Reagrding the Finale, and Bumblebee's Voice

Discussion in 'Transformers Cyberverse and Cartoon Discussion' started by Fierceawakening, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Hey all. I don't know how many of you might remember me and might not. I haven't been around in a really long time.

    I'd decided to poke my head back in here post-BotCon but never managed it. But now after the TFP finale... I have something to say, and I remember at one panel there some writers from something mentioned they read here, and I want this to get seen... and if it doesn't get seen here, maybe you guys will know where I should take it.

    Soooo...

    ====

    I'm a person who was born with a physical disability. It's not the kind of thing that will ever go away -- at least not with current technology. I've had it all my life. In terms of what I can and can't do, it is very minor. But in terms of my life, it's very major. The disability community is a source of wholeness and pride for me. Where the rest of the world often says I'm just short of being complete, almost okay but defective, my community gives me a place to find pride in myself. To think in terms of adaptation, not limitation.

    When I first got into G1 (sadly, not when I was a girl, but much later), one thing that made me so happy it brought tears to my eyes was the treatment of Chip Chase, a human character who uses a wheelchair. He wasn't perfect -- some of the way his disability was used as a lesson felt really cutesy and forced. His chair is one of those hospital-type models that doesn't make sense for daily use. But all that was overwhelmingly outweighed for me by the way his character was treated. He was accepted as he was by everyone. Not only that, but Cybertronians -- even Decepticons, as I recall -- seemed to have a kind of kinship with him. He had wheels, like many of them, and metal. He was kin to the cool characters, not alien or broken.

    And now we fast-forward to TFP -- a show I've really, really liked.

    And what do we see?

    Well, we've got a character who has a minor communication disability, something like the equivalent of a speech impediment in that he's understood perfectly well by his own people and even by one of the humans, but other humans don't understand when he speaks. His disability is acquired, the result of an injury in war. But throughout the series, it's just kind of there. Ratchet fusses about it -- but he's the medic. The doctor. The one whose job it is to fix it. Of course his attitude is that something's unfinished, and of course he feels guilt and shame.

    But Bee? Never really seems to mind too much. Never really seems to be particularly dismayed about his voice, or even particularly haunted about Tyger Pax, really. We don't see him waking from flashback dreams, or clutching at his throat a lot, or frequently beeping in sad frustration at his inability to communicate.

    All of which makes sense to me. If you hang around the disability community for any length of time, you'll meet lots of people who acquired their disabilities at some point in their life. People who were initially mad, or scared, or heartbroken, or oh my God that ability was my livelihood what do I do now without it? And who spend some months or years adjusting and mourning their loss... but who, eventually, go on, and realize it's not that big a deal anyway.

    A little over a decade ago I had some surgeries go hellishly wrong and was in a wheelchair for far longer than I expected. The plan was definitely for me to walk again, and ultimately I did. So I don't quite know what it's like to really lose an ability -- at least not yet. But I do remember thinking that if things got worse, not better, I might never walk. And a funny thing happened. After a while of using my chair, of getting around the world -- I realized I didn't care. I realized that people who can walk worry a lot more about not doing it than people who can't walk crave to do it.

    Because people have this idea that a disability is an ending, and some kind of a horrifying one.

    Which is why... I was disappointed with the finale.

    I was disappointed because the grand moment of the heroes' victory -- was also the moment someone's disability magically disappeared. I was disappointed because the celebrations in the denouement -- were, in part, about celebrating someone's disability disappearing.

    I understand that Bumblebee isn't like me, in that his disability was inflicted upon him by an individual, and that that individual was his enemy. I recognize that that must have kept the wound fresh, in ways that don't square with my experience.

    But I still felt really weird and even a little bit hurt, because part of what that story said to me is that true wholeness comes when disability not only goes away -- but is magically cured.

    To me, when I see things like that, I know they aren't usually meant hatefully. But the first flicker of thought that runs through me is something like "Why do you want me to disappear?"

    I do not know if there's a God. But if there is, I strongly believe He didn't make a mistake when he made me. There is a reason I am in this body. Without it, I would never have learned what it's like to adapt to the world and to take fierce pride in not only the way I do it, but the way my brothers and sisters with disabilities do it, each ingenious, each unique. I would never have found my place in the world as a fierce advocate for my people against precisely those people who think, and say, that we are broken, that we are incomplete, that we need healing on their terms, not on ours.

