Romance in Transformers fiction

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by Focksbot, Aug 2, 2017.

  1. ZeroiaSD

    ZeroiaSD Autobot

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    I like having romance, but I also like it only occasionally coming to the forefront. Chromedome and Rewind is good, Silverbolt and Blackarachnia were good, Lightbright and Sparkstalker as a very background romance works. I guess I should say I like the interactions with couples.


    Eh, honestly I'd totally enjoy more romance if they did more but I'm not particularly asking for more either if that makes sense ^^
     
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  2. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    What's especially frustrating is that I think we were on the verge of getting a good explanation for gender and romance in Transformers during the Furman era of IDW, but it got shut down when the Arcee story came off differently than intended.

    Remember, Jhiaxus didn't introduce gender to the transformer species. He reactivated latent CNA coding for gender that was already there. There's a subtle implication there that transformers--or at least some ancestor of Transformers--reproduced sexually at some point in the extremely distant past. Recall that before this, we saw the humanoid population of Gorlam Prime "evolving" into biomechanical lifeforms. Although this would later turn out to be another of Jhiaxus' experiments, we are initially invited to ask whether this might be the natural course of evolution for a sentient species and whether the transformers once went through the same process. Even with Jhiaxus guiding and accelerating the process, this idea might not be wrong. It would go a long way toward explaining the latent coding for sexual dimorphism buried deep in transformers' CNA. While I have mixed feelings about an organic origin for transformers, and I don't even like the idea of CNA itself, this would've worked. It makes sense, and it would be a nice change from Furman's usual cosmic pantheon shtick.

    But like a lot of the "phase one" IDW stuff, I think that thread's been effectively abandoned and/or soft-retconned.
     
  3. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    In a non-sexual robot race sexual factors would have no share of the romance…barring curiosity which would have no foundation in innate drives. The questions are whether romance would even exist in a society devoid of sex drives, and if so, how prevalent would it be.


    The fact is that romance came into existence as a byproduct of the sex drive, I really don’t think anyone is going to argue this. Now, after it had already come into existence romance has come into relationships that were non sexual, but it was a pre-existing entity. Is it a case where romance was adopted due to societal norms? Would it have come into existence without a sex drive to spawn it? I can’t say definitively yes or no, but I’m leaning toward yes for the first question and no for the second. An example would be to say that since I use a can opener as a screw driver (I don’t, but it can be used for one), can openers would exist in a world without cans. They wouldn’t. Now, that’s an extreme over-simplification, but it illustrates the point I’m getting at. A point made far more eloquently by Flamepanther with his “We know that B arises from A. We have no evidence of B ever arising from not-A. Therefore we can at least say that B without A requires and explanation”, but it seems that many have overlooked, avoided or ignored this completely fair and reasonable assertion, which has forced me to present the less fair and less reasonable ‘can opener in a world without cans’ scenario.


    Now in the opening post it was pointed out that other, non-sexual impulses could contribute to the need for romance, which holds true to an extent with humans, but withdraw sexual impulses and child-rearing impulses, and really they are better served by a pack mentality than pair bonding. It makes much more sense to form a tribe of sorts than to pick one person to…what, hold hands with, suffer through the agony of listening to them tell you about their inane day and exaggerated work politics, watch shows and movies you hate just to make them happy, suffer through 40 minute phone calls with their mindless yet insanely garrulous mother because she swapped your cell phone numbers when plugging them into her cell contact list and after several years still hasn’t corrected it, eating dinner at a table because she insists eating on the couch in front of the TV is wrong, etc., all without the prospect of getting some nookie, or the desire to get said nookie. Sorry, an attempt at cynical humor there, but I do stand by my assertion that all the non-sex drive/non-child rearing impulses that contribute to romantic relationships would be better served by a pack than a mate.


    But hey, it’s sci-fi, there’s been far more unrealistic stuff in sci-fi, I’m fine with how IDW is handling it (it exists but the vast majority of the population has zero interest in dating because, what’s the f’n point?), so cool. But if you’re trying to push a real-world scientific justification for eharmony setting up shop on Cybertron, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
     
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  4. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    Considering that Cybertronians are alien, there's no reason why they should act exactly as humans and their romance must be coming from mating instincts. Weirder and less realistic things are written in fiction.


    Having said that, I don't really care about romantic plots being there or not. As long as it's not made at the expense of everything else? No scrap given.
     
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  5. Murasame

    Murasame CHIMICHANGAS

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    Sentient beings having a preference of persons they like to hang out with is totally fine with me. But I don't want to spend time reading only about things that go into depth about romance. And I don't want to see robots kissing. That's silly. That goes into that crazy rule34 area of the Internet.

