Things To Do Instead of Transformers 4…

Transformers: Age of Extinction recently came to Netflix. Yay!

And I sat down and watched it… Yay?

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Reviews the world over have pretty much panned it, so I can’t add to that. Instead, here is a non-comprehensive list of things you can do instead should anyone suggest watching it even for Bad Movie Night:

  • Literally nothing – Sit in a reasonably comfortable spot, stare at the wall, and do nothing. Don’t even think. Through this, you run a small risk of entering a Zen-like meditative trance and experiencing Enlightenment. Meanwhile, there is no place in the infinite reaches of the multi-verse where this is possible by watching Age of Extinction. The potential drawbacks (including DVT and existential dread of wondering why you’re doing this) are the same in either case here.
  • Watch 9 Songs – Until very, very recently, if anyone asked me “what is the very worst film you’ve ever watched?” I would answer, without a beat, 9 Songs. It’s pseudo-pornographic crap held together by the worst the 2000s’ Indy music scene has to offer and some additional supposedly-deep and meaningful claptrap about ice cores. I can’t quite remember the details, I mostly recall a strong feeling of “Thank Christ that bullshit is over” at the end of 9 Songs and a desire to get wasted to blot it out. It is still better than Age of Extinction.
  • Get a prison-tattoo – With a blunt needle. And infected ink. Of a swastika. On your genitals. It’ll be an actual good story to bring up on a first date, and may give you a sense of achievement.
  • Read John Knox’s Monstrous Regiment of Women or some of John Norman’s Gor series – In either of these cases you will find a better, more progressive, enlightening, balanced and respectful treatment of women than you will find in Transformers: Michael Bay’s Ode To Statutory Rape.
  • Watch the YouTube video of all the dinobot scenes from the movie – If you watch Optimus riding Grimlock while wielding a sword, your inner Transformers fanboy will certainly be sated. You can then watch this for two-and-a-half-hours on a loop and pretend it’s part of a much better story that makes actual sense.

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  • Experiment with auto-erotic asphyxiation – A lot of people say it’s terrible, and it’s absolutely not worth the risk. And they also say that it could actively damage or harm you. But hey, a lot of people like it, and do it, and say it’s worth it if you’re into that sort of thing. But enough about the fourth Transformers movie, give a strangle-wank a try.
  • Find an internet comments section and read it – Like “doing nothing” this has a small, but finite, chance of causing enlightenment.
  • Floss your eyeballs – This entirely fictional health tip is likely to cause a lot of confusion and discomfort, is totally unnecessary and will make you question what you’re doing and why you took this advice. The same thing will happen as you watch Michael Bay slowly pan over an underage teen’s hotpants while openly discussing how she’s getting the D from a 20 year-old. Except after this, your eyes will at least be a little cleaner.
  • Figure out of Mark Wahlberg is a net-positive to humanity – Wahlberg is the best thing about this movie. He acts his little pudgy nose off fully realising all the dimensions (all none of them) of the flat, motivation-free character the writers bestowed upon him in Age of Extinction. So good. On the other hand, Planet of the Apes. So fuck me. On the other hand, Ted. So good. On the other hand, Ted 2. So fuck me. Then try to fit Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch into that puzzle. It’s likely that 2 hours 45 minutes later, you may have come to an answer satisfying enough that you could write it up and submit to a sociology journal.
  • Inject marijuana into your nipple and breastfeed your partner – I just can’t find this one in my copy of The Encyclopaedia of Unusual Sex Practices. So if you do manage to do this in the space of three hours, it’s three hours well spent pushing back the boundaries of human imagination.
  • Listen to Linkin Park – All of it. Every album. Track their slow decline from nu-metal superstars to post-modernist, self-mythologising “Artistes of Some Description”. You also get to hear their contributions to the Transformers soundtracks, which I kinda like in an easy-listening, non-offensive, wouldn’t-throw-a-brick-at-the-DJ-if-they-played-it-in-the-10pm-slot sort of way despite the general flat, triteness of those three songs. You also get to throw yourself to your knees and scream along to Numb like you’re still 15 and hate your parents. And that’s basically Jailbaity McJailbaitface’s entire character development in Age of Extinction.

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  • Watch the first (live-action, 2007) Transformers movie – hey, it’s a big dumb blockbuster tent-pole release, but it does exactly what it says on the tin: giant freaking robots kick the shit out of each other for a bit. And thanks to Speilberg’s “a boy and his car” concept, actually gives it a human dimension that may make you give a shit about the characters as they run and scream from the destruction on screen. Yes. I feel this film is actually good. In fact, watch Dark of the Moon instead, that also holds up as vaguely-coherent entertainment. Don’t watch Revenge of the Fallen, however. See the rest of this list before sticking Revenge of the Fallen on. In fact, watch Age of Extinction before Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Or fuck that, watch the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie – You get G1 Optimus not acting like a murderous psychopath. You get Galvatron. You get Unicron. You get the Dinobots. You get ‘You Got The touch’. You get the death of Optimus Prime, too. You get Orson Welles for fuck’s sake. Sure, it’s an objectively kinda-not-that-good film, and, yes, the animation is dodgy as all hell, and yes, it’s painfully ’80s, but you can watch it twice in the space of 2014’s offering.
  • Write a blog post reviewing a bad film – Hell, it’s working for me right now. I’d say this is 2 hours 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but in reality it’s 2 and a half – because the only reason to sit through the credits is to find out which writer needs shot as an example to others.
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How Not To Apply The Cherry Picking Fallacy

First, this was going to be a Facebook comment – then I couldn’t be bothered to get into a fight.

