Pictured: An image of the Hasbro toy based on the character Topspin, who's featured in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon.'
You might have assumed that Michael Bay learned a lesson when essentially every critic who viewed 'Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen' took him to task for the racist caricatures embodied in Skids and Mudflap, two robots who spoke in hip-hop slang and constantly bickered as a form of comic relief. Maybe Bay did learn something, because 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' looks set to feature a new character named Topspin, who's a blue racer from the NASCAR circuit. Naturally, this means he's sporting a mullet.
It seems as though Bay is hell-bent on continuing his quest to offend various social groups with the "comic relief" in his films. 'Transformers' feels like it's set to become the new Star Wars prequels, only with a revolving cast of potentially offensive stereotypes instead of just Jar Jar Binks. One has to admit that seems to fit Bay's M.O.: Do everything huge and to the extreme.
Then again, Topspin may not even speak or do anything other than assist his fellow Autobot Wreckers, so we're trying not to jump to any major conclusions just yet. However, this description from Wikipedia isn't all too promising:
Here we go again ...
Topspin likes hard jobs that leave him dented. He is very tough, but has below-average intelligence.
Assuming they do decide to play around with the NASCAR stereotypes, what can we potentially expect from Topspin? The mullet-wearing NASCAR connection is bad enough, but if Bay and company hold true to form, what other crass jokes could spring up around this character? Maybe his wife is not only a huge Transformer who turns into a trailer, but also his sister? Maybe every time he comes onscreen we get a taste of 'Dueling Banjos' on the soundtrack? Maybe after a hard day of fighting other Transformers, he comes home, drinks a case of Old Milwaukee, and beats the crap out of his Transformer kids? The potential for laughs is endless. Thank god he doesn't have robot teeth or he'd be missing most of them.
Some will say that we're all reading too much into this – and maybe we are. 'Transformers' is hardly the first film to use cultural stereotypes as comic relief, and some of the other films that have done it are loved by the masses. 'The Simpsons' has been on for over two decades and features not only Cletus the redneck, but Apu (the stereotypical Indian convenience store owner), Bumblebee man (Mexican TV character) and countless others while no one seems to complain about it.
We suspect the difference lies in the quality of the writing. Skids and Mudflap are nothing more than a stereotype masquerading as comic relief. The "humor" is played broadly and without any depth. It's lowest common denominator comedy that's so obvious it's not really amusing. Good humor based on these things has a second level that makes it work – Bay and his writing team never get there with these two characters and it seems unlikely, given their track record, that they'll achieve it with Topspin. If a NASCAR robot sporting a mullet is the best idea they can come up with, this character is probably already doomed.
What do you guys think? Are these caricatures bothersome to you, or is 'Transformers' as a whole so big and dumb that getting upset over characters who portray some potentially offensive stereotypes missing the point? Have we become overly sensitive?