Give A Little; Get A Little

Feminism, let’s take this blog back to territory it belongs in, wash our hands of Transformer posts and personal stories for a while and once again utilise this blog as the launch pad for topical discussion… or at least, hopefully. I want to talk to you about sex and in particular, how society sees sex as something to be given or something to be pursued, depending on how you fit into that power dynamic we’ve settled on. I’ve been inspired by “That’s What He Said”, a YouTube series I fully recommend in which just ordinary men sit and discuss feminist issues in a calm civilised manner, there’s no aggressive “Change this!” rant going on like I’m prone to, it’s more just a group of men exchanging ideas and you are given this seat at the table to overhear their discussion. What inspired me was one participant in the discussion described sex in a way I had always thought of but not consciously, not in any depth – sex is something women give and men get and as a man, I’m gonna get it. Paraphrasing but he essentially pointed out that sex is seen as the end goal, the flag on a conquered fortress that a man has to earn and a woman has to relinquish which puts strange standards in place that I would like to address here.

You probably don’t need me to point out that men are typically somewhat aggressive in the quest for sex, typical male tactics of machismo, cat-calling and even forceful coercion and women either play along, resist or utilise such tactics themselves (though they are seen as whores for doing so). Men play the quest-taker then, they have a goal and must utilise whatever they deem best to do so be it honest communication, money, blackmail, dinner dates, whatever, the end goal is sex and women play the part of the goal and the goalkeeper, by this model they can either choose to let the player win or ensure he loses somehow and this creates a weird disconnect and competition between ourselves that needn’t exist, for the sake of everyone involved.

I’ve highlighted this before but between men, frequent sex with multiple partners is seen as an aspirational thing, like war stories you’d expect to hear in a Viking meadery, whereas between women it’s seen as a lack of self-respect, a willingness to go along with the whims of any old idiot. Why? Well, this standard of men get, women give, ties into how we view ambition and charity and other such things. Someone who gets what they want all the time? Ambitious, commanding, successful. Someone who gives everything away? Foolish, naive, a pushover. As a result, the more men get, the more we think of them as conquerors and the more women give, the more we think of them as conquered, even though the women have to give for the men to get (Obviously not the case of homosexual men, I realise this blog post applies to a cishet gender binary and apologise for that, I am boiling down this issue to the most basic principles. If you have anything to say with regards to sexualities and genders outside of cisgender/heterosexual, leave your comments below, I’d love to read them). By doing this, we put pressure on men and women alike, for men to get as much as they can whilst women must give as little as possible, essentially making sex much less fun for everyone and turning our biological urges into a battleground.

Men, you’re told to get, if you don’t get laid soon enough or often enough, you’re a loser right? Single men are seen as creepy or pathetic a lot of the time, your mates talk about past girlfriends as if they were boss battles in a video game and your role models are always seen as attractive and strong. I mean, there’s no male role model in the modern world that doesn’t have some strongly infatuated fangirl community and it’s not like you’re after that, even just two or three girls secretly thinking of you would be great wouldn’t it? The pressure to “be a man”, to get action, means that men develop a variety of tactics, as indeed they would if they were actually fighting. Some use charm, some use money, some are honestly just attractive and well-endowed but what about the men that aren’t any of those things? Here are where you find the cat-callers and “good guys” waiting for their female best friend to offer him a blowjob just for being a nice person – they don’t see themselves as attractive, or society doesn’t, and they lack charm or impressive talent so they resort to underhandedness and aggression, they blame their failures on women. After all, you get stuck on the same level in a game long enough, you start blaming the game for being too hard or unfair or not making the answer more obvious. The same logic applies here and men are only ever seen as playing the game, very rarely is it that men can be the game. A man is told to get, not give. Why? A man has every right to be called desirable and chased after, it’s not pathetic, it’s wanting validation and wanting someone else to put some effort into you, men deserve that. Men should have the option to give, to be engaged by a stranger or to have someone crush on them without it being weird. Sex isn’t a trophy and if it is, men can give the trophies if they want, that’d be fun for all involved.

