Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting re: Standing Up for Beast Wars Found this on my hard drive recently. I wrote it a while back during a debate that was triggered when someone said that BW "don't get no respect", and someone else said "and that's how it should be"... *********************************** Ironic that I, one of the more active debaters on alt.toys.transformers.classic.moderated, should find myself having to do this. Ah well... There are two issues at stake in the current debate: is BW really "Transformers" (and therefore worthy as a follow-up to G1), and is it a good show (and therefore deserving of "respect", which the original post bemoaned the lack of)? The answer to the first question is, in a sense, debatable; "Transformers" implies many things to many people. But the answer to the second is undoubtably "yes". BW is a friggin' great story, even if it doesn't stick to what you consider "Transformers". To really answer that first question, you have to define what makes something "Transformers". On the surface, it's pretty simple: stories about shape-changing robots from Cybertron, based on Hasbro toys. But for many fans there's a lot more to it than that, and legitimately so considering all the changes and incarnations it's been through. Raksha wrote something along the lines of, "a balance of believable characters on both sides is what made G1. BW doesn't have that, so it's not Transformers." This last point is where her argument falls apart. It's perfectly reasonable to say that these are the things that define what "Transformers" is for *you* -- but to claim that those eelement are what it is, *period*, for all fans, is a mistake. As far as I can tell, the "single" thing that has allowed Transformers to survive this long is _diversity_. Some people embrace the whole thing: comics, cartoon, toys, everything. Others favor one aspect over the others, even to the point of not even bothering with, say, the comic or the show. Different elements define what Transformers is _for_them_; however, when it comes down to saying what it is for _everybody_, about the only non-contestable fact is that they're sentient transforming robots from Cybertron based on toys from Hasbro. Beyond that... a LOT of factors have kept TFs going this long, and diversity of characters and factions is only one of them. I grant that the characters are a very important factor in making TFs what it is. Certainly they're one of the biggest factors for me. But they're not the only one. Room for speculation is another factor -- it's very easy to work fanfic into the G1 continuity. For me a defining aspect of Transformers is *potential*, potential for star- spanning, epic adventures in which ordinary characters find themselves in extraordinary circumstances -- there are countless untold stories in the TF universe, some hinted at by the canon stories, others completely up to the imagination. After the comics, BW comes closest to tapping that potential.. For other fans Transformers means intrigue, or warfare, or high technology, or aliens, or romance, or cool toys, or... need I go on? Any TF television show is most likely going to be some form of continuation of the cartoon, since they're in the same medium; obviously a new show isn't directly part of the comics universe, which is the continuity I take as "most canon". Is any new show therefore "not Transformers"? Hardly. BW isn't a continuation of the G1 comic, the thing that most embodies Transformers -- for *me*. But it's still Tranformers. The G2 comic took some aspects of the G1 comic and killed them... yet it was still Transformers. Maybe not quite *as* Transformers as the G1 comic had been for me... but still Tranformers. And in the very act of changing what had come before, it *expanded* the scope of what Transformers is. I can empathize with the people who feel negatively regarding BW as a follow-up to the G1 cartoon. I felt somewhat the same about the G2 comic; it hit me that things would never really be the same again. But I took G2 for what it was -- something new, something different -- and soon realized there were a lot of good aspects to it, in spite of some things I didn't like. And, just because the new book was different, that didn't mean it could take away what had come before. Is BW a worth successor to G1? IMO yes. But even if you feel differently, remember... it's NOT an attempt to continue the same series... just the same storyline. And I agree very strongly with someone else's claim that BW is perhaps the closest TFs have come to being a serious attempt at sci-fi. Yes, it's still kid vid fare -- it has to be, by corporate design. But there's something there for us, too -- now so more than ever before. BW detractors describe the show's references to the original story as "pouring salt in the wound". I disagree, on the basis that NOWHERE has BW irrefutably claimed to be a continuation of the cartoon story. Personally I choose to believe that it is... but there's plenty of room for those who feel otherwise. It can easily be seen as a semi-parallel universe, or even as a continuation of the comics rather than the cartoon. [As an aside, I believe that if BW had NO references to the original show, there'd be a spate of people complaining that it's "not Transformers" for that very reason.] Furthermore, even if BW *did* establish itself irrefutably as a continuation of the G1 cartoon, my feeling is that the references to the old series have been handled very well -- far better than we have any right to expect, IMO. Starscream was 100% in character. Ravage was altered and expanded upon in a very logical fashion, and came across as a far stronger character than he ever did in G1. I strongly feel that any percieved "flaws" in these and the various other G1 references are no greater than the G1 show's own lack of internal consistency. As for the characterization of the Predacons: Megatron and his group are outcasts -- rouges, criminals, malcontents, rebels. I know, I know -- the writers *could* have made them regular Preds, and perhaps they *do* use this as a catch-all for their self-destructive behavior. But BW is also telling a larger story, and the very fact that the Preds we see on-screen are rouges hints that the main Predacon faction is a dangerous foe. Would BW be a better show if the Preds were written more respectably? Yes. Is it a bad show because they're not? No. BW has given us the longest on-going plot line since the G1 comic. It has some of the most amazing graphic images ever made for Transformers. It has given us some of the most memorable character interactions in all the TF mythos. And many of the characters themselves -- a majority, in fact -- are well-developed and explored. Optimus Primal, Megatron, Rhinox, Tarantulus, Rattrap, Blackarachnia, Tigatron, Inferno -- all these have earned their place in Transfandom's pantheon of memorable characters. You may not like some or any of them in a personal sense. But a lot of people, myself included, do. More importantly, I maintain that you don't have to like a character personally to get a good story out of them. I don't just follow a story to see saintly-perfect idols to worship; I look for intriguing tales, different viewpoints, insight into life, humor, irony, all kinds of stuff. My favorite example is Starscream; I mean, IMO the guy's a total jerk, yet I really enjoy sitting back to watch him make trouble for everyone. No, I don't look up to him. No, I don't emulate his ideals. No, I wouldn't want to meet him in real life. But he's a lot of fun to watch as he causes trouble and wreaks havoc on-screen. Dinobot is another terrific example. Yes, he betrayed his former comrades, and maybe that makes him someone you wouldn't want to team up with in real life. But does it make the story bad? Not in the least. In many respects, having characters like Dinobot makes a story more interesting. And I still maintain that by the choices he had to make, and his back-and-forth attitude about those choices, Dinobot is perhaps the most real and empathic character ever to come out of the TF mythos. You might not *want* to be like him... but in some respects we all are. Having to make hard decisions about what you're going to believe, and where you're going to stand on an issue, is something that every person must deal with -- it's part of being human. And in real life, there are no easy answers, no clearly divided "yes or no" questions, no diametrically opposed factions to which you clearly do or don't belong. Unlike 99% of Transformer characters, Dinobot was not painted as black-or-white one-side-or-the-other. He changed his mind -- more than once. He weighed the evidence, his loyalties, his beliefs... and wasn't sure what to do. In real life -- and in great literature -- it happens all the time; it's one of the classic delimas. In Transformers it's been pretty rare. And it was Beast Wars that brought it to us. In short, BW is a good story. Some people feel it's bad, and made worse by claiming to be part of the G1 cartoon universe. I disagree. There's room to leave it out of the past TF stories, if you feel it doesn't pay appriate homage to them. For the rest of us, there's plenty of ways it ties in. I'm happy to see it carrying the Transformers multiverse forward into new directions, and in the process creating even more untold tales for us to speculate on. Yeah, it's not G1. Nothing but G1 ever could be. It's BW, and by this point in the game that in itself is a good thing to me.
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