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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An open letter to Tom Foss

I originally left this as a comment in Tom Foss' blog during his still-unfinished Transformers Week. (Still waiting on that movie review, Tom!) I present it now as a challenge to him in the hopes that he'll put down that Harry Potter novel and answer my burning, serious questions.

The fact that this is an easy way of generating content has nothing to do with it, I assure you.

Hey Tom,

Despite how it may appear, I have a serious question for you regarding the Transformers. To whit: why do the Autobots and Decepticons hate each other?

Being a child of the Cold War, I completely understand why GI Joe are the good guys and why Cobra are the bad. Heck, I even understand why He-Man and Skeletor hate each other. But I don't get why two very scientifically advanced races of sentient robots want to destroy each other.

Now I freely confess that my knowledge of Transfandom is lacking. As a girl, I watched the cartoons on weekday afternoons, but I never saw the movie, and so when the series "jumped" from present day with Optimus to the future with a bunch of retards I'd never heard of, well... I stopped watching, and never really had the urge to get back into the fandom after that.

My initial inclination is to assume that "Autobot" and "Decepticon" are basically militant ideologies; give the Republicans and the Democrats energy weapons and they're almost as likely to start shooting at each other during a session of congress.

But then I realized, there seems to be no political drive to either of these groups. The Decepticons, when they aren't fighting the Autobots for no real tactical gain, seem to engage in what amounts to piracy: stealing energy and other natural resources to either construct new 'cons or escape Earth. The 'bots, on the other hand, tend to just sit around chillaxin' in the Ark, until and unless there is some Decepticon plot that needs thwarting.

So is it a subtle satire? Are the Decepticons slash-and-burn developers intent on raping the land? Are the Autobots eco-friendly stoners?

And if they are, why for Eris' sake are we being taught a lesson in ecology and Gaia reverence by ROBOTS?

As I said, I am perplexed. I would appreciate you addressing this at some point during your Transformers week.

Thank you.

In fact, if ANYONE would like to answer this question, I'd appreciate it. I mean, I get the whole "good vs evil" thing, of course, but there has to be SOME kind of flimsy rationalization for the Autobot-Decepticon conflict. Right? They were at war on Cybertron before they ended up on Earth, yes?

I don't care how patently absurd the answer is, I just want to know their motivations. Ridiculously in-depth socio-political analyses that go far beyond the scope of the original series are more than welcome.


  1. Basically, the Autobots think things are/were fine, the Decepticons just want to rule over everything/mold the world(s) to their ideal.

    The hatred is the result of the years of war between the two that resulted from the initial attempt to grab the Allspark, and they both, no doubt, blame each other for the destruction(in the movie)/ills of their home world.

    Of course, from my Wiki reading, IIRC, another between the Decepticons and Autobots in the comics/tv series, is that the Decepticons were originally meant to be military-grade 'bots, the autobots "civilian", by their creators...

  2. Honestly, I don't think we were ever supposed to know or question. It was a 30 minute toy commercial full of ideological shorthand: we knew the Decepticons were bad (the packaging said 'evil Decepticons', even) so anything they wanted was bad and the Autobots needed to stop them.

    Now we have Optimus the reluctant leader who used to be a clerk or librarian or something, and a Che-esque Megatron who toiled as a labor robot before leading a grand uprising, and it looks much more like an Xavier/Magneto situation, excepting that neither of these two wants to sit and play chess.

  3. Nobody of ImportanceJuly 24, 2007 at 5:24 PM

    Decepticons owe their warlike ways to their faction's origin as military hardware robots, created by the five-faced aliens, the Quintessons, while the Autobots were designed as consumer goods.

    The Autobots could not hope to match the superior firepower and battlefield powers of the Decepticons, and instead turned to stealth, developing the art of transformation, modifying their bodies so that they could assume other forms.

