Michael Bay and Midwest Audiences: A Toxically Symbiotic Relationship

With Transformers: Age of Extinction unsurprisingly rising to the top of the box office chart its opening weekend, Michael Bay continues to prove that the Midwestern audience is his bread and butter. Who else is actually seeing this gasbag of a movie? Certainly not L.A. and New York (or at least not as pervasively). With Bay’s continued success in spite of churning out pure mindless fare, it leads one to wonder if he could exist without this particular section of the United States.

Promotional poster for Transformers 4
Promotional poster for Transformers 4
Like most shills, Bay began his professional career in advertising, creating recognizable campaigns for Got Milk? and Coca-Cola. The man has won a Clio Award, for fuck’s sake. He’s an undercover Don Draper. Bay’s propensity for the corporate and mainstream began around the time he was 15, the year he interned for George Lucas and was convinced he was going to hate Raiders of the Lost Ark based on his perception of the storyboards.
If you're a child of the 90s, you'll easily remember this commercial for the Got Milk? campaign
If you’re a child of the 90s, you’ll easily remember this commercial for the Got Milk? campaign
After taking the cliche film school route, Bay began directing music videos for people like, um, Vanilla Ice and The Divinyls. He attracted the notice of powerhouse producers Don Simpson (of Flashdance and Top Gun fame, so, in short, the height of cheesy 80s movies) and Jerry Bruckheimer (who has been around as long as Don Simpson, but is most famous for producing The Pirates of The Caribbean series), leading him to direct his feature film debut, Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Had Bay decided to stay this “modest” action route, there might still be something respectable about him.
An incongruous photo from behind the scenes of Bad Boys
An incongruous photo from behind the scenes of Bad Boys
The box office cachet of Bad Boys jumpstarted Bay’s film career, and he would subsequently go on to direct The Rock and Armageddon to conclude the 90s. It wasn’t really until the 00s that his overzealous penchant for action went somewhat off the deep end. 2001 signaled his distinct ability to appeal to Midwestern culture by directing Pearl Harbor starring Ben Affleck and featuring a song from Faith Hill. The pomp and circumstance has intensified ever since, primarily with his Transformers film series. And it seems unlikely that he’ll ever be without an audience so long as Middle America has anything to say about it.