22 Mar 2015

Transformers RID (2015) Season 1 Episode 9 Review

Strongarm from Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015)
Image by Hasbro Studios via Transformers.com

Full spoilerific review after the break. I won't be pulling punches. I might take a couple, though.

Rumble in the Jungle. It sure felt like one over the past week, what with some of the reactions I've seen. Yeah, okay, the stuff at the top of the article is admittedly a little click-bait-ish, but it relates to something I want to get into with this review. I'll try not to touch on the subject too much, although I have thought about writing an entire article about it. That being said, I also hate writing about controversial things because they're, well, controversial. That means there really isn't any right answer, although I tend to be pretty neutral on such touchy subjects.

Anyway, episode nine of Robots in Disguise follows Strongarm on her first "solo" mission, where she encounters a nut-job Decepticon by the name of Springload. Meanwhile, Denny and Fixit squabble like children. These two stories-within-a-story contrast quite nicely, but admittedly, I enjoyed the latter one more, especially the first time I watched the episode. So, let's talk about that one first, shall we?

I've said it before but I'll say it again: I love Denny, and I love Fixit. I believe both of these characters are strong, especially when you start to dig a little into why they say and do the things they do. Okay, okay, Fixit's vocal tic is at an all-time high of "PLEASE DEAR GOD STOP I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE", but Rumble in the Jungle would be my shining example so far of just how great these two characters are.
Here's the deal: Denny and Fixit are so very, very similar. They're both control freaks (to an extent, and granted, Fixit probably more so than Denny), they're both highly independent and they both think they know best. I could go on and on about how similar these two are, but seriously, just watch the episode. They argue like children because both Denny and Fixit have strong personalities that are too similar to the point that they clash.
This may sound silly, because you'd usually assume that one would have to be so very different from another to clash, but that's not always true and I know that from experience. Denny and Fixit are a prime example of this, with Denny trying to play around with technology he knows nothing about even though he has clearly figured a lot of it out on his own, whilst Fixit tries to prevent him from touching the very same Cybertronian technology, even though Fixit himself can't.... fix it.
At the end of the day, it's a story of two like-minded individuals who can't agree on anything that learn to work together when they have a common goal. What they see in each other are qualities they do not like, but once they understand that these qualities are shared between them, they can grow closer. These two have a long way to go, but Denny and Fixit could be best of friends, and that's really cool to see. They're likeable characters because they're smart, witty and strong. They both have egos, but that doesn't mean they can't get along.
Now all I need is my life-size Fixit. That works. Oh boy, I have a similar personality, so it'd be this story all over again. But in all seriousness, these two characters are great. Having such strong supporting characters is always a positive in my book.

Before I move on, I have to give an honourable mention to the trio of Russell, Grimlock and Sideswipe. Grimlock and Sideswipe are just cool dudes. If you could meet them in real life, they would absolutely be your bros forever and ever. They may be a little immature, but you want these guys as your friends. They're funny and not as dumb as you might think.
Then there's Russell. That kid is smart. The best part is that he's smart but he's still a child - he never feels like more than a child and yet, he could be one of the wisest in the group. Just the fact that Russell can be written completely as a child but at the same time, be a sensible, mature character is a testament to the writing quality of Robots in Disguise. Russell has seriously impressed me from the get-go, and I hope that doesn't change. It also helps that he isn't Raf. No one likes you, Raf. Not even your family.

Now we move into the other side of our story - Bumblebee and Strongarm. I just want to preface this discussion with this: I'm great at analysing fiction in-depth, but I'm rubbish at writing about it. I'm going to do my best, however, to hit the nail on the head so that we can end this debate for once and for all.
Strongarm is on her first solo mission. Bumblebee shows up, supposedly not trying to be caught by Strongarm. Yes, he's watching over her even though she is meant to be working alone. Yes, he continues doing that throughout the episode. Yes, Strongarm gets upset by this. But does this make Bumblebee a bad person? Or does Strongarm's reaction make her a bad person? Frankly, it's neither.
See, just take note of what Strongarm says at the beginning of the episode. She's dreaming of being promoted to much higher ranks, before being called back to reality by Fixit calling her a cadet.
That's what Strongarm is, though - a cadet. That means she's still young and eager. Strongarm is looking to the future because she believes she'll accomplish great things and become much better for it. She's dreaming big because she's young and inexperienced. Someone like Bumblebee has been there, done that, and knows the reality of the situation. He'll make sure any cadets know that cold, hard truth, and won't let them dream (too) big.
On the other hand, you have Optimus Prime, who has been a leader far longer than Bumblebee. He's gone through Bumblebee's phase, but now he's all about letting those younger 'bots dream big, as long as it's within reason, and he can guide them as they grow.
Bumblebee isn't there yet. He's still growing. He has yet to become a fully-fledged leader. Once he gets there, then he'll be able to start inspiring a younger generation. Problem is, he has already been treated as a hero once, so Strongarm looks up to him, only to find out that Bumblebee may not be as great as she expected. They say "never meet your hero", and in this case, that holds true.