    For me personally, falling into life-goo would fix some things that irk me, yes. It would make me move faster. It would mean less random, chronic pain. But it would also take away a core part of my identity and make me a different person. So instead of feeling proud, I felt weird, and uncomfortable, and uneasy.

    I'm not asking you to agree with me. I'm not saying my perspective is everyone's. But I would like people who were involved in writing that to listen to me, and to think about what I am saying. I want people to think before they write, because things that happen in one continuity of Transformers often get ported over to the next. We've seen two Bumblebees with vocalizer damage, which means this is well on its way to becoming a tradition.

    Which is okay with me -- but I'd like the people who create Transformers to think about what that tradition will mean. I'd like them not to repeat without awareness and forethought the idea that only without disability is a person (or robot!) truly whole.

    And, ideally, for the next Transformers series, which I await with as much eagerness as the next avid fan... I'd like disability, whether in a Cybertronian character or a human, to be handled a little more like Chip Chase and a little less like TFP Bee.

    TFP writers and creators, you tried hard with race. You made your cast diverse. You tried hard with gender, bucking a trend in Transformers that says female characters are a Problem to be shrugged at rather than solved. You gave Arcee a fascinating personality and history. You made Miko a pint-sized, fierce but reckless Wrecker. And while I know Miko is very controversial, I really loved that about her.

    Now, please, let's keep and find people who will try with us.

    Thanks for reading this, everyone, whoever you might be.
     
  2. Wallu

    Wallu The Amazing of Amazing

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    I've never understood why people take these sorts of things as a personal thing. Bee got his voice back. How does that in any way equal TFP writers "wanting you not to exist"?
     
  3. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    It's a presumption that it's better not to be like you... coming from people who don't know what it's like to be like you.

    Which there's a very long history of in the world.

    Not that that's the TFP writers' fault... but it gets kind of annoying to deal with that in daily life, go home for the thing that you relax to, and see that very presumption in the climactic moment of your favorite show... when it hasn't been a thing at all previously.

    I never got into Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I've been noticing in some of my usual online haunts people talking very happily about the handling of Toph (I think that's her name), a blind character. From what people describe, she's not only a badass hero but also someone who isn't seen as pathetic or limited, and even makes jokes about the sighted characters when they're being particularly clueless.

    I don't hate TFP. I love it. But I wonder if other shows I love can be good about this stuff, too. Especially since we don't have a new show yet, so if people hear me before they begin, maybe they can form and shape it with an awareness they didn't have before.
     
  4. Prowl

    Prowl Well-Known Member

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    Bee didn't have a voice because Michael Bay thought it would be cool for him to talk with 80s music and pop culture references. This transitioned into the cartoon. At no point were they developing him to exemplify any disability. So his voice returning is not any indication of anything.

    I'm really sorry that it ruined your experience but I really doubt that was their intention.
     
  5. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Why does that matter, though? They did what they did. Now they've done it, so it doesn't matter. But what does matter is that now they've got other people lined up (or will soon), ready to do other things.

    And those things haven't been done yet.

    Which means they can do better things next time.
     
  6. kaijuguy19

    kaijuguy19 Keyblade Wielder

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    I'm sorry that you've feel that way. I understand how that can be upsetting, but that wasn't what the writers intended in the first place. They made Bee mute because it was a reference to his movie version.
     
  7. Fierceawakening

    Fierceawakening Deceptigeek

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    Oh, I know they're doing it because of the whole thing with Bumblebee's voice box in Bayverse. That's part of the reason I'm commenting on them making it a bigger deal in TFP -- because very often when things start happening in more than one continuity, they become a Transformers tradition.

    What I'm hoping is that, as new writers decide whether and how to continue that tradition, they realize that it raises the issue of how they depict disability in their show. I hope they think a bit about how things come across.

    That's why I brought up what I've seen people say about Toph as a counterpoint -- or even my own feelings about how I thought it was really cool that Chip Chase's wheelchair, rather than being some sign he was different or broken, was a cool little way he was more similar to the giant robots than his able-bodied friends.

    There are ways to make it cool and interesting, and there are ways to not. I felt like the way the finale of TFP handled it really wasn't. So I tried to explain why.

    Even talking to some of my able-bodied friends about it, they kind of thought it was weird too -- it seemed to them that 'Bee's voice box issue was really Ratchet's obsession, not 'Bee's. Ratchet saw it as an emblem of his failure and felt bad -- and that makes a lot of sense, if you think about the difference between the medical model of disability and the social. Ratchet's a doctor, and also a caring friend (grumpy as he is!)

