Variety's David Cohen saw the latest "Transformers" movie — "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" — and filed this report on its reference to President Obama, but not, at least in his eyes, in a good way.
Cohen writes, "So as usual in these movies, the federal bureaucrats are portrayed as annoying if not villainous. The President's man, "Galloway," is a bespectacled blowhard who becomes an obstacle to our brave fighting men and their alliance with the noble Autobots. Operating specifically under presidential authority, he makes all kinds of mischief. He says the President wants to try "diplomacy" against the evil Decepticons and hints the President would consider handing over Shia LaBouf's character to be killed by them. He eventually is ditched by the fighting men (tricked into parachuting out the back of a transport). All this is par for the course in this kind of movie. In the first, there was a Rumsfeldian secretary of defense (played by Jon Voight) and a bit of dialogue from "the President" clearly meant to be Bush, with an obvious Bush impression on the dialogue.
"However, if memory serves, no real politicians were named in the first movie. The SecDef isn't Rumsfeld. The president is not called by name.
"In this movie, exactly one real-life politician is named: "President Obama." They went out of their way to make sure they named the craven, obstructionist president as Obama."
So what gives? I haven't seen the movie, so I am relying on David's take. But it strikes me as a bit unusual given the popularity of the president and the fact that so many people involved in the pic contributed to his campaign.
Director Michael Bay shows no financial record of having supported any candidate in last year's election. Writer Roberto Orci contributed to Hillary Clinton in the primary and Obama in the general, and his writing partner Ehren Kruger donated to Clinton. Along with Paramount, DreamWorks is the studio behind "Transformers," and Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider not only contributed to Obama's campaign, but donated to his inaugural committee. Paramount chairman Brad Grey contributed to Obama in August, 2008.
A Paramount spokeswoman was a bit surprised when I ran this by her, and suggested that not everyone is going to come away with the same interpretation. Update: She also said that the filmmakers' reason for naming Obama was in "keeping the film as current as possible," noting that the movie also makes reference to the swine flu.
Bay was asked about the reference at a recent press junket, and he recounted meeting Obama at an airport early in the campaign and telling him he "liked what he had to say." Asked about the depiction of the president with a dim-witted, "kind of stupid" national security adviser, Bay said, "Remember, it is summer fun, by the way." (video from L.A. Times below).