Nicola Peltz, who plays Tessa Yeager in the latest Transformers film
When we first meet Tessa Yeager, the female protagonist of Transformers: Age of Extinction, she's naughtily video-chatting with a mysterious man. When we next see her, she's being sized up by a leering friend of her father's who calls her "hot." And with her flowing blond hair, shimmering makeup and killer gams—helpfully showcased in cut-off shorts roughly the width of a headband—it's hard not to gape right along with him.
Oh, and did we mention she's 17 years old?
It should come as no surprise that the fourth installment of this Michael Bay-directed, toy-peddling franchise is mind-numbingly, astoundingly, even dazzlingly awful. From the money-grubbing Asian market pandering, to the blatant racism (to recap: black people are loud; Asian people like haikus and kung fu), to the product placements that are almost satirical in their utter shamelessness, there's much to lament in the film.
Let's not overlook some impressive dialogue: "My face is my warrant" and "when you look up at the stars, think of one of them as my soul." Or some real character gems like John Goodman as a cigar-smoking robot who says "bitch" a lot. Oh, and then there's a waterboarding joke.
But out of all this insufferable crap, as a self-respecting woman, it was undoubtedly the underage-hot-babe trope that was hardest to stomach.
Beyond the initial ick factor of a high-school girl being blatantly sexually objectified (at one point, she man-handles a stick shift with lusty glee), she's paired up in the film with a 20-year-old boyfriend. And—I kid you not—he carries around a laminated copy of a Texas statute sanctioning their technically illegal relationship. Because toting around a defense of statutory rape in your back pocket is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Young or not, the movie also makes sure its damsel is in distress as much as humanly possible—thereby allowing her dad and boyfriend to jostle for the right to "save" her. As a rough estimate, I'd say her time on screen is split 50/50 between gratuitous shots of her rockin' bod and scenes of her crying out "Save me!" or "Help me!" while pounding on things and crying. At one point, her boyfriend "valiantly" shouts this line to her dad: "We're not going to save your daughter—we're going to save my girlfriend!" (Glad we settled that territorial dispute.)
It's one thing for a movie to be bad—and good lord, is Transformers: Age of Extinction bad. It's another for a movie to sanction 1) the sexual objectification of underage girls, 2) statutory rape, and 3) idiotic women who need strong men to save them.
Let's just hope the film does so poorly, there is no excuse to perpetuate these dangerous stereotypes in yet another film. Oh wait, what's this? The movie made $100 million over the weekend? Michael Bay is already working on two more films?
America (and yes, I include myself in this, for lining misogynistic pockets with my hard-earned 10 bucks): We have no one to blame but ourselves.
Image: Wikimedia Commons