My name is James Strocel. I have been a card-carrying Transformers fan ever since Generation 1 in the 1980’s. I say the following of my own free will. I will not be spending any money to see “Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen” this Summer. If I do so, I would be positively reinforcing actions that are a detriment to the world economy and my enjoyment of giant fighting robots. I would like to present the following as evidence in support of this stance.
While I did pay money to see the first transformers movie, I came away with a number of caveats. First of all, the story seemed to revolve around the human sidekicks more than it did the Transformers who I actually paid to see. Don’t get me wrong, history is full of examples where robots play prominently in a human-centred story-arc. The anime serials Gundam and Macross come to mind. However, the human story in this case surrounded Shia Lebeouf getting to first and a half base with Megan Fox. It seemed as though the writers felt that people would have trouble relating to the titular robots of Transformers, so they added all this extraneous filler to entice people who had already paid their ticket to watch a movie about robots. I was hoping that for the sequel, the good folks at Paramount would get their act together and give the Transformers the screen time they deserve. This will not be the case. The trailer at screened at the Showest film festival spent over one and a half minutes of a two and a half trailer explaining how Shia wanted to leave his transforming corvette at home so he can go off to college and be “normal”. Words cannot begin to describe what’s wrong with that statement.
The first Transformers film grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide. Anyone poke holes in my rationale by saying that Michael Bay is just giving the fans what they want. He doesn’t have to listen to me, an actual fan, because he has the numbers to tell anyone who doesn’t like his human interest stories to go to hell. If that’s the case, then I have some numbers of my own to show.
The Dow Jones has lost 50% of its value over the past year. The cascading effects of bank insolvency and freezing on lending has led to over $14 trillion dollars worth of companies being shut down. How did we get to this point? By pleasing two sets of people, prospective homebuyers unable to pay their mortgages, and investors looking for high risk and high return investments. Banks made billions by giving sub-prime mortgages to the first group and selling to the latter. People got what they wanted, but did they get what they need? Not by a long shot.
Designing our entertainment or any other product around “giving people what they want” is killing industries left and right. Pontiac finds out that people “want” extra plastic and spoilers on their cars, so they make a car like the Aztec. Papers make more money from advertising than from actual paper sales, so the pages are stuffed to foie-gras goose proportions with ads. If you run a business and are just “giving people what they want” you are abdicating your responsibility as an entrepreneur. When you try to engage all this marketing mumbo-jumbo by testing random samples with no vested interest your business, you are only fooling yourself. Entrepreneurs have a duty to make their products the best they can be, no matter what the polls say. People’s needs have remained the same for thousands of years, but what an entrepreneur does is take a small piece of the universe, be it coffee, toothpicks or even the laws of physics that allows your iPod to work and fashions it into a new frontier to satisfy those age-old needs. It’s like being in a tribe of hunter-gatherers and knowing which ridge leads to the best wild game. It would put you on the fast track to becoming chief hunter-gatherer. The very best entrepreneurs educate people. They know how to get the most benefit out of their products and they pass that knowledge on for a nominal fee.
I realize the philosophy of “giving people what they want” is not going to die over night. My absence at the theatre will be bearly noticed, and I have little hope of getting others to join me. However, we keep saying over and over that we need leadership to get us out of this crisis. We think that the leadership is going to come from our elected officials. I think that we’ll find that leadership in a decent cup of coffee, a well-made camera, or movies that don’t insult our intelligence. If we support decent leadership where we find it by our simple consumer choices, we support the very ideas and strategies that will get us out of any economic crisis.