Optimus Prime's pacifism omitted?

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by QLRformer, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. QLRformer

    QLRformer Seeker

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    A friend of mine recently rewatched the G1 cartoon and said it was nice, in an Adam West way. That comment gave me mixed feelings: I didn't like it, but he had a sort of point about what he was saying.

    G1 Prime (we'll go by cartoons/movies here) has been portrayed as a generally pacifistic leader: a general who is positive and encouraging, who lets his enemies live, who enjoys basketball and soap operas and dislikes rap music. While it is great to see Optimus Prime do well with peace, he has the impression that he's never really faced the horror and desolation that war brings with it. To be fair, G1 Megatron was more a OO7 villain, always devising a scheme to stop the Autobots, and having to hilariously deal with a sniveling but ambitious lieutenant - not too big a threat. They both finally step up their game in the 1986 film, and well, both went down a draw.

    Then times changed. More accurately, ROBOTS IN DISGUISE was airing around 9/11, causing a major shift in sensibilities. There is one standout episode, THE TEST: the Decepticons dupe Optimus Prime into believing they want to be the good guys, and he accommodates them - this sort of "let's give them a chance" would not be allowed so readily today. And from RID onward, TRANSFORMERS was regarded as fantasy, with the oh-so-noble Optimus against the nefarious-but-doomed to fail Megatron. The Unicron Trilogy did not do much to improve this image, with focus on new Transformers and letting the core ones stay how they were, causing a level of stagnation.

    The Bayformer movies to some level revived the franchise: the Decepticons were redefined as a definite alien threat at terrorist-level, with the Autobots as Earth's one defence against this threat. And so we had some seriously gory sequences with Optimus Prime: shooting Wheelbot, splitting Grindor's face, tearing out the Fallen's face, flying through the Driller, shooting down Megatron and Sentinel... the third film in particular displayed some very un-Optimus behaviour. And the subsequent incarnations of ANIMATED and PRIME have been rather stoic and grim to really appeal to me so far (I must admit that the Orion Pax storyline was impressive).

    Times have changed; the general consensus is that fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity, you HAVE to get your hands dirty and get mean and tough to deal with the bad guys. There isn't really any room for Prime to give bad guys a second chance, even if they're sincere: in PRIME Optimus thought of gunning down a helpless Megatron (CROSSFIRE). Does this sound right? Perhaps. But it's also made him a little less pacifist and more heartless, more prepared to sacrifice to achieve his goal. It's not really "good vs evil" as much as "good finds a way to beat down evil".

    I wish people would understand that the above isn't right, that Optimus is at his best as a pacifist. He is a fighter, but primarily a DEFENDER: he fights for the peace of his race and Earth's as well, and if possible will offer a peaceful route to resolving a conflict. His defensive posture is not a weakness but a strength; if he lets rip things will just escalate into a mass slaughter (which was much of the latter part of DOTM). He has to be truly benevolent to all, to want a peaceful end to the war and to enjoy the peace that follows, similar to the peace from before the war. I've only really seen that Optimus, IMO the true Optimus, at the end of the first TFilm where he was enjoying the sunset at a makeout point (why there I don't know, but it WAS a beautiful spot).

    And it doesn't matter how much G1 Optimus is like Adam West, he's the Optimus of my childhood and my personal favourite of them all, and nothing will change that.



    This post was inspired by SUPERMAN VS THE ELITE, which also dealt with a hero finding his morals may be unsuited to changing times.
     
  2. Aernaroth

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

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    G1 Prime never had to deal with the horrors and reality of war? Megatron killed him. TWICE.


    Your interpretation of the Transformers franchise is inaccurate at best, and ludicrous at worst.
     
  3. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Your interpretation of QLRformer's question and comments is inaccurate at best, and ludicrous at worst. :inquisiti 

    He didn't say that G1 Prime wasn't exposed to the "horrors and realities of war" but rather that, especially in the context of the G1 cartoon, one got the impression that he wasnt'. That is to say, his persona still seemed to be inflected with optimism, benevolence and honour, rather than with cynicism, despair and bitterness, as we might expect from one who has spent millennia at war.

