Transformers 4 And The Great Michael Bay Gender Equality Tease
A surge of intrigue rippled through the blogosphere this week when a rumor hit, sourced from the barest of suggestions (a secondhand casting breakdown), that Michael Bay's fourth and allegedly final outing with the Transformers series might revolve around the rarest of Bay creatures: A female heroine. Sad, yes — Bay's filmography is so male-driven, his portfolio so stacked with binders full of supermodel-hot leading ladies, that even the slightest move toward gender equality in Bay's work force warrants an onslaught of hopeful speculation.
That's not to say Michael Bay has that much in common with Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney. One's a clean-cut Mormon Presidential candidate who appears to think in unfortunate Eisenhower-era terms of sexual politics, the other is Hollywood's reigning alpha male blockbuster guru with an eye for explosions and hot ladies, and who was once described by an actor — lovingly so — as a barking dog.
Well, they both have good hair. But these two white male millionaire Americans converge this week the most when it comes to talking about the roles of women in their respective worlds of film and politics. Could it be Michael Bay is really making room for a strong female star in his testosterone-fueled oeuvre?
The rumors trace back to a flimsy two-sentence report on SpoilerTV:
It looks like Transformers 4 will have 2 new leads.
The new female lead that they are looking for is a high school senior and her boyfriend a Texas racing driver.
Many bloggers picking up the story focused on the latter sentence, extrapolating that it meant Transformers 4 will revolve around a female protagonist with a male love interest — the opposite of the three Shia LaBeouf + Megan Fox/Rosie Huntington-Whitely films to date. Understandably, the notion is promising. Enough with LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky saving the world with his robot pals and a hot lady on his arm — bring on the scrappy (but most likely model-gorgeous and stick-thin) female lead to save Earth, or the galaxy, or whatever!
Consider it wishful thinking by way of selective reportage, if you give SpoilerTV's clumsily-worded report any credence at all. For starters, it clearly states two new leads — beside which Fox and Huntington-Whitely were technically "female leads" even if they payed second fiddle to LaBeouf.
It sounds more like Bay's trying to reboot the franchise with a new dynamic romantic duo fans can root for, and lust after, like they did for LaBeouf and Fox at first but never quite did for LaBeouf and Huntington-Whiteley, Fox's supermodel replacement. Maybe this "high school senior" and her "Texas racing driver" boyfriend will fight evil robots together, as equal partners on equal footing, although he already has a leg up on her with the mere fact that he has a vocation useful for fighting in a war with giant robots who turn into cars and she's technically a schoolgirl.
Look at Bay's filmography and not one film has an actual female protagonist, though he's got a memorable lineup of female leads/love interests under his belt: Tea Leoni in Bad Boys, Liv Tyler in Armageddon, Scarlett Johansson in The Island. His eye for the female form is undeniable, and moreso in his earlier films, translated to casting talented actresses in their popcorn movie breakthroughs.
But Bay did surprise with his latest project, the modest (by Bay standards) true crime tale, Pain & Gain. Not another CG-heavy spectacle, and not a film stitched together from the wet dreams of a 12-year-old boy, the forthcoming black comedy stars another group of muscly men (it is about thugs who meet at a gym, after all) including Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, and Kurt Angle. Rebel Wilson, one of the cast's lone women, plays a key role and is a terrific hire on Bay's part.
Still, when I asked her in a recent interview what she'd learned most about her director, she noted that "he loves push-up bras" and shoots Victoria's Secret commercials for fun.
So let's hope that Bay's turning over a new leaf and embracing a more progressive attitude toward the female characters in his movies. It's entirely possible that he could use his whirling hero shots and explosiony adventures for good, to introduce strong new heroines into the cinematic landscape. I'm just not terribly optimistic that it'll happen in Transformers 4.