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Dec 02

Do Transformers Stories NEED Humans?

It’s considered a given that Transformers stories will have a few Token Humans as part of the regular cast. Only the Beast series managed to avoid it. And in a lot of quarters it’s argued that, while they’re sometimes annoying and sometimes, like in the live action movies, take up WAY too much screen time, they’re absolutely necessary narrative devices to give audiences, especially audiences of children, someone to relate to.

But with a cast of alien robots who are psychologically nearly indistinguishable from humans, do we really need humans so we have someone to relate to?

This isn’t to say human characters are never good. We’ve come a long way from Spike’s vapid verbal exposition and his son Daniel’s attempts to throw birthday parties for high-ranking Autobots. Since Sari Sumdac’s introduction as a friendless, misunderstood kid in Animated there have been human characters who feel less like tokens and more like important parts of the team. Verity Carlo played as important a role in the much-praised Last Stand of the Wreckers as anyone else and started a new tradition of human girls being drafted into the Autobots’ all-or-nothing strike team, which I will never complain about. Though Jack could be a bit vanilla, the human cast of Transformers Prime were genuinely interesting and did more for Team Prime than teach them how to play basketball.

But the argument I often hear when people complain about the latest confirmation that some upcoming series will have a human oh my god is that they’re necessary. When was the last time you heard anyone say their favorite G1 character as a kid was Spike? When we were children we latched onto the characters who were like us not in humanity but in much more important ways. We latched onto the characters who shared our accents, our interests, our phobias. (Have I mentioned I get vertigo on a stepladder?) For many of us it took a while but we eventually got characters who shared our gender. We do it even more as adults, but it’s not like that’s something we had to grow into. Transformers are already human enough for us to relate to (when not done by Michael Bay).

So while I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with humans in Transformers stories, and I can see it argued as necessary for the setting, I don’t think they’re at all necessary so we human viewers/readers/consumers can have a human to relate to. When done right, the Transformers themselves are human enough for us.

2 comments

  1. LBD "Nytetrayn"

    “When was the last time you heard anyone say their favorite G1 character as a kid was Spike?”

    When he became Fortress Maximus. 😉

  2. prowlish

    I completely agree. 🙂 I grew up watching Armada rather than G1, but even then my favorite characters were some of the robots. (Yes, I admit it, I was a huge Armada Starscream fangirl back in the day, haha.) I genuinely enjoy human characters when they are written well, because I enjoy fun human-robot friendships, and Cybertronians Not Getting human culture/pop culture/whatever is one of my favorite things. But no, they are not required to relate to the robot characters, I think that’s kind of a cop-out.

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