    I think that would have been cool. For 'Bee either never to recover his voice, and there to be a lesson in that about life with acquired disability, or for him to get it back and be happy about it, but also note that it doesn't really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.

    Rather than being, you know, the great day of triumph and yay is when you're magically cured.

    I mean, there are people who walk up to me and want to pray for that magical cure day. They haven't even said hello or gotten to know me as a person, much less asked how I feel about my legs. But I'm broken, so HEY HEY C'MERE GOD WILL HEAL YOU ISN'T THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING POSSIBLE IN YOUR LIFE.

    Seeing the show do that... eh. Again, I'm not hatin' on the writers, or saying they intended anything. I'm just saying "Hey, next time, maybe less weird implications?"
     
  8. Raiju

    Raiju Navel Shocker Veteran

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    I rather thought that the TF franchise (taken as a whole) has tried to be more inclusive than most other toon/toy franchises, to be honest. I mean, take Chip Chase from G1. Isaac and Sari Sumdac from Animated. Miko from TFP. Of course, there were some questionable missteps too (the whole Carbombya mess in G1, the Twins in ROTF, etc.).

    But I agree with others who say that Bee's disability (and subsequent recovery) was just a carry-over from the Bay movies (I mean, Bee did get his voice back at the end of TFTM1 but inexplicably goes back to his radio-beeping in ROTF and DOTM because of.... reasons). Bee's getting his voice back was just a gimmick to get more folks to tune in and watch the finale (ZOMG, Bee talks for the very first time!), so I wouldn't take it as the writers being intentionally disrespectful to people with disabilities at all.

    I have to ask though if you feel this strongly about the Deadlock series finale, what are your thoughts on James Cameron's Avatar movie?
     
  9. Kilowog

    Kilowog ORA ORA ORA

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    Saw it as Bee getting his greatest wish granted as a reward for what he does immediately after.

    It's fantasy, a character getting something magically cured.

    I hear what you're saying, I got a brother with such severe autism he barely learned to wipe himself until he was 17. That's why people who use autism as an insult or even passively make jokes that such people would be better off not existing disgust me. BUT if I had a magic wand that would allow him to come out of his room and just say one word to me without collapsing out or freaking out at the first thing that confuses me. I FUCKING WOULD, without a second thought. Not because there's something wrong with him and that I'd like him to be normal, but because for all the perceived benefits, the drawbacks just cause me so much suffering to watch. Call it selfish if you wish, but I don't see how curing someone could ever be morally wrong

    We live ina world where the ability to cure or 'fix' certain ailments does not exist, and in some cases will likely never exist. So curing someone in fiction, I see more as a fantasy to be able to help loved ones out of love and compassion than a cold statement that being disabled makes you definitely less than the norm, because in those instances people with such an opinion wouldn't even bother to 'help' you.

    I think what's telling is that it was Ratchet who first noticed his voice box was functional again and was the one who informed bee of it.

    Edit: on top of what I said, Bee wasn't protoformed to only beep. He lived his life with the ability to speak until I was callously taken from him. So this wouldn't be like giving Toph her sight and thrusting her into a world that would be alien to her, this is a guy who had something robbed from him. I mean it's the same thing as what MECH did with the T-Cog, they STOLE it, thus depriving Bee of something that he considered a part of him. So either way, even if he accepted what happened to him, the way it occurred would always sour it for him.
     
  10. Ravenxl7

    Ravenxl7 W.A.F.F.L.E.O.

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    No offense, but this makes about as much sense as the "Blaster is a racist character" argument, aka absolutely no sense at all. Not trying to sound like a jerk when I say that, I just don't at-all see how Bee getting his voice back is hateful towards people with disabilities.
     
  11. einis

    einis Want some candy?

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    Have to agree.I'm also more than sure the reason for making Bee mute was because it worked for the movies.
     
  12. Shattered

    Shattered Well-Known Member

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    I was always under the impression that those who where handicapped consider themselves equals but who would want their handicap eliminated if possible. A lot of your original post seems to support you feeling this way as well.

    If that's the case then instead of seeing Bee getting his voice back as a attack or dismissal of people having handicaps then why not perceive the choice they made as a symbol for hope. That no matter how dire or impossible a situation is there is always hope and that miracles can happen. Also the fact that Ultra Magnus is presently handicapped at the series ending to a degree also furthers my belief that TFPrime isn't being dismissive of handicaps, rather trying to be inspirational.

