PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Was Megan Fox Right? The Women of 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is another exercise in the one-dimensional portrayal of women for Michael Bay.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Julie White, Kevin Dunn, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Alan Tudyk
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Paramount Studios
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-06-29 (General release)
UK date: 2011-06-29 (General release)

The news surrounding Transformers: Dark of the Moon has focused as much on the dispute between former leading lady Megan Fox and director Michael Bay as it has on the actual film. Even though Fox’s expressions were less than eloquent, and the terms she decided to use were reprehensible, Transformers 3 demonstrates that there is validity to her point about Bay portraying women in a negative light. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call him misogynistic, here are some observations on the film that outline his one-dimensional portrayal of women. (warning: this will obviously entail a few details on the plot, so don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoilered).

The film starts off with a long tracking shot of Rosie Huntington-Whitely’s tanned and toned derriere walking up a flight of stairs. She is Sam’s new girlfriend—the only explanation for the complete absence of Fox’s Michaela is that Michaela “couldn’t deal with it” and left. The first scene also shows that Sam is annoyed that Carly has to provide for him, her “American boy-toy.” He is desperately looking for a job to cover his half of the rent, and the role-reversal is making him so grumpy that Carly readily offers to reward his job of keeping an eye on the house with non-monetary pleasures.

Carly—who despite her obviously mediocre intellectual capacities allegedly worked for the British embassy—now works for Dylan Gould (Patrick Dempsey) at his expensive car collection gallery. It is obvious from the start that she is her boss’ object of desire. All of the pictures in his gallery are of him with Carly, she makes an insane amount of money for what seems to be little work, and he lovingly calls her “Duchess.” Sam immediately feels threatened by Gould, and throws a tantrum because he feels emasculated by Gould’s looks, car, and wealth. Gould later physically takes possession of Carly as well—the connotations of rape are hard to miss when she sits pinned-down in a car with the tentacles of a small Decepticon, commanded by Gould, touching her all over her body, stroking her hair and caressing her cheek.

Once the Decepticons commence their attack on the US, she falls into the role of damsel in distress. Sam rescues her from a building, rescues her from falling off a building, rescues her from a Decepticon or two, and tells her to sit and wait. Amidst the total destruction in Chicago, there she stands on a pile of concrete and metal: Carly, still dressed in an impeccably white ensemble, with flawless makeup, and her heels firmly on her feet. She is pouting her lips, the camera zooms in on her for a good ten seconds, and then she says: nothing. There are a lot of completely unnecessary shots in the film, most of them of Carly giving her already infamous pout. In the end, Carly has a good heart-to-heart with Megatron, but that is the only time we see her embarking upon an action of her own.

The second female character with considerable screen time is Charlotte Mearing, Chief of Intelligence (Frances McDormand). Sure enough, this is a high function for a woman, but Bay manages to quickly reduce her from authoritative commander to clueless commodity. Not only does her decision to assert her authority against Sam and other civilians trying to mingle in classified state-business leads to a near destruction of the world, her authority is further undermined by the hint of a rendez-vous with agent Seymour Simmons. “Your butt is looking excellente,” Agent Simmons tells her when they meet on the base as she is discussing important strategic intelligence. During the credits, Simmons pulls Mearing on his lap and kisses her. Her smile is broad, her hair is down rather than up as in the rest of the film, and everything about the scene suggests that this is exactly what uptight and professional Mearing needed.

Of course there's still Sam's mom, as overprotective as ever. Her advice to Sam that a "woman comes first" (on a sexual level)is framed to draw laughs from the audience, and the character never transcends the 'embarrassing mother'-stereotype.

Another indicator concerns Bay’s selection of leading ladies as such. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is not the best actress (and that’s putting it mildly). Her facial expressions range from pouted lips to, well, insanely pouted lips, and she is savaged in nearly every review. Megan Fox wasn’t the best actress either, yet this is exactly what three crew members called her out on when they defended Bay against her accusations in an anonymous letter: “Yes we’ve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it's very cringe-able,” they wrote. But that actually does nothing to defend Bay. It only suggests that he hired Fox for other reasons than her acting skills. There is nothing wrong with hiring an attractive female lead, but it becomes problematic when it is painfully obvious that looks really are the person’s main gift. Huntington-Whiteley may be an excellent Victoria’s Secret model, but there must have been better actresses auditioning for the part.

"Dare lecture me, slave?" Megatron asks Carly towards the end of the film. With all of the news surrounding the very public dispute between Bay and Fox, one cannot help but to think of their relationship when Megatron utters these words. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film: the visuals are spectacular, there is more humor than in the previous two films, and Bay delivers exactly what viewers will expect after the first two. It’s just a shame that these expectations cannot include a more diversified portrayal of women when his name is on the credits.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.