Then it was going to be in one of those status things – then it got incredibly long.

Now it’s bloggified and going here for permanence and posterity. I had such high hopes for more productivity this afternoon… feel free to ignore this. It’s just a rant. An intentionally absurd one, I must add.

The subject is Game of Thrones. Yes, I am a fan. Yes, I love it. Yes, I watch it through exactly the same method as everyone else in the world. The specific subject is Oberyn Martell’s scene in the brothel from the first episode of season 4. GoT has never shied away from what has been dubbed “sexposition”,[1] so while for some people this scene was shocking in its horrifically objectifying treatment of women, for fans it was Sunday. Actually, the biggest shock for me is that it took 12 minutes to get to the boobs. The writers are slipping.

So here’s the accusation I’m going to respond to: that this is a cherry picking fallacy, and that it’s such a fallacy because everyone ignores the fact that there was a male prostitute in the scene,  therefore there is no actual objectification of women going on.

But this is bullshit. It is not cherry picking. It’s nothing of the kind.

First, “cherry picking” refers to selectively using data to support your conclusions while knowingly ignoring evidence and data detrimental to your case. E.g., medical studies where you look only where a medicine worked and not at where it failed.

So far, so obvious.

Unfortunately for this argument regarding objectification, the existence of a male prostitute in a scene, who is also treated like shit, isn’t detrimental to the fact, observation and commentary that women are being treated as shit in the same scene. It just isn’t – it’s not a balancing act and it’s not a numerical question. All this says is that there were characters of both sex/gender being on the submissive side of a scene. Whoop-dee-do, have a prize for spotting that. If we’re talking about one set of effects, and one set of examples, and only looking at those examples, it’s not cherry picking to seek out those examples and those examples only. If I want to find out something about Fords, it’s not cherry picking to ignore the Vauxhalls because the existence of Vauxhalls doesn’t magically cancel out what I’m looking for in Fords. The top speed of an Astra doesn’t change the top speed of a Focus, the treatment of a male character doesn’t change the treatment of a female character. There’s no magical cancellation going on because a male character gets put in the same situation (well, not quite the *same* if you watch it, but let’s ignore the nuance of a more convoluted power structure in that scene for now).[2]

But let’s assume this was a numerical question, and therefore the existence of an apparently contrary piece of information did, in fact, cancel out the cherry picked examples. In that case, we’d need to assign numbers to it. If you can’t, then you can’t do the balancing, you can’t do cherry picking, you have to show that one thing cancels the other equally to get an overall total. Since the hypothesis begs the question of equality anyway, we may as well use equal weighting and each character gets |1|. If there’s a male character in power in the scene, let’s call it +1, and if there’s a female character in power, add -1 to the total. Similarly, if a female character is treated like shit, it’s +1 and a male character being treated like shit is -1 (see how that works, if we end up in positive numbers at the end, men are in power, women are overall being treated like shit).

Now, I know what you’re thinking – presuming you’re a sensible person. And I agree with you. Of course this is absurd. It’s the most absurd approach to this you could make. But I didn’t call it cherry picking, and I never implied that this is how it works. If you want to accuse someone of cherry picking, you need to be prepared to make this sort of balancing act out of the non-picked examples – and if the balancing act is absurd, then the accusation of cherry picking is absurd.

If we then add up the numbers in said prostitute scene from Game of Thrones, we have Oberyn, which is +1 and then Ellaria who counts as -1 (again, assuming non complex power dynamics between those two). So the characters in power in the scene balance out to zero. Next we have three female prostitutes, which is +3 and one male prostitute, which is -1.

Oh… oh dear.

We can see things don’t balance at all in this case. Even if we don’t “cherry pick”, the numerical data comes out as +2. Overall, mathematically, women are being treated like crap in that scene. There you go.

Yes, it’s a dumb-ass argument to make. It really is. And I agree the above is totally stupid. But hey, if someone is going to call a fallacy in a dumb-ass way, they have a dumb-ass response coming.


[1] I don’t actually think this objectification of women is a problem in the series, per se – because the series’ treatment of women is never depicted as an objectively “good thing”. G.R.R. Martin never presents Westeros as some idealistic paradise – it’s a brutal shit hole. Contrast John Norman’s Gor series to, say, the rape of Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium series – both depict women on the receiving end of significant abuse, only one says “hey, this is awesome!!”. Depiction is everything, and endorsement is the issue that needs looked at. But I do totally and emphatically object to people thinking it isn’t a problem for bad reasons, and then dismissing criticism out of hand. Certainly the outright dismissal, without any consideration at all, of the sex and exploitation in the series as something that only whiny people complain about is a bigger problem than the actual sex and exploitation itself! This is because it’s evidence of how entrenched our view is that it’s okay to treat women badly, it’s okay to find any excuse for it. No one seems to want to say “look, this is a bad thing and the series treats it as a bad thing, and we should be mature enough to accept that as some sort of fable and not as an example to follow”, but plenty of people seem willing to jump to “oh, it’s just entertainment” or “oh, look, a man was treated badly too therefore it’s okay”. No it’s not okay because of that, that’s not the fucking point. Anyway..

[2] Oh, while I’m on a roll with magical cancellation effects that don’t exist – the blood and violence in GoT don’t magically cancel out the sex either. They’re different, unrelated things. If anything, the lack of complaints towards the violence demonstrate society’s desensitisation to it. If you want to see what society’s desensitisation to the ill-treatment of women looks like, read up on the Steubenville rape case where the female victim was treated like a nasty slut who deserved it while her abusers were treated with “oh my, what ever will happen to their football careers?!” sympathy. You know, that sort of shit.