    Actually, having just thought a few seconds about it, I'm not interested in romance in fiction at all. There are a few exceptions like Buffy and Angel or Han and Leia, Barry and Iris, for example.
     
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  6. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    You're right. That's not the problem. The problem is when they do act exactly as humans, even when the reasons for humans to act that way are absent for Transformers (and alternative reasons aren't provided).
    Also true, but not a very good standard to hold things to. It's one thing when it's just silly, corny fun like the G1 cartoon. It's entirely another when the work is ostensibly trying to be more serious, substantive, and mature, like the IDW-verse.
     
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  7. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    I could respond that they act as humans to be more relatable for the audience. But there's still no universal and hard rule that they act for exactly the same reasons as humans. For the beginning - they're obviously not human.

    There are no alien transforming robots to examine with a real world science for serious so there's no way to present any kind of conclusion as true or logical. Logically, the romance makes no sense... Sure. Just like their bipedal body plan or having to transform into vehicles.

    It all boils down to whatever the writers are making up.
     
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  8. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    And I could respond that there's a balance to aim for between "relatable" and "strange and mysterious", which is being completely overshot. I could further add that many of the best Transformers stories are the ones that compare and contrast the ways transformers and humans are alike (and therefore relatable) but also different (and therefore interesting and worth learning about). This is the exact reason that Rescue Bots is watchable despite being written for six-year-olds.

    IDW used to get this right early on. As it stands, the relatability of IDW's transformers no longer resembles two alien cultures that are similar enough to learn to understand each other. It's more like two different English-speaking former British colonies, whose politics seem slightly odd to each other and who use different terms for "raspberry jam". IDW couldn't do one of their classic "Autobots learning to live in human culture" stories anymore because the Autobots' culture is already 99.8% the same as ours.

    You're right, they're obviously not human. That's precisely why it begs for an explanation when they act exactly like us.
    Which sounds entirely reasonable until you notice that nobody says this to forgive fiction they don't like.
     
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  9. Danny-Boy

    Danny-Boy Centurion

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    I mean... if we're going to question why TFs act like humans, that's just going to cause the entire conceit to break down. Why do Transformers have human facial features like noses? Why do some transformers have hair/facial hair? Why are Transformers bipedal humanoid creatures? Why do Transformers have names like Bumblebee or Jazz or Optimus Prime, all of which are derived from very specific words from human languages?
     
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  10. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    It also begs for explanation why they even transform, then...

    ...despite having a tech level well beyond Tony's Stark Ironman armors that can already outperform most of conventional vehicles.

    C'mon, if you can generate that much thrust then you don't even need those fragile and otherwise useless surfaces called wings.

    Or why their traditional titles are written in quasi Latin.

    Romance and relationships? Heh... Just a tip of the iceberg.
     
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  11. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    The fandom has had many lengthy discussions about all of these things, with varying degrees of seriousness. And in most cases, the general consensus is that a certain amount of this is allowable and even desirable, but that there has to be a certain balance. It's not an all-or-nothing deal.

    This sometimes goes unsaid, but I think it's intuitively obvious that that balance depends on how serious the story wants to be taken. It's easy to shrug off metallic facial hair and flirtatious fembots in the campy G1 cartoon. It's not as easy in a semi-serious, not-very-campy-at-all IDW universe that wants us to think about politics and feelings and motivations. And even there, I don't think I've seen anyone give a solid "no" to this stuff. All the "negatives" are asking for is a reasonable explanation provided in the fiction. What's so wrong with that?
    I... agree? I don't think anybody is saying this is the only aspect of Transformers being handled somewhat lazily by IDW (or anyone else) or that demands an explanation if we want a mature, rational take on the franchise. But this thread is specifically about romance, and "there's this other issue too" doesn't negate the issue at hand.

    But hell, if I was a robotic life-form, I'd want to transform just because it's cool. Wanting to smoosh my dry, metallic mouth (why do I even have one?) together with another robot's though? Probably not so much.
     
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  12. peteynorth

    peteynorth TFW2005 Supporter

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    True, but then if someone starts a thread inviting discussion/debate about the scientific merits/plausibility of romantic relationships in TF’s, then nobody gets to be surprised when discussion/debate about the scientific merits/plausibility of romantic relationships with TF’s ensues. I don’t think there’s a huge groundswell of outrage over TF romances, it’s just something to be accepted like the other traits you mentioned (though those other traits have a very simple answer to their origins/existence – the combined contributions of Japanese toy designers, Bob Budiansky and Hasbro Marketing). I’m not suggesting they do away with the romances, but if someone postulates that romance would be prevalent in a world that’s never had sexual reproduction, you’re going to have to expect a bit of push-back.