    I agree, but I think that instead this instead shows a supernatural strength of character in Prime's personality. Optimus Prime is an idealist and a paragon-type figure. He isn't supposed to represent realism, but rather a belief that we can better ourselves and somehow live up to impossible standards of virtue. Optimus Prime is a hero because he has faced the horror and desolation of war, and still believes that there is something worth fighting for beyond simple survival... rather, the survival of an ideal.

    I think moral ambiguity is still an interesting topic, but is better explored through other characters. Optimus should represent a polar extreme, a pure element. Let others ask the questions, and either be inspired or disillusioned by Optimus.

    On the other side of things, unfortunately the natural progression from the "good needs to be just as bad as evil in order to ensure victory" is to eventually accept that "Good" and "Evil" are just points of view, and to abandon the notion that good guys should win at all. Adopting this mindset opens the door to all sorts of "justified" wrongs. Bearing in mind that Transformers is fundamentally a heroic fantasy fiction, pursuit of such "grim realities" can end up being a detriment to the genre.

    zmog
     
  4. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    I don't like him being pacifistic nor a warmonger. I want him to be a right balance kind of like Optimus Primal in Beast Wars.
     
  5. Stardust262

    Stardust262 Moe is the Only Way

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    This
     
  6. rxlthunder

    rxlthunder Banned

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    Can someone please sum it up for me?
     
  7. shroobmaster

    shroobmaster Well-Known Member

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    I think it's pretty interesting myself when they have Optimus face the belief of peace and justice and fairness against the reality of war. He is Optimus Prime. He is that symbol of everything that is good in us but maybe protecting the fair isn't exactly easy or even possible without pushing some limits.

    I like it, it's facing the character with a problem that only exists because of what he represents, it's like having Dick Dastardly accept the fact that maybe stopping to cheat when your car is a fucking jet engine with wheels isn't exactly the best idea.
     
  8. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    I'm not sure I agree with your overall point, but that there made me laugh. :D 
     
  9. ILoveDinobot

    ILoveDinobot Not today Galvatron!

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    Oh God, Primal was the best Optimus. Please don't compare G1 and Bayformer to him, there is just no competition.
     
  10. SPLIT LIP

    SPLIT LIP AKA Beve Stuscemi

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    Optimus has never been a pacifist. Pacifists don't fight period.

    Also I ditto Primal being the best Optimus ever.
     
  11. LCDR Blindside

    LCDR Blindside Banned

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    Which is why it confuses the hell outta me that Lifeline joined G.I. Joe.
     
  12. Seeker

    Seeker Time Lord

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    My take on Optimus is that he would prefer peace but in a insane world he does what he had to do to defend and protect his people and his friends. Liking to do something and having to do something are different things a lot of the time.
     
  13. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    True, but I think that's a slippery slope as well. Justifying what you're doing because you "have no choice" can lead to some pretty awful things done in the name of "protecting your people". A good number of genocides have been predicated on similar statements. Or to use another example, if you've been reading The Walking Dead comic series, the progression of Rick's character from a fundamentally moral figure to a man with no ethical limits makes for a particularly compelling examination of the same kind of moral slide in the name of survival.

    Well, pacifism may not be technically the right word, but I think we know what is meant. It has always bugged me that Prime's "renaissance man" status is usually omitted in favour of his "warrior" status. I always liked the way that his G1 bio emphasized that he was a scientist, a statesman, and a healer first... not just a warrior. It took the edge off the military trappings of the character, and gave him a more philosophical weight. To quote a favourite (and salient) line from his bio "He would be a more effective military commander if he were more ruthless, but then he wouldn't be Optimus Prime."

    As for Primal... he's cool, but I don't think he's inherently "better" than G1 Prime. He's still a pretty generic "hero" type, whose only real development took place in the latter half of Beast Machines, when he progressed into a religious fanatic. Up till then, he was pretty much just a younger version of G1 Optimus. I've often made the comparison that G1 Optimus was someone kids could admire and rely on, a benevolent father figure type, while guys like Primal and TFA Optimus are characters that kids are meant to relate to personally, to want to be. One is more of a personal power fantasy, and the other more of a hero worship thing, so their appeal will vary depending on the psychological make-up of the individual fan...

    ... though really, I think whichever show you happened to grow up watching plays the biggest role, most likely. ;) 

    zmog
     
  14. LCDR Blindside

    LCDR Blindside Banned

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    Excellently stated, Smog. And good point about Primal—he really is a generic soldier, prone to losing his temper and doing stupid stuff for the sake of his people.

