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[personal profile] weber_dubois22 posting in [community profile] sam_mikaela
I FOUND THIS REALLY INTERESTING PIECE on Tumblr.com by a user named ayries when searching through the Mikaela Banes tag and it brings up some really interesting (and fairly obvious) points about the erosion of Mikaela's character in Revenge of the Fallen and as a whole.

PT. I:

(c)ayries.tumblr.com
Mikaela was mostly picked for me as a challenge to myself. The other two characters come from canons I am very invested in and are characters who are amongst my favourites to come from, well, any piece of media in recent times: Mikaela comes from… the Transformers films. And yes, I like them and all but they are not in my ‘quality’ box, is all I’m saying.

But you know, fanfic can be very persuasive about a character. The first thing that needs to be said is: people really hate Mikaela.

It’s not really expressed in the way that a lot of character hate is from what I’ve seen, though. A lot of them would say they don’t hate Mikaela. Instead people simply dismiss her as nothing more than a ‘hot body’; as not a real character. And look, okay- the Transformers films are not known for being subtle masterpieces of character portraits, this is something else we need to get straight first.




But while most of the framing of Mikaela’s character is intensely sexist and terrible (thanks, Bay, really- and more on that in tomorrow’s post), somehow- and I legitimately am confused as to how- Bay managed to make a female character who was… actually quite good in her own right.

If we actually watch the first film, Mikaela is arguably a lot more competent than Sam. For a start, she’s less inclined to complete blind panic whenever anything goes wrong. She’s pretty sensible, and also there was that time she beat a robot to a pulp, which automatically makes you pretty cool in my book to be honest.

Also, for all that the films don’t give much attention to it (something I’d be more charitable about because Transformers rarely gives a crap about human characters if it weren’t for the sheer volume of attention given to Sam bloody Witwicky), she has a pretty interesting story behind her. She used to nick cars with her Dad and she has a record because of it (though she never let herself forget the skills it gave her), and she has trouble being happy in relationships because the men condescend to her and try and stifle her interest in mechanics, and for that matter she’s another character I’m writing about who doesn’t let an interest in ‘male’ things stop her from caring about typically ‘feminine’ things like romance and fashion and such.

Now, I once read an article which highlighted Mikaela as an example of a Strong Woman (rather than a woman who is strong)- and firstly, I should point out that I did actually broadly agree with that article (though I disliked the idea this was all she was). Which sounds strange, given that I clearly love her, but I’ll explain in a moment. Most of the above things are geared towards male entertainment and I think this context is important to consider. She likes cars because OMG A HOT CHICK WHO LIKES CARS- she likes girly stuff too because it keeps her hot to straight men- etc. It’s not treated as something to flesh her character and desires out, it’s there for Sam, the male audience surrogate, to find awesome. She’s marked as Strong without it being shown.

But. This is, again, a framing device issue, not a character issue; it isn’t the traits themselves, it is the way in which they are presented. And while I do find it reasonable to dislike a character framed terribly because they’re hard to enjoy, I also think that it’s totally legitimate to argue that Mikaela as a character is therefore not really as flawed as she might seem on first view.

I mean, in the first film, she straps a gigantic robot to a truck and drives him around the middle of a battlefield so he can shoot OTHER gigantic robots. That is awesome. Is that the best sentence in the English language? Quite possibly.

While it’s true her role in the second film mostly revolves around her relationship with Sam, she does successfully capture Wheelie and, though it’s been a while since I subjected myself to RotF, saves Sam from Alice. (Which is a scene I have… a lot of problems with, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. Anyway, it’s a girl saving her boyfriend, and that itself is awesome.) She doesn’t take any BS and is vocal and clear about her own desires, and is quick to tell Sam when she’s not happy with where their relationship is going. She ensures that it’s not just happening on his terms, which again, is something I was surprised to notice when I started watching this film through again because it’s just… not what I expected at all.

