While many other children’s cartoons of the 80’s faded to obscurity, Transformers has remained prevalent. The franchise seems to be immortal. It has existed and flourished since 1984 in various forms of media, such as multiple movies, cartoons, video games.
What makes Transformer so enduring? First of all, it exemplifies the imagination of children. Within the Autobots and Decepticons universe, kids are able to interact with something that was both a car/fighter jet/tank/boom box/dinosaur/whatever AND a robot that could talk and fight. What kid wouldn’t love that? This type of flexibility feeds the imagination and lends to the idea some things may be more than meets the eye (see what I did there?).
Secondly, Transformers has very strong adult themes of loyalty and bravery. The noble Autobots would follow Optimus Prime into any battle so great is their dedication to him. Not just a warrior, Optimus wants peace, he is willing to live alongside the contentious humans and Decepticons if it means an end to the war and equality for all. Even Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, possess a great level of loyalty. It is his quest to restore his home world so that his forces may return. Although Megatron strives to achieve this through nefarious and violent means, the motives themselves are pure.
There is also am emphasis on sacrifice and resurrection in the Transformers mythos. This
leads into my nerd admission of guilt. I have cried the fat tears of supreme sorrow whenever Optimus Prime died in either the cartoons or the movies. I’m an adult, thirty-two years old and I cry when a giant talking robot dies. Thank god I have a woman in my life who accepts that part of me. Realistically, I know that Optimus will find a way to rise from the dead but it still affects me. Once, when trying to explain it for a friend who didn’t understand my reaction, I equated it to Christ dying on the cross in the Christian faith. Suffice to say, I don’t make that comparison anymore.
Transformers made Saturday mornings exciting. I would shoot out of bed like a missile and run to the TV to watch Transformers. It was here that I was treated a battle that spanned the globe. It was definitely a little cheesy, for a war of that magnitude hardly anyone ever died which did strike me as a little too optimistic. And, of course, the animation for the time was a little rough. The animators often reused backgrounds or animations to save time and money which now seems so jarring. But despite all these things, my young mind remained immersed in this fantastical world.
I desperately envied Spike and his friendship with the Autobots (actually, I still do). How I wished that my dad’s old beat-up truck was actually a robot in disguise and that one day it would transform and take me on an adventure. At night, I would hide under my covers
and play with my Grimlock toy. I shared a room with my brothers for a few years and I’m sure I drove them nuts with the mechanical sound effects I made. During bath time, I would assemble my Transformer toys around the edge of the tub. Then, for as long as I could get away with, I have the war to end all wars. By the time I had to get out of the tub there was probably more water on the floor than in the tub anymore.
As an adult, I love to see that something from my childhood survives. If a new season of the animated show arrives on Netflix, I will put everything else aside so that I can have a marathon session in front of the TV. We need to be reminded of what it felt like to be a kid. After all of the ‘must do’s’ of our days, we sometimes forget to have fun, to let our imagination wander and to go play with giant robots.