Transformers – a film about robots from space that can change into cars and trucks – was released just prior to the July 4th. The storyline is that evil robots have come to destroy earth. Good robots team up with the U.S. military to defeat the evil robots.
On the face of it, Transformers would appear to be a film directed at the pre-teen male audience, but I’d like to examine some of its underlying assumptions. The story starts with American military forces in Qatar under attack from an unknown enemy – which is, as it turns out, an evil robot. Indeed, in real life, Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar serves as the forward headquarters for Central Command – from which the U.S. military conducts its current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see a platoon survive the initial attack to defend Arab villagers from another evil robot. So, the first assumption is that the U.S. has an unquestioned right to project its military in other people’s lands – and that it is there for the benefit of those other people….
In the end, it turn out that both the good and bad robots are aliens from outer space – but powerful weapons are manufactured by “our side” aren’t labeled WMDs. Perhaps it is useful to view Transformers as a parable about the role of militarism and the weapons industry in our present-day mythology. The evil robots are akin to WMDs in the hands of rogue (Axis of Evil) nations. The good robots are akin to “our” high-tech weaponry. Transfomers serves as a morality play for the next generation to be taught the lies of our times.