More than Meets the Eye #35: Social Commentary

TF_MTMTE_35_cvrSUBIf it is one thing I absolutely adore with More than Meets the Eye and James Robert’s writing, it is his world building. And it’s not only the normal, standard world building; he also adds things to the society and background of Cybertron that I had never thought possible. I am not used to be able to compare Transformers to my own political views and beliefs, but here we are, at the end of 2014 and I am doing just that with most every issue that arrive, this one being no exception. (Spoilers go below)

As has been more elegantly said in the review on this site, there is some crazy timey-wimey stuff going on, but I will still dig into every bit of the flashback story that we get, because it is amazingly horrible stuff to ponder.

We have already been shown much of the horrors perpetrated by the Functionists (and this issue we even get faces put to the main players), like empurata, as well as the mind alterations done by mnemosurgeons in the government’s employ. All of it part of their effort to ensure their system stays in place, where every Cybertronian remains in the caste appropriate for their alt mode, assigned to them by the government at creation (I assume). That system alone makes me gaze out at our own western society, where it is becoming increasingly hard for anyone to climb the societal ladder and find a better place than their parents used to inhabit, where some titles are worth more than others. It is easy then for me to compare our rigid capitalistic system with the similarly rigid functionalist system, something that might have felt better than whatever situation that existed previously, but eventually turned into another form of oppression.

In this issue we see more of the clear apartheid kind of divisions that existed in Cybertron’s past, with free zones around travel areas, but then to enter society there is a kind of checkpoint, like the grueling immigration and customs in some countries of the world, where you need to show where you belong in society. And like how security checkpoints in our world might force us into nude x-rays, pat downs and cavity searches, on Cybertron you will in some cases need to not only show off your alt mode, you might even have to go deeper and show off the inner workings of yourself. It is these similarities that chill me, wondering how far humanity might go, all in the name of keeping us safe and orderly.

Not as far as Functionalists I hope, for we also find out there are trends even on Cybertron when it comes to useful occupations and functions, just like how jobs here can disappear or become obsolete. Only, on Earth, we do not take our obsolete factory workers and IT workers whose jobs have been shipped off to India out behind the shed and shoot them. This however, is what happens on Functionalist Cybertron, using chips in their heads which were put there by the government. As someone who suffers from anxiety I can imagine what I might feel like as a Cybertronian back in that era, constantly fearful of if or when my alt mode and function would be rendered obsolete and I’d begin to feel a sharp pain in my head before my world goes dark. I would be paying more than one visit to Rung, I think (male or female, depending on which reality will come out on top).

I need also mention the horrific evolution of empurata we are shown in this issue, which came about because, and hold on to your hats, because empurata victims became so common that some claw hands or otherwise maimed body became so commonplace that it stopped scaring the others. It reminds me of how prison and even the death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent for crime in our society, but with millions in prison the world over and the numbers rising, it is clear that’s not working out for us either. I sure hope we will not go the way of Functionalist though, where they take Dominus whole head and replace it with a computer screen, which they can hack into at will, eventually erasing whatever emotions and personality remains of Rewind’s first close friend and confidant. And don’t let me even get into what they did to Minimus…

As a political person with a strong sense of justice I am tickled to see Roberts color his Cybertronian society in political colors, though subtly at times, more strongly in others. Through analyzing the society which our favorite characters were born and live in, I can find similarities in our own way of life and perhaps find life lessons and even inspirations there. I have found bravery and the willingness to stand up to a cruel government, I have seen victims of gross injustice and how a government might be toppled. And also the wrong way to enact a revolution, but also ways how to reach out to others and affect small changes that way.

I know there is more to come in the future, as the society of Cybertron becomes more complex than it ever was when Transformers were first unleashed upon the world and I look forward to putting my analytical mind to it.