    And for the record, these threads are rarely, if ever, started by the cynical meanies.
     
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  13. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    Pretty much this. These topics come up when someone in another topic (or the same topic, which then gets hijacked) says "that doesn't even make sense" in regards to transformer gender or romance. Sometimes that comment is from someone strongly opposed to romance or gender issues, sometimes not. Someone who really likes that stuff being in Transformers gets upset and needs to make a thread validating their feelings about representation (already valid) or their favorite "ship" (possibly valid, but also kinda silly, and not really important to anybody else). And then it inevitably gets flipped around on the rest of the fandom that we're somehow hung up on this issue because here we are having a long conversation about it. But the rest of the fandom didn't start that conversation, and already makes fun of Alpha Trion's moustache whenever it comes up in conversation.

    It's NOT that big of a deal to most of us, but we are nerds, so if some people want to hold a debate about it, we're going to debate about it. It's what we do.
     
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  14. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    I suppose this topic really covers two considerations:

    1) The *relative* plausibility of romance in a property where very few of the conceits have ever stood up to close analysis.
    2) The actual plausibility of romance in an asexual alien race.

    So with regards to consideration 1) this wouldn't really indicate there was anything particularly implausible about romance. In regards to 2), it suggests a universe where the possible range of cultural expression is deeply limited. Cybertronians might not have mixed with Earth culture, as in the Michael Bay movies, but it's suggested that they've had frequent dealings with other races, all of whom also seem to share characteristics with our own species. I mean, look at the Nebulans - they've only ever really been green humans.

    So the hypothetical you're looking for is universe-wide cultural blending - kind of like the current trend towards globalisation - that makes most alien species mirrors of one another, and would presumably have also influenced Earth culture at some point, perhaps without our knowing.

    It's basically steelmanning, but applied to a fiction, and if it means you can interpret something as more coherent than you previously took it to be, what's the problem? It's a lot of fun when readers - or other writers - mend the holes in a work, or even explain why what was previously understood to be implausible/impossible is actually not. I can't think of a specific example, unfortunately, but I'm sure I've encountered occasions where a fictional event is derided as being absurd, only for an expert to step in and point out that this is due to a misconception on the part of the audience.

    I'm not sure that it does. In fact, I'd suggest that the most advantageous evolutionary set-up for a dominant species would be an array of interwoven social units: couples, families, tribes etc. This makes the social structure more of a malleable/responsive/fluctuating mesh than a particular repeating pattern. Patterns are easily broken by external shifts and changes. A pack mentality, for instance, becomes completely counter-productive when - oh, let's say when the species in question gets hold of weapons of mass annihilation.

    But also, as I said in the previous post, I suspect intelligent beings have a need to be understood on a deeply personal level, and in a society without parentage, I can imagine the 'soulmate' concept being even more compelling with regards to feeling listened to, loved etc.

    Nothing - but it must be said that at least some of the negative reactions don't really come from a place of simply wanting a 'reasonable explanation'. They reflect instead a personal distaste for romance plots (which, to be honest, I myself share), and all the talk about being 'realistic' is really just trying to find a justification for these feelings. People in this thread are right to point out that the objection to romance in Transformers has a particular urgency (and sometimes viciousness) to it that you don't really see, for instance, with regard to any discussion around mass-shifting, or any of the other far-fetched aspects of the franchise.
     
  15. flamepanther

    flamepanther Interested, but not really

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    Since we're discussing IDW almost exclusively, consideration 1 becomes "The relative plausibility of romance in a project that was supposed to take a property where very few of the conceits have ever stood up to close analysis and portray it in a more serious, more thought-out way with an increased level of depth and detail." Again, stuff that gets a free pass in G1 Sunbow or Animated doesn't always pass muster anymore in IDW. And with that in mind, IDW has fallen short in some areas that they could fix fairly easily. This is one of them.
    Besides the above, there's a reason this isn't the same as every other conceit. IDW's handling of gender and romance--whether under Roberts or Furman, specifically invites the reader to think about gender and sexuality. When you invite the reader to think about a particular topic in your work, you also invite increased scrutiny of how it fits into the work.
    And this seems to me... problematic, unimaginative, and boring? You've just highlighted how it's a problem from a world-building and story-telling perspective and not just a semi-scientific one.
    That would be an acceptable explanation, except:
    1) This could easily be acknowledged in dialogue somewhere without even slowing or altering the story at all. And yet, as far as I know, it hasn't been.
    2) We already have an aborted, partial explanation (repressed CNA) that doesn't come from outside of Cybertron. Without some reconciliation, this seems a bit contradictory.
    3) Transformers still have no clear motivation to adopt things like kissing. Cultural cross-pollination is usually selective, not wholesale. Why copy that? (Possible reasons would include perhaps "cultural cringe" type phenomena, but we haven't seen evidence of that.)
    4) IDW has shown less transformer interaction with outside cultures than versions of the franchise that explicitly do acknowledge cross-pollination and have less cultural similarity.
    If it's just how you personally shrug off flaws in something you like, I guess there's not one. But it completely defeats the entire point of criticism, especially vis-a-vis plot structure and consistency of internal logic. Oh, the non-magical human protagonist of this otherwise rational drama has just walked across the Atlantic Ocean and pulled a sandwich out of his ear. Well, it happened, so there must be a perfectly reasonable explanation somewhere off-screen. Why are these naysayers so confused?

