Trans4mers, er, Transformers: Age Of Extinction debuts this Friday, and many will view it as a lowlight in the history of the franchise, more or less automatically. But the truth is that Transformers has always been at least a little weird, but it never got weirder than when it tried to deal with sex and romance maturely. Or immaturely. Or at all. Fortunately, it’s rare, but robo-romance isn’t entirely uncommon…
The Girl Who Loved Powerglide
We refuse to believe this episode didn’t start with the Transformers writer’s room coming up with that title, immediately after somebody noted that “Powerglide” sounds like a disturbing form of personal lubricant. But instead, he’s a Transformer!
This episode, which actually saw air, shows the usual lack of subtlety in that the girl in question is named Astoria Carlton-Ritz. We’re not kidding. Astoria has some sort of technology developed by dear old Dad that Megatron wants, but basically this episode is a cheesy romantic comedy, complete with a date at the amusement park and an ending where Powerglide, who we’ll remind you is a gigantic robot who turns into a plane, hits up a heiress for a date. And she says yes.
But, hey, she can probably take a good Powergliding, at least, considering he slams her into concrete with no ill effects:
We’ll note here that this is not the strangest episode we’re going to discuss.
No, the Beck album with the mostly comprehensible lyrics is not about Transformers, as awesome as that would be. Instead this is an episode about a Transformer getting turned into a mermaid, the general incompetence of the Autobots, and how in the ’80s you could probably buy psychoactive chemicals in vending machines in Hollywood.
To start with, this entire episode depends on the Autobots basically being completely moronic. It starts with Seaspray intercepting a distress signal, sent by a Decepticon from a planet of mermaid people. The Autobots can’t figure out it’s from a bad guy, so they respond, with Seaspray, Bumblebee and Perceptor going along. Optimus would come too, but he can’t fit in the spaceship.
Anyway, there’s the usual fight for freedom, Megatron being a douche to his subordinates, and, of course, Seaspray getting a roboner for a mermaid. Seriously, that’s the thrust of this episode. She doesn’t return his affections, giving him the “I love you as a friend” speech on the edge of a whirlpool that will supposedly destroy him if he jumps in, because robots don’t have souls. So he commits suicide. See for yourself:
Walking into that pool turns him into a human with robot legs and the same weird gargling voice, she turns out to be able to use the magic whirlpool to also turn into a Transformer. And then they fall in love and sail off into the sunset, ignoring completely the implication in this episode that Transformers have souls.
So, remember kids, when faced with the fact that someone you love doesn’t love you, you should kill yourself. Also when the can opener dies, it goes to heaven. Why didn’t we just give up on the ’80s? None of this, though, tops the single most embarrassing and kind of disgusting manifestation of the Transformers franchise.
Transformers: Kiss Players
We have two options here. The first is that this is a crossover between the Transformers and shamelessly self-promoting rock band Kiss released only in Japan. As in the KISS players, who turn into vehicles, have the full make-up, and everything you’d expect from the pile of marketing memos that passes for Gene Simmons. It’s a tacky, cynical attempt to force two fandoms to buy new toys.
That, of course, makes logical sense and happened in our reality. The other option would be an entire franchise that centers around young girls tongue-kissing Transformers and giving them magical powers, because that would be weird, even for the hardcore subset of Japanese perverts this was squarely aimed at. Something that would probably be reinforced by a manga full of rape imagery and penis-tongued robots that no just and loving deity would allow humanity to publish. And certainly this wasn’t used to actually try and consolidate all the disparate Transformers stories at the time into something that made logical sense.
Nope, that didn’t happen. We refuse to accept it. We live in a reality where Gene Simmons has a Transformer, and you can’t make us believe otherwise. Play us out, Stan Bush:
Dammit, Stan! Phrasing!