It’s been apparent since long before Sheryl Sandberg that corporate feminism was nothing but an ill-fitting mask on capitalism’s old familiar face. But it’s never been quite as apparent as it is in the mind-boggling new trailer for Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight, in which 15-year-old actress Isabela Moner conspiratorially tells prospective Transformers viewers, “Yeah, I fight like a girl. Don’t you?” If this sounds like the same empowering message Always was using to sell sanitary pads to Super Bowl audiences two years ago, that’s because, well, it’s exactly that. If your feminist message can be effortlessly co-opted by Paramount Pictures to sell tickets to a Michael Bay movie about robots that turn into cars, maybe it’s not all that feminist a message to begin with.
Or maybe it is! Maybe it’s cynical to look at the close-ups of Moner glaring with determination in spite of her mussed hair, like Felicity Jones or Daisy Ridley (or for that matter, at the shameless shot of hundreds of Darth Vader’s TIE fighter rip-offs taking flight) and think “I guess Paramount wants some of that Rogue One money.” Maybe Michael Bay is sincerely trying to remove the stigma from the phrase “ike a girl and help women out, just like Always, just like Dove, just like Virginia Slims. Don’t we owe it to all the brilliant women in our lives to take him at his word and see his movie? In that spirit, here’s a tribute to all the fun, fearless women in Michael Bay films of the past, and just a few of the amazing things they’ve accomplished … like a girl!
Be a Trophy For Men to Win … Like a Girl
Who knows why actress Vanessa Marcil didn’t appear in this iconic scene where two male actors talk about her as a literal prize for winners? Probably Michael Bay gave her paid maternity leave or flex time or something.
Stay Home and Cry While Men Save the World … Like a Girl
Girls can’t go to outer space: They’re just too busy being fearless! Sure, Liv Tyler’s character didn’t get to help save the world from the astroid, but maybe she got to stare at a bull on Wall Street.
Paint Motorcycles With Your Butt Hanging Out of Your Cutoffs … Like a Girl
A lot of people who work with paint wear baggy clothes to prevent paint from getting all over them. As Megan Fox showed in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, those people are cowards and probably men. Today’s women have confidence in their motorcycle painting ability, and Michael Bay is exactly the right director to salute this strong, motorcycle-painting, cutoff-wearing generation.
Walk Around Like You’re Wearing High Heels Even When You’re Not … Like a Girl
Rosie Huntington-Whitley took over Transformers duties once Megan Fox left the series after comparing Michael Bay to Napoleon and Hitler in a single interview. (Both men famously rolled back women’s rights, so Bay may have taken this personally.) But with Fox gone, Bay needed an empowering way to introduce his fun, fresh new heroine to audiences—and what could be more empowering than the invisible high heels she’s apparently wearing in the opening shots? Bay’s revolutionary decision to frame Huntington-Whitley from the waist down—short-circuiting the male gaze by denying it even a glimpse of her model-perfect face—is a tiny, mincing step forward for every woman tired of being judged by her appearance.
Date an Older Guy Who Carries a Laminated Copy of the Age of Consent Laws … Like a Girl
Who could forget the charming scene from Transformers: Age of Extinction in which a 20-year-old man shows off a laminated copy of the portion of Texas’ age of consent laws that he believes (mistakenly) allows him to sleep with a fierce, funny, fearless 17-year-old girl? This movie was released in 2014.
We’ll have to wait until June 23 to get the full power of the next installment of Michael Bay’s Feminist Odyssey, but it seems clear from the new trailer that he is more committed to viewing women as equals than ever before. The alternative—that vague messages of empowerment severed from concrete political goals are so meaningless that even Michael Bay can co-opt them—would probably open up a whole can of worms. So instead of considering it, we’re gonna just take this new trailer at face value. Maybe the next Transformers movie will solve racism!