Moral Ambiguity?

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by PolythenePrime, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. PolythenePrime

    PolythenePrime Well-Known Member

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    Is it me, or do the Decepticons sometimes come off as morally ambiguous? I know in most continuities they are portrayed as flat out evil, but in others like Animated it challenges what I think about their true intentions. Even the comics portray a deeper political ideal that lies within the Decepticon cause that is different than the "EVIL" deal.
     
  2. Yggdrasil

    Yggdrasil Banned

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    I like the moral ambiguity when it comes to both Autobots and Decepticons. To me it makes it feel more real. There really are no good guys and bad guys in war. There are only the winners and the losers and the winner decides who were the bad and the good guys.

    I also feel that you can't simple have all the Decepticons being murdering evil crazy physicos because you can't form a huge ass army of only those guys. You need ideals, you need motivation you need a driving force and the "I want to take over the world" just doesn't seem enought.

    You can argue that Megatron wants to to take over the world because he's power hungry but then what? What do the other Decepticons that followed him get from putting his power hungry ass on the throne? Megatron must have a certan charms and charisma, he must have a clear goal and ideology that some people could get behind or he'd never get an army big enought to start a global war. A terrorist organisation maybe but not an army.

    Sure having Decepticons being former freedom fighers isn't the only way you can do things but I'd take that over "we are evil because we iz evil" anyday of the week.
     
  3. PolythenePrime

    PolythenePrime Well-Known Member

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    I couldn't agree more. When Decepticons are portrayed as purely psychopathic and fight the Autobots just to "Rule the universe" it just makes me lose interest. I have always liked to think that in some way, the Autobots had to be corrupt or morally wrong in someway to even incite a civil war to begin with. Just had to.
     
  4. Kaymac

    Kaymac I'M REALLY FEELIN' IT!

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    Animated is great in how it handles this. The Autobots built freaking WMDs for God's sake. The Decepticons had some of their own, like Blackout and his kin, but nowhere close to the destructive potential of Project Omega. Also, the Autobots basically kicked all of the Decepticons off of the planet forever, leaving them to drift around in space for eternity. It's better storytelling than something like G1 or the Unicron Trilogy where the Cons are just kind of evil.
     
  5. Meta777

    Meta777 Dr Pepper Fan

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    I do like some moral ambuigity here and there. Not all Autobots are good in a sense, not all Decepticons are bad in a sense, and we see how that might impact the going-ons of the war and other characters.
     
  6. gregles

    gregles quintesson

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    I think the way to portray the decepticons as a scary threat but keep them having psychological realism is to look at there motivations. large scale scapegoating has occurred in most of our societies at various times in history. It all falls down to people feeling downtrodden with low self esteem and rather than having to think about how you can improve your situation or how your own mistakes may have lead to were you have got to, simply beating someone else up to make yourself feel better who is allegedly responsible for all of societies problems, this is effective on a large scale as most people have a bit of an inner bully. the decepticons having a pro strong anti weak philosophy is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations and play right into this. As for what happens next thing most of our societies which have gone from scapegoating to making armies have usually dripped down pipe dreams of a fabled perfect patriotic lead society which obviously can't ever truly exist in reality but tugs at the nostalgic side of the person being groomed and ultimately manipulated. The reality of what often happens when these kind of organisations win is they wage war on there own population looking someone else as a betrayer.
     
  7. Feralstorm

    Feralstorm I ship Nick & Judy TFW2005 Supporter

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    I've noticed the more ambiguous moralities tend to come in the stories where the Autobots/'good guys' are the establishment and the 'baddies' are the outsiders. In IDW and aligned continuities, Megatron and the Decepticons are 'created' through the corruption and inequity of the establishment. In BW the Maximal ruling government treats Predacons like second class citizens, and conducts cover-ups and suspicious experiments (Protoform X) routinely. The Autobot Elite Guard in Animated does similar, mostly out of pragmatism under Ultra Magnus, and certainly prone to possible corruption and overstepping authority under Sentinel Prime/Magnus.

    In those kind of stories, Decepticons/Predacons tend to play themselves up more as martyrs/freedom fighters, even if in deeds they don't act much different than the conqueror 'cons of other continuities. The IDW comics is one of the only things I've seen that delves in-depth into the Decepticon mindset(s) and goals beyond "I wanna be in charge of everything"
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  8. Thighmaster

    Thighmaster Active Member

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    They're victims of the longest running war. They seem to be brutal and heartless but in their eyes the Autobots are the aggressors. In the politics of Megatron he was trying to restore Cybertron to the golden age of Nova Prime (if I got my fluff right, I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) and his propaganda is like many leaders in that their method is the only method.

    When reading the IDW continuity I was really enchanted by the care taken to portray Megatron as a political agitator who hated the establishment. The reason that's important is because you can ask any horrible dictator and every single one of them is going to tell you that they're not evil and they just did what they believe needed to be done. Entitlement and character flaws aside their overall drive is merely misguided than outright malevolent. All the Decepticons who have followed are people with similar character flaws to Megatron who believe in his ideas much like how some pimply teenager on the net might become obsessed with the manifestos of people like Charles Manson or Anders Breivik. The Decepticons are simply a collective of people who are like-minded politically or have become obsessed to where the term "cult" might be applied.