I haven’t seen Dark of the Moon yet- I’m waiting for DVD. I do know that Mikaela isn’t in it after Bay treated Megan Fox like shit (I may take issue with a lot of Fox’s… remarks… on some things, but good for her on refusing to take this lying down), and I also know that Mikaela is the one who dumped Sam. I have no idea if this is used to retroactively paint Mikaela as a ‘bitch’ compared to Carly, but overall, it makes a lot of sense to me- when it comes down to it, Mikalea is consistently presented as way more competent and mature than Sam in the films, and a hell of a lot less sheltered; I like to think of it as her having outgrown him more than anything.

Mikaela, you deserved a better film series. You’re pretty cool, and I don’t care what anyone says; you are a ‘real character’. (Also, you have some of the best fix-it fic I’ve ever read.)

PT. II
Ah, Transformers. How you frustrate me

If X-Men: First Class wasn’t a great film, Transformers isn’t even a good one.

Again, we’re talking as a piece of cinema here, whatever I may find appealing about Transformers personally. Especially the second one. Pacing? What’s that? What do you mean, find a focus and stick to it? Character development, plot development, plot structure? WHAT ARE THESE THINGS?

One of the major problems is that Mikaela, as a character, revolves almost wholly around Sam. For obvious reasons, this is sexist, but it also just plain drags the quality of the film down overall. Anyway, this is especially evident in the second film. While in the first there is at least a certain amount of attention paid to Mikaela outside her relationship with Sam (when she gets more physical/less panicky than him, her mechanical expertise, her criminal record)- not so much in the second.

I complained briefly in my last post about her that I felt not enough attention in particular was given to her backstory and how she felt about it (because it is seriously a million times more interesting than Sam’s entirely sheltered life); this is in full swing when you look at Mikaela in terms of her position in the story structurally. So little of her as an individual is given any prominence or followed up on, despite the fact that Sam is arguably overexposed and for the record, I feel you could have fixed one of the biggest problems these films are accused of with this. Distribute their focus a little more evenly and people might have gotten a bit less sick of the human characters taking focus.

Another way Mikaela’s character was mistreated was the massive sexualisation. To be honest I have little to say here that is smart. Michael Bay, knock that shit off. End of. I don’t need endless shots showing how OMGHAWT!!! Mikaela fixing a car is. She should be fixing cars because it’s a good character trait, not so straight fanboys can drool. (This becomes so much worse when you realise that Bay had Fox audition by filming her washing his car. And started with the sexualising her thing at FIFTEEN.) This ties into the ‘she’s framed as a Strong Woman, not a strong female character’ stuff I mentioned. Everything is for the consideration of the heterosexual male audience.

There is one specific scene I want to talk about briefly: where Alice (the ‘human’ Transformer/Pretender/whatever she was supposed to be) attacks Sam. I haven’t watched that scene in a while (RotF is not a film I rewatch in full), but I seem to recall some stock ‘jealous angry girlfriend takes it out on the poor defenseless boyfriend’ shit going on. This is bad because a) the scene is framed in a way that I can’t take as anything but assault when everything is revealed, done and dusted (and that’s bad enough- yay victim blaming?), and b) because it portrays Mikaela as lacking any common sense at all. She was a Decepticon! I don’t care how much you like that ridiculous ‘omg haha overbearing girlfriend!!!’ bull, Bay, nobody is going to think their boyfriend is deliberately cheating on them with an evil robot.

Seriously.

I can’t remark upon the way her absence in Dark of the Moon is dealt with, having not yet seen it. Still, do people feel it was dealt with well, or was she retroactively smeared? Anybody got an opinion to chip in with?

Honestly, the ways the narrative mistreats her, and specifically mistreats her as a woman, are so blindingly obvious in these films it almost makes them hard to talk about. She deserved so much better than Bay’s Transformers. I live for the day she becomes a canon immigrant of sorts and makes it into some kind of actually remotely good canon.

SOURCE #1 + SOURCE #2

Date: 2011-12-21 02:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] femme4jack.livejournal.com
I read these earlier, and both summarize my own feelings on Mikaela in a manner far better than I could express. I see her as a REALLY good character who was framed horribly by a misogynistic director on behalf of a misogynistic culture. I have taken it as a personal mission to celebrate her in fanfic and show her to be strong and competent. To me, Mikaela is wonderful despite Michale Bay's attempts to make her nothing but a body to look at and a decorative reward for Sam.

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