'Bumblebee': How 'Transformers' finally nailed the strong, female lead with Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie Watson
In the 'Transformers' films, so far the female characters have been as important as the furniture in the background — at most, they've been the object that made the men look good
While we've loved Sam Witwicky running around all over the 'Transformers' films, there's always been one thing missing in the franchise — the presence of a strong female character who fights just as hard. In all of the 'Transformers' films so far the female characters have been as important as the furniture in the background - but not all hope is lost, thanks to 'Bumblebee'. Through Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie Watson the franchise is finally giving us what we've yearned for this whole time — a strong, female lead.
Charlie Watson plays the protagonist in the film; a teenage girl who finds and befriends Bumblebee and all then hell breaks loose. While not much is known about the character at this point, the trailer makes one thing very clear - Charlie fights neck to neck with the Transformers and Bee, in the same way, that Sam Witwicky, Will Bill Lennox, and Cade Yeager always have. Charlie will not be a passing mention in the story, unlike what we've seen in the franchise so far, but will actually be more than someone's love interest, wife or daughter.
Steinfeld, having played multiple strong leads in her career, will definitely ace this role. Her acting skills don't really need many words — she has been nominated for multiple awards and accolades including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and four Critics Choice Awards, winning one for Best Young Performer.
It all started with the scene in the first 'Transformers' movie that appeared to have started a chain reaction. The 2007 movie featured the famous car scene with Megan Fox, where she's bent over the hood of Sam's car, trying to fix it. It catapulted Fox to the spotlight and also ended up becoming the standard to which the rest of the female characters that came after her were reduced to. If you check out the credits to the film Fox is described as Mikaela Banes, the love interest of Shia LaBeouf's character and nothing else.
For the third film of the series called 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon', Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was brought in as Sam's next love interest, Carly Spencer. Her opening shot in the film features Carly in an oversized shirt, walking coyly to Sam's bed and then straddling him after gifting him a bunny. She was described as smart and savvy, but unfortunately, the film only tells us about her thigh gap.
Then came Nicola Peltz, who was just a twist to Mark Wahlberg's character as Cade Yeager in 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'. She played Tessa Yeager, Cade's teenage daughter, that the film brought in to replace both Mikaela Banes and Carly Spencer. Then in 2017, 'Transformers: The Last Knight' in came Laura Haddock's Viviane Wembly, a Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford among other things. The character description was so refreshing at first - but unfortunately, she too ended up becoming nothing but a hot woman in the film, who always dressed to the nines.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that 'Transformers' has always used generically sexy women to up its sex appeal. In the first two films, it has also subtly used the female characters to make the hero Sam look good. What's worse is that the later movies have described them to be more than just love interests but have failed to make them anything but just that. The objectification in 'Transformers' is real.
Never forget those good days of Meghan Fox and transformers hype pic.twitter.com/Jfd2rOT5dU— Mackenzie T. Hoglund (@MHoglund9) January 27, 2014
In an interesting observation made by Vulture, it becomes very clear how the female characters have been treated by the films so far. They are either introduced legs first or behind first, there's chatter about just how hot they are and the women are always seen fleeing the scene of the action scared for their lives.
All of the 'Transformer' films are directed by Michael Bay. However, along with a real heroine, 'Bumblebee' also changes directors bringing in Academy Award winner Travis Knight to sit on the director's chair - and the reviews are glowing. Screen International calls Steinfield's character "smart, vulnerable and nuanced" as opposed to "objectified". Total Film says, "Charlie spends more time under cars than draped over them. Charlie plays like a bid to call time on the hot-pants fetishism of Bay’s era."
While 'Bumblebee' may be the first spin-off of a franchise that's older than a decade, it is definitely a step into the current times. The Autobots finally have a female leader, who is just as badass, strong, determined and brave, if not more, as all of the Sam Witwickys put together.
'Bumblebee' hits theatres on December 21, 2018.