    Working in secret, the Decepticons also developed transformation technology, along with new robot-mode flight powers, and, under the command of one of the first of this new breed, Megatron, they attacked one of the capital's outer cities, killing the current Autobot leader. As the knowledge of this act was not made public, younger robots continued to idolise these powerful new flying robots - until one such young robot, Orion Pax, was duped by Megatron into allowing him access to an energy storage facility. Megatron turned on Pax and fatally injured him, but the ancient Autobot, Alpha Trion, then rebuilt Pax into the first of a new, battle-hardy breed of Autobot - now, he was Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, who led them against Megatron and the Decepticons as the civil war erupted once more.

  4. I tried reading about the AllSpark on Wikipedia and now I'm even MORE confused!

    Is it Transformer "heaven"? Is it the source of their souls, and if so, what differentiates the AllSpark from the Creation Matrix?

    For that matter, what is the difference between the AllSpark, the Creation Matrix, and the Autobot Matrix of Leadership?

    By the way, is there a Decepticon Matrix of Leadership?

  5. Nobody of Importance: Thank you, that's the most coherent explanation I've yet heard. However, I still don't understand WHY they started fighting. After all, if all transformers were created by the Quintessons, why were they not acting as rulers? Why did the Autobots NEED to match the battlefield powers of the Decepticons in the first place?

    I get that it's a civil war. I just want to know how it got started, and so far it seems like the answer is "One day, Megatron and his boyz said "Hey, let's be evil" and decided to start some shit."

  6. To help answer the question why they fight in the movie, beyond the reason why Optimus Prime gives in the film, the DVD release is rumored to have a prequel short. There is also a book out that prequels the movie as well, if you REALLY want to get into the whole reason WHY?!?!

  7. That is a very complicated question, especially since the cartoons never really commented on it early on.

    However the main conflict seems to stem from the ideologies that the Autobots and Decepticons have about the use of power to get what one wants. Where Decepticons, in general believe that they can simply take whatever they want because they have the power to do so, and the Autobots believe that they don't have the right, no matter how powerful they are, to simply take anything that belongs to another person or people.

    The original cartoon was always very simplified, and my opinion is really based more on the various comic productions that have come about, but even in the cartoon, the clash of ideals is there.

    For further information regarding Decepticons and Autobots and, well, basically anything you could ever want to know about Transformers!

    Oh yeah, and Duke sent me :D

  8. After all, if all transformers were created by the Quintessons, why were they not acting as rulers?

    Found it :

    In ages long past, a cold and emotionless race of aliens called the Quintessons created 2 lines of sentient robots on a planet-sized factory known as Cybertron. One was a line of robots designed for domestic duties and labor (known as Autobots) and another line designed for military use (known as Decepticons). The Quintessons were exceptionally cruel to their creations, eventually leading to wide-spread rebellion, a rebellion started by the Autobot A3. Forced to flee the planet, the Quintessons eventually settled on the small, twisted planet of Quintessa, but fostered an undying hatred of all Transformers for millions of years.

    The movie is, well, a movie. It's has different backstory than the comics/tv series.

  9. Trust me, the reason's sorta different in every continuity.

    Marvel G1 was: Megatron was a gladiator that thought the current government stank. Left one of the really old roman imperial types to die then attacked the autobot council.

    And the allspark is just a creation matrixy thing in the movie, and is only heaven in other continuities.

    Oh, and spotlight Kup is REALLY good.

    Hope this helps

  10. The Autobots are Republicans; the Decepticons are Democrats.

    No, think about it: the Autobots are led by a 18 wheeler with John Wayne's voice and everybody was originally either a sports car or some sort of working vehicle. Their political philosophy was strongly neoconservative, with a healthy dash of 2nd Amendment privileges. Plus, they had dinosaurs.

    The Decepticons were originally a bunch of planes that 'redistributed the wealth' of a the people from literally flyover country. Also, none of them could shoot worth a damn, up to and including the one that turned into a gun. Second in command was a whiner, come to think of it. No ideology past looting, any which way. Plus, they weren't exactly what you'd call diverse: bunch of old white guy planes running everything.

    Granted, the Democrats - excuse me, Decepticons - were sort of winning through large swathes of the show, but this was the Eighties. The media wasn't ready to accept that Ronald Reagan was kicking liberal ass, in between pounding a stake through the black heart of Soviet Communism.

