Monday, 29 June 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #314: The Secret of Michael Bay's Success

You know, I used to be befuddled by the success of Michael Bay. His films are loud, annoying, and with stories buried and sometimes completely lost under the incoherence of big eye-popping visuals.

For years I laboured under the concept that Bay did not direct films, but instead put all his energies into directing the trailers. Creating melodramatic imagery for the ad campaigns, but not bothering if the story made sense or not.

Well, I now think I was only partly right. (You see, I'm never wrong)

I think Bay's success is based on an unspoken invisible contract between him and the audience, one that cannot be articulated by either side, but each sort of understands that it's there. This invisible contract is based on something that Hollywood claims to revere, but in fact abhors: rebellion.

Yes, I've come to the conclusion that Michael Bay is the last rebel left in Hollywood.

I can read you're mind, and you're thinking that I've lost mine. Well don't worry, just let me explain, and everything will come clear.

In Hollywood, everything is about conformity, especially among those that Hollywood considers rebels. Just look at them, they all wear the same designer tattered clothing, have the same artfully messy hair, the same tattoos, and the same stereotypical vices. They're sort of person you meet at a bar who lectures you about how you're a slave to corporate consumer culture while they're dragging on Phillip Morris cigarette, and downing Seagram's brand liquor.

These are safe rebels, and no matter how much they deny it, they're corporate friendly rebels. Their style and lifestyle ensures their dependence on the largess of their corporate masters. They'll make fun of the beliefs and attitudes of the general audience, making jabs at religion, middle class mores, and their so-called "consumerist" culture, while never challenging the innate hypocrisy within their own social circle.

They'll take the occasional jab about their employers, but that's actually preferred by their masters, because it makes them feel like they're one of the cynical post-modern cool kids, hanging with the rebels with the wild hair and clothes and joining in on "sticking it to the man."

It's all phonier than an studio executive's expense claim.

Michael Bay makes no pretense of sticking it to the man, in fact, he goes swanning around like he is The Man. His image is of the cocky, arrogant, I'm Michael Fucking Bay and you're not, who still has the same haircut and dress sense he had in the 1980s, and he isn't going to change just to fit in with the other messy haired pseudo-rebels.

He knows that he's never going to win an Oscar, or even get nominated, or even a good review from a major critic, and he doesn't seem to give a shit because he's literally making Optimus Prime-loads of cash and those who don't like him or his films can kiss his probably well-toned behind.

Just look at his recent ad for M&Ms, if that isn't a great big "eat me" to his critics, both cinematic and personal, I don't know what is.

(Add the fact that he's a peanut M&M makes it all a Freudian festival.)

He's not rebelling against the middle class mores that they themselves live by, he's rebelling against the snobbishness and insularity of Hollywood itself. This drives Hollywood nuts, spawning a mini-industry of Michael Bay haters, who can't stand him, or his movies, resent that most of them make a lot of money, and that he's doesn't want to be one of the "cool kids" preferring to just be one of the "rich kids" and rubbing it in. He goads the haters even further, making his films, and his own image, bigger, louder, and more obnoxious every year.

The audience catches this vibe from him, even though they can't articulate it, they go to his movies, knowing that while his films only offer spectacle and may insult their intelligence, they're not going to insult their existence, like many so-called "smarter" films, and that making it a hit will really bug those who claim to know better. This makes the audience Bay's ally in his one man war on Hollywood's shibboleths, and sells tickets by the boatload.

So, to sum it all up, the secret of Bay's success is that he's literally the bug up Hollywood's ass. It's really that simple.


  1. Too True.... was at Botcon 2009 and they surprised the audience with a Michael Bay appearance. I expected him to be arrogant and take the fans for granted but he didn't. Here were the most rabid fans and the man had the guts to preview some of his film and talk with us.

    According to Mr.Bay had this to say to the fans of his latest film.

    The 400 critics around the globe spoke. Then fans around the world spoke.

    Transformers made $60.6 million dollars in the United States for a total of around $100 million from the world on opening day! One of the biggest single days in movie history.

    Then never seem to understand that I make movies for people to take a ride and escape.

    To all the Transformer Fans - Thank You


  2. Mr. Bay made a contract all right, and signed it in blood.

    The fact that audiences flock to his pie pan deep, hostess twinkie movies is a sure sign the idiotocracy is upon us.

    The red guy with the horns is giggling like a school girl.

  3. People like K or moviebob only seem to prove your point further. Bay's success must mean that the audience are idiots (and how often have you blasted Hollywood for that very attitude?). There's never the possibility that this is capitalism at work. The audience wants something, Bay is selling it to them while the rest of Hollywood isn't.

    I just can't hate Bay, and your post helped me realize why: The complete lack of pretension. Sometimes all you want is pure, dumb fun.