Women, by contrast, are put under pressure to not have sex, to ‘save’ themselves for someone and even in this day and age, I hear women talking about saving their virginity for their husband or true love, as if it already belongs to a man they might not even know yet. If a woman expresses a love of sex or long track record, we judge her, we think her irresponsible and stupid, we think of her as ‘easy’, again tying into this whole competitive game. Easy? The level everyone cleared, the tutorial for getting a REAL woman. Heaven forbid she’s a liberated woman who decides who she sleeps with and how often, that’s madness, no she must just be some floozy moron that can’t stop herself. Women have to give in too, that’s how that works – a certain number of dates, a certain number of drinks or a man with enough masculine presence and she’s supposed to give herself to him. We see fictive works of men like Christian Grey, men who are bold and ruthless and unafraid to take advantage of a woman and that’s supposed to be an erotic image for women? Maybe for some but to me, alarm bells ring that this man is essentially a very handsome psychotic stalker and rapist abusing a very naive woman. Women shouldn’t give in, it’s not about giving in, it’s about seeing another person you honestly want to have sex with and both parties agreeing to it, or all parties, go crazy.

I realise our biological differences mean men are naturally inclined to seek more sex more frequently, nature tells a man to spread his seed far and wide to ensure his genes carry on whereas women are the fields to be ploughed in this model but we are more than the sum of our urges and even so, this competition doesn’t ensure anyone gets the best deal. Picture a society in which sex is just another run-of-the-mill thing, it’s casual, it’s given and received on terms we all agree on as individuals and there’s no pressure on anyone about anything. Still a virgin at 32? Nobody bats an eyelid. Fucked a different man each day of the week? Cool, you’ve made seven different men very happy and you had fun too, awesome. Men have nothing to prove so there’s less coercion and pestering and women have no false reputations to lose so if they fancy an idle fuck, woot, go ahead. I realise to some of you this sounds like a godless debauchery but our warped views on sex are much more harmful to society than this alternative vision could ever be.

I will end on this note, if anyone ever gives you grief about your sex life, well I guess just Sodom! (EYYYYYYYYYYYY GET IT? GET IT?!)

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The Year Ahead: 2016

Okay, so I’ll begin by saying that this will probably sound like the typical ‘new year, new me’ nonsense that the cynics amongst us love to shoot down without mercy – we are always sceptical of change, especially change in people, and we make a joke out of people who claim they are going to but honestly, you have to credit people for even trying and maybe a lot of them will give up on that new outlook three weeks into the new year but some of them don’t and that is quite remarkable. With that in mind, let’s move on shall we? Allow me to share what I hope 2016 will have in store for me and what I have in store for 2016.

So, the big thing is I joined a gym, I’ve already attended a session and I’m going again on Monday. I’m tied into a twelve month contract, can’t leave it without 30 days notice so I’m going to commit to it and this will encourage me to actually work out – last year I tried getting fit by just going for jogs around the local scenery and this was nice but it was way too easy to find excuses not to do it (It’s rained a bit, I’m tired, my friend said they’d come but they’re not going to). With the gym membership, if I don’t go, I’m charging myself £9.99 a month to be a lazy asshole and I’ve not joined alone – both friends and family have joined up so I always have someone to go with and if I don’t go then I have lots of people to encourage me to do so, rather than just relying on myself to be motivated. The plan with the gym is to bust the gut and have a body I can be happy with, at the very least to not have any overhang above the belt considering I don’t recall having that same pudge two years ago and I don’t much like having it now.

Aside from the physical fitness regime, 2016 is the year I plan to make the year in which my blog reaches into new territory, namely vlog territory. The Facebook page is already home to some fun playthrough videos, which if you haven’t watched I encourage you to do so, but still there is work to be done and I’m not content just yet. I have the resources to hand at long last to begin making bigger strides into the internet community, to stop being some obscure little blog down the back of the metaphorical sofa, I’m going to be a name people recognise and it won’t happen right away but 2016 is where I get things going. People have stepped up to help here and there and plans are underway. I really want to make 2016 the year I get personal projects off the ground, 2015 was going to be all that but aside from clearing the table to get the work done, fuck all happened. Life got in the way, I understand, but maybe there’s a workaround and it’s time I found out what that was if this is ever going to be something more than it is currently.

Personal life wise, I need to find a way to move on, in multiple senses of the term. I feel myself stagnating and my friends assure me it isn’t so but I’ve spinning my wheels and enough is enough. Get a job, get up on my own two feet and get to a place where I can actually respect who I am and feel secure in that. I realise these goals are vague, they say vague ambitions are no ambitions at all but honestly, I’ve been so dizzied by my life lately that this is as coherent as I can do at the moment. At the time of writing, I have a terrible rash down my back and legs that bleeds at random, shoulder pain, back pain, chest pain and sudden headaches akin to being on the receiving end of Thor’s wrath.

