on the deserving, but at its core the movie serves as a reflexive apology of American values to ourselves and the world.

Proof once again that people know what they need when they buy it :)


Yehuda said...

I am sorry to hear that you feel the need to apologize for American values, especially as a student of Political Science.

Zev said...

I meant apology as in a defense or rebuttal. This guy in Greece did it a while ago, and it went pretty well for him. You may have heard.

Josh M. said...

Only if you like hemlock.

meg said...

Have you read Melani McAlister's book Epic Encounters?
I thought it was a really good analysis of the relationship between American foreign policy and Hollywood films.
No Transformers, but she does hit both The Ten Commandments and '80s/'90s action flicks like The Siege.