    Now what about the Autobots? The same things I said could easily be applied to them as well. Similar political bases, similar philosophies. While this WHOLE thing started off as a simple "good guys vs. bad guys" which is an easy to connect with concept, I think it's grown to much more than that. I dig it.
     
  9. Bass X0

    Bass X0 King of Muay Thai

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    "losers"

     
  10. Killamarshan

    Killamarshan Iacon Tourist

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    I don’t see Jhiaxus, Shockwave and Ratbat as being any more morally skewed than some current and historical world 'politicians'. However disagreeable, there is some recognisable rationale, reason and logic behind their ultimate brutality.

    The Decepticons are revolutionaries come imperialists trapped inside a brutalising war. They act accordingly.
     
  11. NeverDoubt

    NeverDoubt Well-Known Member

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    The G1 cartoon actually did try to address this occasionally, showing Megatron to be a smooth talking figure who can easily manipulate people, like in "Megatron's Master Plan" and "Autobot Spike."

    It was even done with surprising subtlety in "Fire in the Sky." People often talk about how nice and understanding Megatron seems to be in the early scenes. There's a reason for that. Megatron wants to recurit Skyfire into the Decepticon "cause." But wait, he was Starscream's partner and would naturally trust him first. And Starscream is stuck in nostalgia mode and can't be relied upon to remember the cause at the moment. Megatron knows if he charges in too quickly he'd potentially scare both of them away (Starscream certainly doesn't need much prodding to betray Megatron, lol). So he goes all Dr. Phil sympathizing with Starscream's story.

    But he reveals his true intentions when he pushes Starscream away so he doesn't get to bond too much with Skyfire. Megatron makes sure he gets there first and gives Skyfire his Decepticon recruitment speech, which doesn't have a single lie in it, but is far from being honest.
     
  12. Rexidus

    Rexidus Autobot TFW2005 Supporter

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    Yggdrasil pretty much summed up my view. It is ALWAYS a more interesting story when the villains think they are heroes.

    I kind of like how the aligned continuity is portraying it. The caste system was deteriorating and the old government knew it. Megatron and Orion both were "fighting" (not in the literal sense) for freedom. The Senate realizes their power is about to crumble and so passes the torch to Optimus Prime to guide the governmental shift. Megatron, being the arrogant bastard he is, takes this as a person stab in the back. He and his Decepticons view Optimus as the old order regardless of what Optimus intends to do. He's a Prime and to the Decepticons (because Megatron said so) all Primes are the enemy of true freedom. The Autobots realize Optimus intended to bring about true peace and freedom in an idealistic way. He valued freedom and choice and was going to reform the government with those views in mind. But to the Decepticons he's just another Prime who regardless of what he says is going to continue to oppress them.

    The aligned continuity doesn't make this as apparent as I'd like, and I may very well be filling in gaps with my own take on it, but this is basically how I see the idealized Decepticon movement. It's also how I can see Megatron being able to gather an army that is likely larger than the Autobots.
     
  13. NeverDoubt

    NeverDoubt Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes I enjoy that in a story. But other times I find it interesting when bad guys pretty know they're being jerks but just don't care. How do you reason with someone like that? You can't. You have to get them to care and that's a very difficult task when there seems to be so many benefits to not caring.

    It's like how the opposite of love isn't actually hate, it's apathy.

    I actually think that's the difference between Megatron and Starscream. Megatron think he's a hero. Starscream doesn't care either way, he just wants to hurt people.
     
  14. Yggdrasil

    Yggdrasil Banned

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    To me it really depends on what type of story do you want to tell and more importantly the type of character relations you want to do in a story.

    When it comes Transformers I personaly think Optimus and Megatron work best with a Charles and Eric type of relationship. Prime tried to go with something like this but (as far as i'm concerned) failed horribly in the execution of it.

    On the other hand that scene when the two of them talk in IDW's Chaos Theory is probably my favorite interaction between the character ever and it did much much more than any fight scene ever did.

    So yeah in the end it really depends on what do you prefer.

    Most people like simple stories of evil badguys and heroic good guys and that's ok.

    Me, I like complex character relations and motivation that transcends the limits of good and evil into the more grey area and I think that Transformers have the capacaity for those kinds of stories.
     
  15. Aernaroth

    Aernaroth <b><font color=blue>I voted for Super_Megatron and Veteran

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    The ambiguity in their motivations dates back to Beast Wars, I would say, though there were sympathetic Decepticons even in the G1 comics. I think its good, because it gives more depth to the Decepticons than just "well they're just EVIL, duh!". There's still room for sociopathic and homicidal 'cons, though, and I think that helps distinguish just what the two factions are and aren't willing to do to accomplish their agendas.
     
  16. NeverDoubt

    NeverDoubt Well-Known Member

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    See I think even the seemingly simple "good vs evil" can be intriguing in its own way depending on how it's done. One time my friend and I were watching the "Revenge of Bruticus" episode and commenting on some of Starscream's more disturbing lines:

    Starscream: "I will rule the universe, even if I am the only one left in the universe!"