I’m going to stop rambling, I’ve been told I go on longer than I need to on posts like this so let me just say that I hope you will come to hear more from me this year and I wish you every success in your ventures, as I’m sure you do in mine… otherwise, why are you here right?

My 2015

Happy New Year! I had hoped to be posting today’s post yesterday and tomorrow’s post today but it seemed all out of nowhere I had a life again, with places to be and people to see and that was exciting so it took precedent over writing blog posts for basically those same people to read. I’m going to look back on my year today and tomorrow, look forward to the new and this post is for those of you who take some interest in the man behind the rant and how his head works (Spoiler Alert: Not very well)

2014, as it drew to a close, had been an odd year but it ended on a high note because whilst I had recently become unemployed and was still in the same old situation of single and sponging off my family whilst earning just enough to pay for my own things (Social life, phone bills, contributions to the home), I was happy enough and I figured with such valuable experience and good friends, life would work out. 2015 then, said “Ehh…” and whilst I had been employed for a good chunk of the year, working in care, come the end of the summer I was now back on benefits, the margins for which had tightened and the people giving the handouts had gotten meaner than I ever remembered them being. Alas, getting ahead of myself so I’ll try to follow the course of the year and explain myself, omitting names of course for the sake of those involved.

Looking back at what scraps of a journal I had maintained in the start of the year, the year started on a bum note, social events being scrapped last minute and my general tone in the book is grim but with a sort of underlying hope, something I can admit is the same now. The ambitious plan to go jogging out in the wild fell into obscurity around February but then things got better around March because although I had been going through one heck of an odd journey with a friend of mine, I then found myself employed and in a job that didn’t make me want to throttle people, which is hard to come by. All seemed well, perhaps the key word being seemed.

Through no fault of their own but rather their circumstances and general isolation, I was employed as the sole carer of someone, and though we were told there would be more hours and pay coming my way someday, tomorrow never came and I found myself worked to the bone as the carer, cleaner, personal shopper, psychiatrist and advocate of someone who really just needed the various officials in her life to shut up and listen to her. Things reached a peak and the pressure of it all caused her to breakdown, followed shortly after by me and so she found an alternate living arrangement and I found myself unemployed. No malice held for them for what they chose to do, they did what was best for them and for me – after all, I could get work again and whilst I am currently unemployed, at the time of writing three different employers are all very interested in me.

So, with the autumn and winter ahead, my 21st looming and Christmas after that, I was back on the hunt for work, honing my skills in retail by making my semi-triumphant return to Oxfam, having become something of an urban legend in the place judging by the number of “(VOLUNTEER NAME) told me about you, I’m (NAME)”, perhaps the most realistic substitute for actual fame is that sort of remark – though 2015 was the year that saw my blog reach new heights of over 1000 views in a week, video posts on my Facebook page and even some recognition on the street as “That wanker who writes about feminism”.

2015 wasn’t all doom and gloom, there are some friends I found myself closer to than I had been previously and whilst some saw fit to kick me whilst down, I at least weeded out bad eggs in the process – namely people harboring hilariously outdated views and people willing to abandon my friendship for £20, go figure. I also made a new friend in someone whom previously I had not exactly been pally with, they were friends with people who belittled me in my youth and they then contacted me, having remembered me from encountering my blog, they then apologised for following the crowd and explained themselves to the point where we mutually agreed that school isn’t about an education, it’s some sort of psychologically traumatising rites of passage in which you are just doing whatever it takes to get through it and we just happened to have different means of doing that. I also changed medical practice and got my formal diagnosis at long last, considering my former GP was determined my social anxiety was nothing more than “stress” and the need for “a good holiday somewhere nice”, as if I had that as an option.

So 2015 ended with me now unemployed, still single and my depression has only gotten worse but on the upside, perhaps those things won’t last. 2014 ended with me single and unemployed but also lost, which I tried to pass off as looking for opportunities but with no idea where to look where as now, I have jobs lined up, fewer but better friends and I signed up to an actual gym so if nothing else, I can at least be attractive whilst wallowing in self-pity!

Happy New Year and shit.

Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas dear readers, is the turkey sitting nicely in your gut (or vegan equivalent? So as not to discriminate). I hope this year finds you all doing well and of course, wishing you the best for the year to come. As is becoming of yearly traditions, I am here to fill you in on my Christmas and a recap of the lead up to it, from my perspective, because that is what you are here to read. I am not a newspaper nor a company, merely a man with a blog that you all seem to take some interest in, however slight or strong it may be.

I will admit I have not looked forward to Christmas – unemployment, tight finances, dwindling social life and a constant stream of happiness from the world around me seemingly for everyone bar me has had me greet festivity with bitterness in my heart. As I write this, that bitterness begins to come forth once again, as it often does in an evening. I made my efforts though, I am not one to let my personal woes ruin the joy of others and so I participated in gift-giving, jumper-wearing and cheer-spreading, albeit with a somewhat pained grimace where a smile should have been. Today in itself consisted of the usual gift-unwrapping followed by films, Doctor Who, dinner and then everyone toddles off again to do their own thing, my thing being returning to my little cell of a bedroom to brood and contemplate on doing something creative until it is suddenly 2:34AM and all I have achieved is removing my trousers and staring at the utter lack of notifications I have to attend to on my Facebook.

Christmas, in a sense, has yet to actually come for me because whilst I have received cash from the folks and a new shirt from one of my brothers, the bulk of my gifts are coming from friends I have not had the chance to see yet and perhaps on those occasions I will feel more cheery. As it stands, home life is not cheery, tensions are high here and there has been far too much aggression in the air to call this a holly jolly holiday. Interesting, when one considers this might be my last Christmas like this – though I feel perhaps that was considered by everyone present and some perhaps greeted that thought with the silent response of “Thank goodness”, there has been no attempt to bury hatchets here and hostilities are either laid plain or knives are sharpened behind backs. Indeed, perhaps even this blog is my knife, though whom it would cut remains to be seen as my work is met with the most trifling interest by my family.

I apologise, I am a downer on a day of joy, such is my lot. I wish I had stories of charity and cheer to tell and whilst this season has not been an endless suffering on my part, indeed one party was attended and unexpected gifts have been assured to be coming my way yet as it stands, at this time on this day, I feel a black mist grip my soul and drag it back down like always. I look forward to the new year, if only because I have ambitions to drive me and feasible means of achieving some of them and the prospect of being in work again is seemingly more apparent – two employers have expressed great interest in me and once the world of work is back in order then they will hurry to usher me in and get me sorted out as either their new team player or latest addition to the rejection bin.

I have no right to complain, I spent Christmas in a warm home with turkey on my plate, no job to tear me away from my family and there was no actual family tragedy today, just muttered words and a general consensus of “Let’s do this for as long as it is bearable”, with some of us giving up an hour in and some sticking through to dinner before departing. Families do that I suppose, the Christmas card image of a family gathered and united in love is appealing but fairly untrue, especially in homes on the breadline like mine. Ultimately, you must think me a terrible whine, to speak of how poor I find myself and woe is me but you are not obliged to read on, this is merely a personal filling in and as it stands, this is the truth of it – a modest Christmas with a family divided and I am little more than a misery.

I do not know what 2016 will bring. I hope it will be the year that changes everything and intend to work hard to make it so and yet, I have said that much for each year of my life since I left school and here I am. On the upside, with a gym contract I’m obliged to for twelve months, at £9.99 a month, I can at least be depressed and fucking jacked up like a beefcake, I’m too much of a tight git with money to let the best part of £10 vanish from my bank account each month and not turn up at the gym – I’m lazy enough, I don’t intend to charge myself £10 a month to be so.

Still, Christmas is a time to be thankful so let me end on the lighter note as to what I am thankful for. I am thankful to my family for providing me a home and for the efforts they have made for me all year round, to my Dad for being willing to invest in me and help me take my first steps towards revolutionising my work by buying me the equipment. I am thankful to my friends for their steadfast loyalty, especially at this time and whilst the run-up to Christmas would provide many of them valid reason to make less effort, some have made more effort than ever to check that I am okay and provide me with some reason to smile or laugh. Lastly, let me give thanks to the unexpected friends I have found this year, old grudges washed away and casual acquaintances have made new strides to know me better, it is always something that can make me smile.