    So realize that what you perceive is more or less what you choose to perceive. We all get different things from different stories so your interpretation is more a reflection of your frame of mind than theirs. Also this is coming from a man who was hit by a Mac Truck and had his back broken and is still fighting his way through it, and everyday I don't see myself slowly overcoming my present limitations through will and hope as me being dismissive of my handicap. Rather I see it as a testament to my convictions instead of my limitations. Again perception, I choose to be positive instead of looking to negatives.
     
  13. Cha Chi

    Cha Chi Minimondomayhem

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    Hey Fierce awakening, this is a good post. You brought up something about storyline that you personally identified with and how you felt about it. Each one of us does this all the time.

    Your misgivings about the message or moral of the story i feel are fully justified. All i can say is that it must be very hard for the writers to think of everything as you yourself also allude to.

    I was curious myself about the buffing-up of Optimus at the beginning of Beast Hunters and what message the writers might be sending, when faced with adversity take steroids uhhh no that can't be it, but in the end although Optimus greatly contributes - it is not he alone that fixes things and it's this theme of family and teamwork that comes to the fore. There's lots of interesting things like that i find in Prime, which make it much richer, lot's of ways of looking at things too. I'll be thinking of Bee now.
     
  14. Smashs

    Smashs Internet: Pure Truth Moderator TFW2005 Supporter

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    Wow.
     
  15. Shattered

    Shattered Well-Known Member

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    I'm handicapped and I didn't interpret the show the same way. As I said in my post interpretation is subject to perception and that falls on the person not the story as we can't be sure what was going through their mind at the time of it being written. It has always been my belief that if you look for the negative it can always be found and the same is said for positives. So why drown in self pity look toward the positives and make the world what you want of it.
     
  16. Cha Chi

    Cha Chi Minimondomayhem

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    You're right there Shattered and your also right about the writers not shying away from wounds and disability...

    I dunno though i recognise Fierceawakenings personal and raw reaction and feeling towards it. Wrongly or rightly interpreted it's good to get it out Fierceawakening.
     
  17. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    That was not the intention the show runners had when they were writing Bumblebee. They intended Bumblebee to go through development as a scout to a warrior.
     
  18. NeverDoubt

    NeverDoubt Well-Known Member

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    I totally understand the OP's argument, but I think the episode more than makes up for it when Bumblebee remarks to Raf essentially that he never had to say anything for them to be friends. :) 
     
  19. Tresob

    Tresob Well-Known Member

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    I certainly can understand the concern of the original post. One of the things that made G1 Transformers cool was that Transformers could come in a variety of shapes and sizes...sometimes not even human.

    But I think BB getting his voice back is about something bigger from a narrative point of view. It's not so much about making BB more "complete" or more "perfect" as it is about undoing the damage that Megatron has done. Bumblebee's restoration to his pre-injured state foreshadows the restoration of Cybertron to its state before Megatron harmed it.

    It's a hopeful fantasy that evil can not only be stopped...it can be undone.

    It's also worth considering that BB wasn't looking to be healed. It happened as an accident. Like NeverDoubt points out, having an audible voice doesn't really make him any "better" than he was before...because he was able to achieve the most important things in life without it.
     
  20. Fretburn

    Fretburn We need Instrument TFs

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    This is ridiculous. The show piggy backed on the film's version of BB that had no voice. It's well established in the show that BB *wanted* his voice back and that his doctor was actively working to fix it.
    They did address it multiple times that BB was not happy about losing his voice. Ratchet was distinctly distraught over his failure to fix BB. And Ratchet attempting to fix it, promising BB he would one day do it, is pretty strong indicator BB wanted his voice back. And why wouldn't he? Coming to terms with and accepting ones limitations due to an injury/handicap does not mean one wouldn't jump at the chance to have said limitation removed.

    It's assuming a LOT of the writers that they had any thoughts beyond: BB lost his voice -> BB & Ratchet worked to get voice back -> BB gets voice back. Arc complete. It's a (kinda shitty) kid's show. "The kids like bumblebee, it'll be cool when he gets his voice back at the end like in the movie" is basically the thought that would go into it.

    Regarding the poster saying something about Optimus' upgrade being a possible steroid etc allusion...seriously!?