Posted by: markfender | March 19, 2013

Transformers

You may have noticed that I post a lot of pictures of robots on this blog. But I don’t like the Transformers.

Autobots_Logo_by_theseventhshadowIt actually took me awhile to realize this (today, in fact). Because I should like the Transformers. It’s a whole planet of robots. That’s amazing. But it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that I’ve always had issues with the Transformers and that I don’t actually like them.

It started when I was a kid and was buying the toys. Nominally, as Robots in Disguise, these things are supposed to transform into innocuous earth vehicles. Some of the toys were a little suspect in that regard (A Lamborghini fire chief vehicle – in what decadent ’80s town was that a thing?) but you sorta forgave them because they were toys. But what the fuck sorta vehicle is Blurr supposed to be? Wouldn’t that be a bit obvious rolling down the street? And, assuming that the Insecticons actually shrunk to bug-size (which I’m not entirely sure they did), wouldn’t some shiny metal bugs be pretty noticeable? And then there’s the Dinobots. What reason would the forces of Cybertron ever have for creating dinosaur-shaped robots? Even as a kid who, as all young boys do, was super into dinosaurs this didn’t make any sense. So, as the vehicles got more and more outlandish, the more and more I questioned the Transformers.

Of course, as a child, there was also a cartoon. This didn’t help. The idea of Energon was a neat one, but then to see these robots lift big square containers up to their faces and drink energy was too much for my undeveloped mind to take seriously. And then when they’d become drunk after drinking Energon – well, that’s stupid. I also wasn’t a big fan of the super powers some of the robots had. Why is Hound the only one with a holographic gun? Why is Rumble the only one who can make earthquakes? These are robots with interchangeable parts, right? No one else can use those pieces of equipment?

Another problem with the cartoon was the voice work. Why is Jazz voiced by Scatman Crothers? Did he grow up in a Cybertron ghetto? What possible reason could he have for adopting that strange vocal tic? As a kid looking upon these things as robots, this never made any sense to me. It still doesn’t really, but at least now I realize they were trying to inject personality into the robots.

The recent movies weren’t any better. I left the first one hating it but not being able to articulate exactly why. I point to the stupid “quick! hide the robots in the backyard!” scene as being particularly egregious. Why are these devastating machines of war acting like that? And, don’t they fucking transform into ordinary vehicles?? Why don’t they just do that? (I have not seen the follow-up films. I’m sure they’re just as stupid.)

I don’t get Beast Wars at all.

There’s been various comics over the years featuring the Transformers as well and I always get sort of excited about them. Comics featuring giant robots fighting sounds exactly what you should be doing with comics. But I’ve spot read issues from various runs over the years and it’s never clicked. For one, sometimes the art makes all the robots look the same and it’s difficult to follow. Colors help, but not always. But reading the comics has finally maybe crystallized why I don’t like the Transformers – they’re characters.

I think I’ve finally decided that I don’t want robots to be characters. Robots are machines. Robots perform tasks. Robots don’t emote. Robots don’t have feelings. I don’t think this means that robots can’t have personalities – Data from Star Trek has a personality but he still mostly acts like a robot (movies excepted). This might also explain why I hate C3PO (or it could just be because he’s annoying). For whatever reason, I don’t see robots as being capable of being a character with thoughts, feelings, and (potentially) character growth. This might have been realized by me when I was thinking about the Marvel Transformers comic and the origin of the Headmasters. Apparently, in comic world, they were humans in robot suits who willingly became robots to help out the Transformers. And that was fine to me. Thinking about that maybe finally crystallized why I don’t like the Transformers. If they were humans who were turned into robots, I think I’d be okay with it. But for whatever reason, the idea of robots being characters just doesn’t work for me.

So, I guess I’ll stick with mecha, where humans control the robots. Where the robots remain tools that don’t do anything that would personify them too much. Where, if the robot does do something weird, it was because it was made from the main character’s mother’s DNA (which is a whole other level of weird) and might have some residual memories stuck in that DNA (For some reason, I have no problem with this pseudo-scientific sci-fi idea). I just don’t want my robots to be Thomas the Tank Engine.

The soundtrack to the ’80s Transformers cartoon movie rocks, though. You can never take that away from me.

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Responses

  1. I doubt it’ll sway your opinion, but one way to make transformers look better can be summed up in 2 words: Go Bots. (((shudder)))

    As for the movies: Ya know, GM invested a lot of money to make those 2.5 hour car commercials. I mean really? How many aerial shots did the movies need of all the GM models driving in formation while spotlessly pristine? It was like a commercial break in the movie theater. The last movie had the sorta-road-warrior-like cars/transformers with mounted guns, which like Blur, would stand out like a sore thumb in public. Oh wait no, they had ‘Impala’ emblazoned across their front bumpers in case anyone couldn’t tell. So that blends in, right?

    I was so disappointed in the movies…

  2. I belive this settles the Lamborghini fire chief vehicle issue….

    http://www.gtspirit.com/2012/05/26/video-glen-cove-fire-department-lamborghini-murcielago/

    Now time to fiind metal bugs

  3. Holy cow, you put way too much logic into whether you liked transformers as a kid.

    • This is my brain all the time. Welcome to the Terrordome.


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