Merry Christmas everyone, I will provide a 2015 retrospective later this year and in it, I will look back on my year and my plans for 2016, for those who take interest in such matters

Christmas Is Always Coming

So, let’s talk about Christmas, it’s obligatory with it being less than ten days away at this point and I do plan to discuss my actual day of Christmas with you on Christmas as it happens, a sort of sum up like last year followed by a retrospective of my year as a whole. However, for now, let’s discuss Christmas, in particular why some may view me as something of a Scrooge on the topic. I never really partake in festivities to the same degree as my friends – no antlers on my head, no Christmas jumper waiting to be sprung out come December and you’ll never get me singing along to Jingle Bells. A variety of reasons surround this, first and foremost is my social anxiety which insists that although everyone else in the room looks like a colossal dickhead wearing red noses and tinsel scarves, I will be the most dickheadiest of dickheads if I join in, that somehow my foolishness isn’t just fun, it’s utterly disgusting and degrading to watch and people will remember the display as a reason to hold me in slightly less high regard. On the other hand, there are some other reasons I’m not huge on Christmas as a whole, which I’ll cover over the course of this post.

Now, don’t be mistaken in thinking I want December 25th to be just another day on the calendar and we don’t bother at all, that’s not it, I think it’s nice that we all agree to dedicate some time of the year to togetherness and family time and so on – though it sucks to the nth degree not all of us get that. Christmas, forced onto the mainstream by a previously Christian dominated society and now kept around for people of all walks of life due to a combination of tradition and marketing, is fun when you’re in the right setting for it with the right people and resources and so on – hard to be miserable at Christmas when you have all you want. The problem is just that though, Christmas is such a beacon of light and joy that some of us expect it to cast out the negativity simply the grace of existing and we can overlook the pains, struggles and loneliness of our fellow men because we think “It’s Christmas, someone will do something for them and they’ll probably feel better with a belly full of turkey and some nice new trinkets to unwrap”. Here then. we have that phrase, that phrase that is the bane of my life every single year between the end of October and December 26th.

“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

You know what? So fucking what if it is? We’re aware what time of year it is, which by the way, I resent for creeping earlier and earlier into the year, partly because I’m a November baby and partly because it applies the pressure to be cheerful and excited on depressed folk like me before they’re even in the right frame of mind to adopt false happiness. Christmas isn’t some be all, end all cure to the woes of the world, whatever Bob Geldof insists on telling you. The reality is Santa doesn’t deliver world peace, bosses don’t always let things slide because the big day is coming and not every broken heart finds someone willing to bring them out of the cold, let’s not delude ourselves. If we perpetuate Christmas as being the best thing to happen in a year, it loses that status because we don’t need to do anything, it becomes that for the consumerist masses just by being Christmas – people already have their Christmas spirit pumping without the need for volunteering in a soup kitchen or checking in on their lonesome neighbour who doesn’t have kids to come visit or whatever. By doing that, Christmas becomes less and less like the fairy tales and slips more and more into what cynics like me have been calling it for years – a mass of over-excited meatheads stuffing their faces and buying shit.

So, Christmas lovers, maybe you’re think I’m being a Grinch hmm? I just don’t understand because I’m a misery right? Maybe you’re right, this year is seeing me be the most depressed I’ve been at Christmas time since my schoolboy days, for reasons too personal to disclose here. However, last Christmas (Don’t), I wasn’t as bad, I had money, friends and even though Christmas didn’t happen at my home, I did my fair share of philanthropic gestures and gift giving and even then I STILL wrote an article about how overhyped Christmas is and how unfair it is on children in particular. I love Christmas and that’s speaking as a staunch Atheist to whom Christmas has no religious meaning to give remembrance for, it’s literally just “Winter is shit but hey presents and food happen!”. but I still love this idea of a time in which we stop to think about people and how we can express our love for them, my only concern is that perhaps we lost sight of that.

You know the shpiel here, that Christmas has become about buying affection rather than earning it, in showing love through consoles and laptops rather than actual words of kindness or shows of support and many of you will roll your eyes at the goody two-shoe deal here but it is so important we remember that and we must remember that Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us all, no matter how much you wish it to be. Tragic story time, my Dad when I was young, despised Christmas, so much that seeing decorations filled him with dread and sorrow because to him, it didn’t mean joy and laughter, it meant a time of spending money and fulfilling other people’s dreams because if he didn’t, he had to disappoint them. We had no decorations in our house until Christmas Day itself and they’d come down again afterwards as soon as Dad could manage it, just so he didn’t have to see that tree for one second longer than he had to. I didn’t understand as a child, I don’t think my Dad ever realised that as a kid, I was always happy at Christmas with anything he got me – probably because kids are so shit at being grateful for stuff. We’ve always lived on the breadline in this home and to then have December 25th pop up “JUST A HEADS UP, YOU BETTER SPEND AT LEAST LIKE… £500 ON GIFTS OR PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU DON’T LOVE THEM” when you can barely afford £5, it’s terrifying and makes you resent Christmas as being a toll, a challenge to PROVE your love and selflessness, as if everything else you did all year didn’t count.

