How I Was Betrayed By Michael Bay

Many of you have heard of the movie Dr. Strangelove. That movie’s full title goes like this – “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Well, you can consider this post entitled “How I Was Betrayed By Michael Bay or: I’ve Had Enough of these Hipster Mormons They Make My Head Hurt Please Stop.”

Let’s talk about Michael Bay for a moment.

Bay is probably trending right now to some degree, given that his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is out (he produced it, but did not direct it).  I don’t want to talk about TMNT, though (I haven’t even seen it). I want to talk about another of my childhood franchises that he bastardized – Transformers.

In trying to describe exactly what Bay did to the Transformers movies, a Kotaku editor had the following to say:

“Imagine if the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles movie had only 3 turtles…

“And their names were Dave, Frank, and Tom…

“And they weren’t turtles, but frogs…

“And they weren’t ninjas. They were accountants. Or perhaps aliens?

“That’s what they did to the Transformer movies.”

If you’re wondering what Transformers should be like, think… Band of Brothers. With alien robots. And explosions.

(Admittedly, I see how even those things start to create some tonal distance from the Band of Brothers series, but you get my point. Besides… tell me who wouldn’t love to see that movie.)

What makes it so much worse than simply watching a bad movie is going into those Transformer movies blind and expecting so much more, expecting to see Band of Brothers with awesome alien robots and huge fiery explosions, and getting… robot testicles.

This is the guy. You want to see the offending parts, you can go watch the movie.

Blech.

Contrast that to what Christopher Nolan did with the (fantastic) Batman reboot. He didn’t recreate the comics shot for shot – not by a long shot – but for the most part he still stayed true to the characters and foundational themes. Turns out, his films rock.

The Hipster Mormons

Why are Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan on my mind, you may ask?

It’s because of all these freaking hipster (my word) Mormons.

I’ll be the first to admit that the “hipster” moniker is a little unfair, and most of the folks I’m thinking of when I say it would probably object.

But the part that throws me – and the reason that “hipster” fits, at least in part – is the way that they almost celebrate their edginess and their non-conformity, building communities and maintaining boundaries and essentially defining themselves as alternative-to-the-conservative and counter-cultural. They’re not boring, cookie-cutter Utah Mormons – they’re the cool Mormons that tell it like it is and aren’t hung up on 1950s morality, AMIRITE! Up top!

But that’s not even the part that bums me out. People can believe and write whatever they want. There are plenty of folks that think us Mormons are one flavor of crazy or another.

Remember Michael Bay? This is about expectations.

The part that bums me out is having my expectations dashed by robot testicles.

This is About Expectations

“This is about expectations.”

You should have read that phrase now four times in about as many lines. I feel like I must reiterate this so that people don’t yell at me. This isn’t about judging those with fringe opinions. This is about describing my disappointment when I feel let down by trusted information sources, and I have every right to write about my own experiences.

So there.

Here is what happens.

I start following a blog or podcast because of a post or two that really resonate with me. The blog or podcast builds up street-cred with me over time, and I eventually come to trust their expertise. Plus, they’re Mormon – they believe the same kinds of things I do.

Then one day, *BAM* – in a post discussing an address by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I’ll read something like this:

“Obviously, I disagree with Elder Nelson’s approach to this issue. Same-sex marriage is not a threat to traditional marriage but an expansion of its definition.

“And while I agree with him that “history is not our judge; a secular society is not our judge; God is our judge” I am also aware that in this case, secular society may be well ahead of my own church in its compassion toward those who are different.”

And there, just like when I sat through the Transformer movies, I feel the sucking pit of betrayal.

*it hurts!*

The author, Jana Riess, continues (somewhat demeaningly),

“Well, here’s a concept: I can be a disciple of Christ and a supporter of nontraditional marriage. In fact, I can support nontraditional marriage precisely because I am a follower of that good shepherd, the one who preached compassion.”

How did I even find this post? Why, from the innocently titled blog The Cultural Hall Podcast! It’s cited by the Cultural Hall Podcast’s August 18th Mormon News Report as “in-depth” commentary.

*oh! -more pain!*

I don’t necessarily expect (or even want) the fluff I might get from the Deseret News, but I definitely don’t expect an endorsement of this – an I’m-tired-of-being-the-Mormon-minority-so-excuse-me-while-I-go-all-good-shepherd-on-your-behind rant.

You might call foul when I say “endorsement,” because of course they just report the news, but why include this at all? (it’s a rant, remember?)

If they feel they must include it to maintain journalistic integrity, where are the links to blog posts in support of the address? If it’s too early to see those kinds of responses, where are the links clarifying the position of the Church?

There’s no balance.

And maybe they’re not going for balance, but heck, they’re not even going for a reasonable critique (And I love critique! It gets me thinking!). They’re going for “Here’s someone who is pissed that apostles are still talking about same-sex marriage and who claims you can still be Christian and disagree with them.”

And Riess? Heaven forbid she link to a report of the address in something like the Deseret News. Instead, in true boundary maintenance, she links back to the Cultural Hall Podcast synopsis of it.

That betrayal hurts.

In the end, I guess that it’s not really a problem. It just means that anytime I head over to Riess’ blog or The Cultural Hall Podcast, I’ll pause and think, “Oh, that’s right,” before taking anything they say at face value. “This re-imagining of Transformers has robot testicles.”

Continued in Part 2. (Part 1 is meant to be fairly stand-alone. Part 2 just includes a few other thoughts that made a single post a little too long.)

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