    But the writers have to actually do it. This is exactly what I'm asking for, in fact. It can be fun when the audience does it as well (that's why I'm here?), but then it's just speculation and headcanon.

    And most of the positive ones don't come from a place of actually finding things realistic.
    Speak for yourself. Personally, I don't doubt this is true for some people, but the "pro-" side seems to me to be a lot more emotionally motivated than the "anti-"... let alone the "neither pro- nor anti-, but would like for it to at least make sense" side.
    I think that has more to do with who starts the topics, their motivations, and how we see these types of fans (especially shippers, erotic fanworks creators, et al), rather than whether we're offended by Optimus Prime having a platonic girlfriend.

    But of course there will be a higher emotional charge, since the topic is emotion.

    As for me personally, I don't need to have strong feelings about something to find it interesting to debate, nor do I need to have a strong preference for one answer or another to at least find one more logical. See my custom user title for details.

    I'll admit I find interspecies romances potentially icky, but not violently so, and it's not really what we're discussing in this thread.

    As long as Transformers doesn't become about romance and gender, I'm not going to especially care whether it's present or not. If you've followed my line of reasoning so far, you've probably noticed I provide a lot of room for this stuff to be present. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be offering a "here's how they could make it work" if I really would just rather they didn't.
     
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  16. FanboyX

    FanboyX is a real boy

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    Well until a couple of days ago I would have never thought to myself "I wonder if Drift and Rodimus love eachother or if they just both love Rodimus" but now that it's happened I'm not particularly miffed about it. They exist for millions of years, why wouldn't their societies develop intimate relationships, sexual or not?
     
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  17. Autobot Hound

    Autobot Hound Combaticon

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    Why do robots have emotions at all? I often see people question robots having positive emotions like love, but don't often see people question why they have negative emotions like hate. I figure if they are capable of hate, anger, and cruelty then these same individuals having the capacity for emotions like love, compassion, and friendship is just as plausible. I mean really, why does Overlord exist and take pleasure in the excessive suffering and torture of others? What positive evolutionary/societal purpose would that serve? If Overlord can exist in IDW, then I figure other individuals who take pleasure in romantic pursuits is also plausible. Basically, they're all reflections/explorations of the human writers who pen them, down to the human-like noses that some here have pointed out.
     
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  18. Steelfire

    Steelfire Well-Known Member

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    Something mentioned in the most recent (I think?) Lost Light helps me make sense of this (I don't know if it has ever been addressed before in IDW, this is just the first time I saw it): As Cybertronians interact with other life forms, they consciously (and perhaps unconsciously) pick up some behavioral patterns, alter their physical bodies, etc. in ways that might not ever have occurred without such extracybertronial contact. Sure, they may have no reproductive reason to have long term romantic relationships, but seeing it among others can plant the psychological seeds which result in mimicking such behavior in the future... perhaps to the point where it becomes a societal norm (or even stronger, e.g. Caminus). Also they saw guys with rad beards so they gave themselves beards. And noses.
     
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  19. AutobotAvalanche

    AutobotAvalanche Always in someone's corner

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    It really makes Cybertronians very adorable. Like they just go around the cosmos and are like, "oh my god that's so cool! Let's do it too!" And then their face transforms to add a beard and nose or their body gets a trenchcoat.
     
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  20. Venixion

    Venixion So-Cal Girl

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    Don't you mean they were made by evil, spinning tops?

    I'm fine with it. They do express full ranges of emotion and love isn't just a physical response, it's also an emotional one.

    Besides, they've already shown romance and attraction of various kinds between cybertronians and even between cybertronians and uh, other sentient species.
     
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