Christmas is getting a little too big for its own boots here and stomping on the poor and the heartbroken, it brings joy not only because we are all given what we want and are giving those we love what they want but because everyone looks happy when you push the unhappy ones out of the photo frame. I’m not even going to try and count the number of times my depression has been muddled up with a lack of Christmas spirit, that somehow all this obnoxious corporate money-grabbing and ugly jumper parties should be the strongest mood medication I could ever want. Somehow though, it is not but I still partake in Christmas – gifts have been bought, nice gestures done without the hope of them being returned have been performed and on Christmas Day, as is my tradition, I contact everyone I consider a friend to at least give season’s greetings.

So, what am I saying here, you ask? The article has sort of read as a general guilt-tripping Santa-bashing bitterness sandwich but I guess ultimately, I want you to read this and remember that Christmas in and of itself is not special, Christmas is as special as we make it for ourselves and others. If you think buying lots of stuff is all it takes, well done, you’re nothing more than a patsy Amazon and Wal-Mart will bleed dry year upon year, but Christmas is about charity and charity isn’t just giving to the homeless, it’s showing love. PLEASE take this time to check on people and that they’re ok, if that’s the only genuinely good thing you do that isn’t all about presents, please make sure that miserable fuckers like me are at least safe and comfortable this Christmas. I guarantee you that everyone who hates Christmas has a reason for it and it’s no good telling them to just cheer up; do something that makes this time of year a little easier for them.

Merry Christmas.

The Unicron Trilogy Part Three – Cybertron

The last leg of the trilogy, Cybertron, known in Japan as Transformers Galaxy Force, this series was under a lot of pressure from the offset to not fuck up like Energon and Armada before it, would the world be subjected to three bad shows in a row (Two and a half, Armada did redeem itself in the end) or would Cybertron be the salvation of this trilogy? With the responsibility of making these cartoons put into new hands, Cybertron was conceived as being the sequel to Energon to bring the continuity to a close so we were to expect returning cast members, sly references and so forth. However, what resulted was not pure to that vision, seeming content to dismiss the early fuck ups and stand as a good show on its own merits. So, how well did visions become reality? Allow me to tell you…

Lore

In the aftermath of the second destruction of Unicron, he is truly no more, his dead body blown to smithereens. However, his absence from the universe is causing said universe to collapse in on itself in the form of a supermassive black hole truly worthy of a Muse song. Cybertron is on the verge of falling into this hole so Optimus evacuates the entire planet and hides the refugees on Earth whilst trying to think what can be done for his home world. Vector Prime, an ancient being and guardian of the space-time continuum says the only hope they have is to seek out the four cyber Planet Keys and the Omega Lock into which they fit, that will awaken the heart of Cybertron, Primus, who is the only being capable of stopping such a black hole. Here is your basic premise then, yet another scavenger hunt for relics of extraordinary power whilst dealing with Megatron and Starscream’s nefarious dickbaggery.

Cybertron, in and of itself, went well. The fear of not having enough plot to fill the episodes was never realised, though perhaps because they stretched certain plot points into three episodes when you only needed one for it but at least there were was substantially less filler than Energon beforehand. However, Cybertron, whilst supposedly serving as a continuation of the Energon series, seemed to “forget” a lot of established facts from beforehand – the writers apparently had wanted to retcon all of the previous mistakes and start afresh, much to Hasbro’s annoyance and whilst efforts were made by the localisation team to force it into the “After Energon” space they had prepared, it was jarringly done so we had errors like this:

