This Independence Day weekend saw the release of a Harvard study showing that
attending 4th of July parades or fireworks displays “causes” Republicanism. Another
case of American media and the American political class mistaking causation for
correlation as they always do when it suits their agenda (maybe the people who go
to 4th of July parades and fireworks displays are more likely to already BE
conservatives or Republicans). More tax money down the drain.
But we could also ask: does attending the typical July 4th cinema blockbuster
change political affiliations?
For instance, for many years Will Smith owned the 4th of July weekend, with
Independence Day (3 July1996), Hancock (2 July 2008) I, Robot
(16 July 2004), Men in Black (2 July 1997),Men in Black II (3 July 2003). And
after that run we end up with a tall, skinny, caramel skinned, floppy eared,
goofy looking President, not unlike Will Smith. Those slow kids at Harvard
But usually there are additional politics in the typical July 4th blockbuster; they
usually do involve the U.S. military in a violent action film overthrowing sinister
forces. So it’s not just the parades, Harvard, that contribute to political
This is also true, but little noted, in this years Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
A visually compelling film (higher on spectacle than on acting or plot, but boy!
does it have acting talent in it!, Transformers has some unique para-gliding and
parachuting sequences, and many sequences that allude to such previous
blockbusters as The Poseiden Adventure, the Terminator series, and Mars
Attacks! Transformers supplies a huge stimulus to Hollywood, employing
Frances McDormand, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey
(as a villain, almost short enough not to tower over LeBeouf), Josh Duhamel,
Ken Jeong, the returning Shia LaBeouf, (the voice of) Leonard Nimoy,
andSerenity‘s Alan Tudyk as a sexually ambiguous butler who turns out to
have repressed martial arts and computer hacking skills reminiscent of
Summer Glau’s “River” character in the Jos Whedon projects that employed
Some critics have fixated on the replacement of Meghan Fox with a British
Victoria’s Secret model with a hyphenated name as the love interest (and now
mini-Tom Cruise Shia LaBeouf has announced he will be absent from any future
films in the franchise). But there are more noteworthy features. The movie
starts with Shia LaBeouf (reprising Sam Witwickey from the earlier Transformers)
accepting a medal from President Obama (for his saving the earth in the previous
films), only to be given the bum’s rush after the photo op is over. He has a medal
from Obama, but like so many recent college grads in Obama’s economy, he
can’t get a job. (And since gay voters are unsure about Zero right now let me
add: especially bad for gay college grads, who often can’t come out and start
their lives while they are under mom’s and dad’s roof.)
As we follow Sam through his attempts to get a job and end his financial
dependence on an unbelievably hot girlfriend, a plot is exposed. The Apollo moon
landing wasn’t fake, but it’s alleged purpose was — it was really to acquire alien
technology from a crashed Transformer ship on the dark side of the moon. The
bad Transformers, the Decepticons, have been plotting all this time to have
humans get this technology to earth, so they could seize it and use it to recreate their
planet and empire here, using 6 billion humans as slave labor. The United Nations
and various inept American intelligence and military agencies and government
contractors all collude in stupidity to sell the human race into genocide and
They almost get away with it. Chicago (Obama’s Chicago?) is taken over and turned
into literally a city of Machine Politics, and a prototype death camp for humans who
resist enslavement. They are of course foiled in the end, by the pure love of a boy
and his dog…er…alien robot friend.
Do the subtle knocks at Obama and his home city portend anything for 2012?
Let’s see what next July 4th brings.