    Megatron: You are free at my command, but only to deactivate whatever device is moving the Earth into the Sun.

    Starscream: Only if you'll relinquish leadership of the Decepticons!

    Megatron: Don't be a fool!

    Starscream: Then let the earth burn!

    My friend called Starscream "the ultimate nihilist." He believes in nothing and has no loyalty to anybody. Not even really to himself since he is constantly and unnecessarily putting himself in harm's way pissing off Megatron.

    Megatron has a soft spot for Cybertron, at least as a place that he can rule over. So yeah he also needs the Earth for its energy. I believe Starscream wouldn't mind blowing either planet up if that's what it took to reach his goal. Again, how do you reach someone like that?
     
  17. Optimus1138

    Optimus1138 Minecraft Addict

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    Moral ambiguity is necessary for the story to be good. It's much more interesting and realistic that way. It's childish when you've got pure good guys and pure bad guys. I'd portray the Autobots as mostly well-intentioned, with some true heroes but with some corrupt bureaucrats in the (sometimes overly controlling) government; and the Decepticons as formerly well-intentioned but (for the most part) corrupted over time, and with some members who truly believe they are doing what's right (it would be portrayed in such a way that the audience wouldn't always be sure that the Decepticons aren't doing what's right either).
     
  18. PolythenePrime

    PolythenePrime Well-Known Member

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    I have always thought that starscream, excluding Unicron, to be the only one true purely evil deception. His intentions are that of a cliche Saturday morning cartoon, but that's what makes the character great. In a mythology full of fallen Heroes, moral ambiguity and corrupt political figures, starscream remains the only one to want nothing more but glory for himself and nobody else. He's worse than Megs, considering he doesn't show a care for cybertron usually. But then again, I even like screamer have a deeper mindset every now and then to keep things fresh. Megaton is the fallen hero, someone who at one point inspired others to join his cause and after a period of time became corrupted like the politicians in the governmental system he wished to change. Starscream is none of that.
     
  19. NeverDoubt

    NeverDoubt Well-Known Member

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    Oh absolutely. As far as the G1 cartoon, it sounds like the last thing Screamer probably cared about was Skyfire and that had ended tragically. And when Skyfire finally came back he very quickly "betrayed" Starscream. You'd probably give up on people too! ; )
     
  20. QLRformer

    QLRformer Seeker

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    I’m not too fond of moral ambiguity as it renders the whole good vs evil theme as irrelevant: it doesn’t matter whether the side that wins a war is good or evil, as long as they win. It’s like saying the Allies won World War 2 because they had better weaponry/tactics and not because they were the good guys (or like saying the Nazis were morally ambiguous in their goal for purity).

    I hope what I'm saying makes sense. I know how simple-minded and black-and-white it is. But while it’s true that life/people are complex, it’s also true that life/people are simple. Sometimes people don’t need a complex reason to be evil/good, they just get corrupted and/or embrace their inner darkness, or stand firm and/or embrace their inner hero. And that in itself can be as difficult and complex as moral ambiguity.


    The G1 cartoon history (my favourite canon) provides a good example of absolute “black-and-white” morality: Megatron and his Decepticons (a rabble of mean, greedy and ruthless soldiers, united by their power-hungry leader’s dream for conquest and rule) rose up and brought Cybertron under their control, and in consequence Optimus Prime and his Autobots (a group of decent and friendly soldiers, led by the noble and compassionate leader) assembled to stop them.

    It works because of this axiom: in times of peace when things get too easy, it's easy for evil and darkness to gain strength and spread and envelop all around it, but then when evil appears there is/will be good to take a stand against it. STAR WARS is a great example of this, with the Empire extending its grip across the galaxy and the Rebellion forming to oppose it (in fact G1 was influenced by STAR WARS).

    And please keep in mind, just because there are clearly good and bad guys doesn’t make them just tropes. Each character has their own characterization/personality: the scheming Starscream who constantly tried to depose Megatron, the constantly complaining Huffer who didn’t like Earth... each of the TF continuities have given each Transformer their own distinct personality: just because G1 is the most absolute of them didn’t make them any less engaging (in fact I always enjoyed it when the Decepticons squabbled among each other, because that’s how they are and what they’d do – and also the camaraderie between Autobots is always fun to see, they may argue a bit but they will stand by each other when necessary).


    I’m not saying moral ambiguity is wrong, but it needs to be kept limited to a few Transformers for it to work better: having every Autobot/Decepticon suffer moral ambiguity is not going to get anyone/anything anywhere. BW’s Dinobot and Blackarachnia and G1’s Jetfire and Blitzwing had some excellent moments of moral ambiguity, yet it wasn’t piled on all over like in the IDW comics (not really a criticism – part of it is done great, like with Optimus and Megatron in CHAOS THEORY, and some is just not great like Jazz and Prowl – making them killers and near-villains doesn't do much to their characterizations, and nearly subverts their personalities).

    You have no idea how much this relieves me. I thought people would laugh at me for expressing my view.
     

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