    Optimus could be as ruthless as Megatron, but then he would be Megatron. A great philosopher once said "Let us not do battle with monsters, lest we become one." Prime tries as hard as he can not to give in to the psycopathy war tries to force on him, and he does remarkably well in the face of it.
     
  15. firehawc_69

    firehawc_69 cloppers = ignore list

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    It's not the '80s anymore. That was also a time where hundreds of Joes and Cobras fired laser guns at each other like crazy and no one ever got hit. Ever.
     
  16. GigatronSama

    GigatronSama Mr. Insomnia Veteran

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    G1 Prime is a superhero. He's a symbol of everything good and right in the world, and always finds a way to protect the peace without compromising his morality. He's pretty much the embodiment of what the name Optimus Prime should be.

    Optimus Primal is a soldier (well a scientist turned soldier), who has a strong sense of morality, but makes mistakes, and realizes the necessity of battle. He doesn't revel in it, but he knows what he has to do, and when he has to make the hard choices.

    Unicron Trilogy Prime was pretty much G1 Prime with a slight hint of a darker side behind him that actually enjoyed combat, as much as he tried to deny it.

    Movie Prime (at least in the 2nd and 3rd films) is a berserker. Lives for combat, enjoys it, thrills in the elation of life or death struggle, and couldn't comprehend the notion of peace. The cause is secondary to the thrill of battle. It reflects Bay's imature writng, where the characters are only an excuse for the conflict, rather than the conflict being a means of exploring the characters.

    Prime Optimus is a bit of a return to G1 Optimus but with a bit of a BW feel to it, when it's clearly bieng pointed out to Optimus that he is so noble it becomes a fault, and that he can't always make the hard decisions. Personally I like this angle. Can he maintain his own moral integrity in the face of an ever increasing threat, or will he have to compromise what he SHOULD be for what he HAS TO be?
     
  17. Driftx3

    Driftx3 lord of all things robot

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    Prime has never been a pacifist. But he does restrain from senseless violence whenever possible, and cares greatly about all sentient beings, he has great compassion for all life, including his enemies and even Quintessons.

    Unless we speak of Bay Prime, who is an out and out violent borderline sociopath with no concern for his allies (Jazz) or enemies (Megatron, The Fallen).

    Just pretend Bay never happened and go watch Prime. That's a real Optimus right there.
     
  18. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    Even if he's dullsville.

    To heal the Joes. The good guys?
     
  19. Gordon_4

    Gordon_4 The Big Engine

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    One problem we get with the cartoon and movie materials is, due to the compressed nature of the story telling, broad archetypes are employed to make things easier. This isn't a bad thing but can limit the story you want to tell. G1, with is heavy reliance on this couldn't tell a decent defection story because all the Decepticons were some level of mustache twirling top hat rockers.

    On the RiD thing, while the tasks set by Optimus for Scourge and the Commandos looked mundane (and kind of silly), I feel there is a subtle brilliance to them: accepting it at face value because they're willing to shoot at the Predacons, all of whom Scourge thinks and says are worthless ******s, only proves his willingness to shoot them, not abide by the Autobot Code. Making them do stuff like clean up a park or involve themselves in the lives of the unaffected human race would actually test their character.

    One thing that has impressed me greatly about the current TF comic series MTMTE is its ability to portray a character as being by and large on the side of good while also being an unrepentant arsehole (Whirl, who is many other things), emotionally damaged balls of violence (Fortress Maximus, with good reason) and uptight wankers (Ultra Magnus).

    Even Megatron, the traditional big bad of the series, is outdone on the level of pure sociopath behavior by guys like Overlord. I can't quite see Megatron being party to those kind of shenanigans, if only because it's wasteful. Glass a planet, sure. Take over an Autobot base and execute all the personnel there, par for the course. Setup shop as a petty dictator and indulge in bloodsport for fun and no profit, torture for fun and maybe some profit.....not so much. Although I'm certain examples can be found of Megatron doing this, it doesn't seem like his standard behavior.
     
  20. G1Prowl

    G1Prowl Prick, apparently

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    As I read the pacifist line, that scene from War Dawn where Optimus mows down dozens of Decepticons leads me to think that not only has he been exposed to the horrors of war (The attack on Orion, Ariel, and Dion) but has steeled himself to do what needs to be done.
     

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