I know this post finds most of you a week after the stunning new trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight dropped, but I still have to get my feelings about it because I cannot stop watching it! The visuals are amazing! Mark Wahlberg is back in action as Cade Yeagar, everyone’s favorite Transformer fighter since Shia LaBeouf! There are explosions and even some transformers that look like Star Wars TIE Bombers! But there is one thing that stands out in this trailer that made me leap out of my chair, an act that violently caused my headphones to yank out of my ears, and scream in excitement: Girl Power!
The girl power comes in the form of 15 year old sensation Isabela Moner, playing the character of Izabella(I love the decision to change her name just enough to make it different, but still easier on the actors around her who have so much else to remember with such an air tight script of lines to memorize). I know many of you probably got that chilling feeling in your spine when her voice over began, and they revealed she was looking right at the camera. I loved this decision. It lets us know she is talking to us. And it’s not some bullshit found footage “if you are watching this, then I’m already dead” crap. These are cinematic shots with that trademark Michael Bay color and lighting so you can barely see the person’s face, but at least know they are sweating. Isabella looks us right in the eye, right in the soul really, and tells us that we were stupid for thinking she ran and fought like a girl.
The arrival of what appears to a female led Transformers may finally end the recent rash of patriarchy in Hollywood. Women are consistently kept out leading roles in major films, the glass ceiling in full effect. To put it in perspective, let’s take a look at Disney’s historical box office year in 2016 in which they had the top 5 grossing movies worldwide: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Zootopia, and The Jungle Book. Those films combined for over $5 billion in worldwide revenue, but of those 5 releases, only 3 of them featured females in the lead role. 2015 was barely any different, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road being basically the only two movies to prominently feature women in key action roles. I think we would all agree that those movies did not get the notoriety they deserved, and the characters did not look at the camera enough to remind us of their feminist mission. Like Emily Blunt’s character in Edge of Tomorrow, these heroines resorted to things like actions and body language to display their strength.
The one shining light in how major studios handle diversity is their handling of gay characters. Disney deserves a basically never ending round of applause for the decision to make LeFou gay in their live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. This is such a big move for them. Taking a character that is obsessed with another man in the original version of the story, and announcing that he is gay in the new version is revolutionary. Sure, he may be a totally insignificant, fat, bumbling, brow-beaten, non-independent thinking stooge in the movie, but look at the end when he dances with another man. Disney did it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Batman or Iron Man making out with another man within the next year. Now if we can only stop OTHER-ing women.
Finally, as John Rocha of Collider pointed out, Izabella gives young girls, especially young Latino girls, someone to look up to and be inspired by. Young people need someone who looks like them or hails from the same place in order to be inspired. I mean, as a baseball playing child of the late 90’s, I aspired to be like Ray Lankford and Vladimir Guerrero because I judged them by their performance on the field, but I can only imagine how much greater my drive would have been if my home town St. Louis Cardinals had more white outfielders.
HUGE steps forward that need to be applauded. Now if we could just do something about the terrible White-Washing in Marvel Netflix’s Iron Fist. How dare they cast a white man as one of the richest Americans in the world! Does that really represent the race of our country’s wealthiest? On top of that, he practices martial arts and Buddhism! Can you believe that? His skin is white! How can they have him adopting Buddhist principles? Only an Asian American actor can bring that perspective to the big or small screen. And martial arts?! There’s a reason my parents call me once a year and apologize for letting me take Taekwondo in 3rd grade. I was not Korean, so I had no business being in those classes. Netflix should be ashamed. A person from a historically non-Buddhist race and country adopting Buddhism is simply not interesting. Life of Pi was amazing when an Indian man was also Catholic, but this sucks! Long way to go people.