I've found Strongarm so annoying up this point, always quoting rules and regulations, and always quick to make assumptions. However, in my previous review, I tried to explain away why she is like that, and I still stick by what I said. Strongarm is doing what she has been taught to do. She cannot see shades of grey yet - everything is still black and white to her, and she is trying to figure out you cross those lines that you're not meant to cross without crossing them.
See? That makes no sense. At least, it doesn't in a very logically-written format, but when you have the experience and put it into practice, it suddenly makes sense. It's the same with most any real-world scenario - you can read a thousand textbooks and memorise every word of them, but without trial and error - without crossing some lines, even - you'll never really understand how to use that knowledge. After all, rules and regulations are guidelines. Sure, they're the law and you have to abide by that or risk getting in trouble, but sometimes it is necessary to bend the rules.
At this point, Strongarm is still learning. She wants to fly, but she doesn't know how. She still wants to fly, however. Sometimes the best way to learn is to fail several times first. Still, Strongarm is trying to run before she can walk (obviously not literally, since there's plenty of running in this episode), and that's her downfall. If only she listened to her leader more. But then again, is he always correct?

Here's the tricky part about this plot: Strongarm is at fault. Oh yes, don't even think for a minute she isn't. Still, that does not mean she is the only one at fault. In fact, Bumblebee is just as responsible for this whole scenario as she is. Bumblebee saw Cliffjumper die. He had no choice but to leave Optimus Prime for dead. Now, he's a leader with an insurmountable amount of responsibilities. All Bumblebee wants to do is protect Strongarm. He's been there, done that. He knows the dangers, and he doesn't want to get hurt. Don't forget that Bumblebee is still learning just as much, if not more than Strongarm.

This is where the complaints come in, though. "Oh, it's sexist because Strongarm is the damsel in distress and Bumblebee treats her like a little girl" blah blah blah. No. It isn't sexist. How is it sexist? Because you made it sexist. Honestly, this story never, ever requires a specific gender to be present. The fact that Strongarm is a female character is a complete and utter coincidence. The plot of this episode is void of any sexist content. No one said "let's make Strongarm a female so that she can be the most hated character".
The fact of the matter is that Strongarm is a hard character to understand. Yeah, she comes across as annoying more often than not. I've admitted to thinking so on several occasions. But sit for a minute after you've watched an episode and think about why she's like that. If you have any common sense, you won't come to the conclusion that it's because she is a female and the writers hate her. Also, I'm pretty sure Jeff Kline isn't a sexist, either. Leave the poor guy out of this.
See, here's my major problem with the sexist argument: there is no basis to it. Because the gender of the character in question (Strongarm) never comes into question, the fact that she is a female is just that - a fact. It has no bearing on anything else.
Imagine, if you will, a similar situation but instead of Bumblebee, you had a younger Optimus Prime, and instead of Optimus, you had a younger Bumblebee. The scenario would play out almost the exact same.
Obviously, certain things would change because each character has a different personality, but you're still going to have the same basic scenario playing out the in the same way.

To claim this has anything to do with gender is literally making up baseless accusations. When you start doing that, you are no better than Fox News. Let's be real here - no one wants to be Fox News. Fox News doesn't want to be Fox News.
You only get a reputation like that because you say stupid crap that you made up for the sake of an argument. If you don't have a real argument with actual evidence, don't make something up. There's a difference between bluffing and making up something that someone is more than likely going to find offensive, and sexism in general is more often than not the latter.
No one thought Super Mario Bros. was sexist thirty years ago, but they do now, because people plant the idea in others' minds. I guarantee you that when Miyamoto made Super Mario Bros., he wasn't thinking "oh man, I'm going to stick it to all those females". He wasn't.
This on-going argument of pointing fingers at people for being different just because you feel you are in a minority and/or under-represented/misrepresented group is stupid. You can have your cake and eat it too. You just have to be a lot more savvy about how you do that. No amount of yelling about how all men are misogynistic pigs nor screaming about how all women should make you a sandwich will ever amount to anything more than ridiculous "arguments" with no logical basis nor any reasonable conclusion.
Moral of the story: drop it. Sexism is a lot more of a non-issue than people would have you think. That isn't to say it isn't an issue - it is a very real issue, especially in certain part of the world that don't happen to be a lot of English-speaking countries. There are, however, a ton of variables involved, so it's never cut-and-dry. I wish it was, but that's not how the world works.

So really, the relationship between Bumblebee and Strongarm is normal. Heck, it's more than normal. It's not sexist, it's not patriarchal, and it makes complete sense. Both characters are at fault and both are learning about their weaknesses (and strengths) from one another so that they can become better people, as well as better teammates.
Oh, and uh, Springload is a thing. He's a frog. A frog that turns into a truck. A frog that turns into a truck that is mentally unstable at best. He also looks like Spittor (but isn't. I am sad), so that's cool. Really though, this episode wasn't about him. Springload was the equivalent of the kazoo - an object to unite two allies that couldn't get past their differences before now. Perhaps we all need a kazoo.

Maybe I should have given a better warning, because that was a rant-and-a-half, but I hope that if you've read this far, you can agree with me, at least to a point. I'd be interested in hearing your take on the relationships that these wonderful characters have, so feel free to leave a comment down below. Please keep the discussion civil and refrain from off-topic arguments (as I clearly didn't).
Other than that, thanks for reading! Please link your friends (and family, if they're not insane like mine) to this review if you liked it and want to share it around. It's kind of lonely around here. Maybe you should check back later for some more reviews?

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