  11. "pounding a stake through the black heart of Soviet Communism."

    Hi, Moe. Glad to have you aboard. :)

  12. (Raised eyebrow) IP, or is my writing style simply that distinctive?


  13. Come on... I've known you for years and have had numerous conversations with you.

    If I can't pick out your distinctive turn of phrase, I'm a poor writer and/or an inattentive friend. :)

  14. Point taken. :)

  15. Uh oh, you've asked a question about Transformers history. The reason that's a problem is that Transformers spans an ever-expanding number of alternate universes that differ by varying extents, and even within a given continuity, history often contradicts itself.

    What's pretty consistent is that, typically, the Decepticons are the ones out to do something and the Autobots don't want it done, rather than the other way around. Different continuities have made the conflict over different things.

    In the old cartoon, the Decepticons just plain weren't nice folks and the Autobots didn't like it, like was said earlier. In Armada, it's not clear what the war was originally about, but when the Mini-Cons showed up, the thing the 'Bots didn't want done became the 'Cons' enslavement of the Mini-Cons. In the movie, Megatron wants to eat the Allspark and become all-powerful, and he's not the type of guy that the Autobots or many others want to see become all-powerful. In the recent comics we get what Jeff said. And so on.

    The general answer to the question is: The Decepticons want to do bad stuff, and the Autobots think "you know, we should probably try to stop them" and do so.

    The Allspark/Matrix is an equally hairy issue. Because of how differently it's been presented, probably Hasbro told the Marvel and Sunbow folks "We want Optimus Prime to have a special thing called a Matrix" and they each did their own thing. The first version was the old comics' Creation Matrix, a computer program (later retconned into a physical object) which can bring newly built Transformers to life and is (initially) carried by Optimus Prime. It also makes its holders more powerful, and can be used to destroy Unicron.

    When the movie (the old movie) came out, it introduced the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, which has three functions. First, it stores the knowledge (and, apparently, part or all of their souls) of its past holders, presumably so that if the current Autobot leader ever needs advice, he has a lot of guys who've probably been there standing by. Like the Creation Matrix, it also powers people up and kills Unicron (in the cartoon, it appears to have been designed specifically to kill Unicron, with its other functions just being side effects).

    In Beast Wars, "the Matrix" was apparently Transformer heaven, and ALSO referred to that thing in Optimus Prime's chest, which in theory never actually appeared on the show--exclusive in-continuity comics say that what we saw in "The Agenda" that looked like the cartoon's Matrix of Leadership was actually Prime's spark (i.e. soul) in a fancy spark-holder.

    Around the same time, Japan decided to introduce the "Energon Matrix," which is simply a source of those mid-battle powerups anime writers love so much for some reason.

    When Bob Skir got put in charge of Beast Machines and promptly started imposing his personal beliefs and whims on every aspect of the show at the expense of established characterization and concepts from Beast Machines, one of the things he did was decide that the Matrix was now also called the "Allspark", because it was made up of every spark/soul that ever existed or will exist except the ones that are currently busy having living bodies. Skir says this is how he sees God, so probably the Matrix/Allspark from Beast Machines was also Primus.

    I'm not certain what the recent comics have done, though the idea of a Matrix combining elements of the two eighties Matrices has become popular lately, so I'd guess one of them did something like that. I know the recent shows haven't really said much at all about what it did, really only establishing that it exists and it's a pretty powerful trinket.

    For the movie, the creatives though talking about "the Matrix" would make it sound, to people unfamiliar with Transformers, like they were ripping ideas from a certain trilogy you may have heard of. The replacement artifact was initially given the atrocious name of "Energon Cube," after the things Decepticons always put stolen energy in on the cartoon, but they thought better of it and renamed it the "Allspark," Beast Machines having established that as a synonym for the Matrix. The movie Allspark is very obviously based on the Creation Matrix in function.

  16. I also sent Andrusi. Just sayin'.

  17. Oh, I almost forgot. Yeah, Duke sent me.


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