  • The Autobots have never heard of Earth or humans before, despite being to Earth at least twice
  • All the Autobots human friends from previous series have vanished and no effort is made to contact them
  • Even though humans and Cybertronians coexisted in the open in Energon, Optimus Prime gives everyone strict orders not to allow any humans to notice their presence
  • Jetfire is suddenly an Australian?
  • Red Alert returns, despite being absent from Energon, and likewise we never hear from Ironhide or Rodimus, main characters from Energon
  • When Optimus first combines with a team member, he is utterly confused, stating it’s impossible and astounding, even though the last series was nothing but “We have to combine!”
  • Megatron and Starscream died in Energon but in Cybertron, they’re alive and well and wreaking havoc and nobody even mentions “Hey, weren’t you dead?”. There is no explanation given for how they came back, even in the localisation
  • Hot Shot, who was a youngster in Armada but a veteran by the time of Energon, is now a youngster again

Indeed, the show was happy to just do whatever it pleased and leave Energon and Armada firmly in the past. Whilst disappearing cast members happened between Armada and Energon, this was explained with a ten year gap between the two series so obviously different characters had been assigned to different tasks or aged or whatever but Cybertron never states what time it is set in so who knows? It has to be after Energon surely because Unicron is no more, that much is clarified, but how long after we can’t tell and somehow the futuristic human society of Energon is replaced by what was considered a modern one in 2006.

Now, I’m going to add a new section here because whilst Armada and Energon are little more than running a Japanese cartoon through Google Translate and recording the results, Cybertron had a full writing team working to make the cartoon relevant to the West and much more interesting so exclusive to Cybertron, let’s look at some changes in the translation between Galaxy Force and Cybertron.

Differences

Transformers cartoons in Japan are batshit insane to say the least. You’d imagine they’d be even more action packed and dialogue heavy right? Nope. Every character is an interchangeable humourless bore, save characters who exist for no other reason than to be comic relief, and they barely say much beyond announcing their names, transformations and life goals on a loop. Galaxy Force wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but Cybertron did a fair bit of modification and honestly, for the better. Usually you think of American dubs as being a bastardization of a good show but because Energon and Armada had been such flops, Hasbro left nothing to chance and upped their game, fixing anything that could possibly disappoint fans.

For the most part, what they changed was dialogue, adding flavour to the lines and giving each robot a distinct personality, albeit a gimmicky one. Jetfire is an Australian stereotype, Scattershot is a little trigger happy but also sort of anxious, Red Alert is a stick in the mud, Overhaul is a macho man, Landmine is a veteran and Optimus Prime has developed a sense of humour. No two characters could be muddled up and the voice actors seemed to give much stronger performances with these scripts that had been crafted with much more care and attention, even going so far as to slip in some jokes. Cybertron took itself seriously about plot but not about execution – when it became apparent that fight scenes between Optimus and Megatron were usually them punching each other and fists meeting midway, a joke is added in which they both pause in silence and Optimus just says “Wait for it…” before a stock explosion clip is added, like it had been the last three times they did that same thing. Characters often talk as they transform too, seeing as each episode dedicated a lot of runtime to transformation sequences so sometimes they just babble, sometimes they repeat plot points or sometimes, often Optimus, they will make a joking statement or witty retort.

Other than that, the plot got some tweaks. Mainly the humans, who two of which were meant to come from unhealthy home environments but that’s omitted and instead of Coby being afraid of his Dad, he more respects him but his Dad is something of an authoritarian, made light of at times and he’s given funny Dad-like irks (He is distracted from scolding Coby because his wife tells him someone doesn’t believe he’s the best fisherman ever). The humans are also given a use beyond being culture consultants with the plot element of the Omega Frequency, a high-pitched whine the Omega Lock gives off that is so high only children can hear it. There were some minor changes made to diversify the cast, Nitro Convoy became the female Override. Many changes existed but it’d be hard to cover every last one – it was mainly reducing the amount of unfriendly content and adding in lots of quips and one-liners. Thunderblast, a female Transformer, is considerably less sexualised in America than in Japan, her Japanese counterpart referred to as a Siren but her American instead called a jokester. Finally, Burning Justice, characters had a tendency to burst into flames when enraged and whilst the only explanation given in Japan is it is the flames of justice igniting in the soul of the said Transformer, American dubs explained it was either the character was powering up, really damn pissed or occasionally they would remark “Why the fuck am I on fire now?”, just in PG language…

Behind The Scenes

Conceived as a final installment in a trilogy, the Japanese writing team didn’t like this idea and went their own way, ignoring the previous lore in the writing and animating stage. Hasbro caught wind of this and were pissed, it had already been advertised as the third part of a trilogy and here it was, it was not. Imagine if Return of the Jedi wasn’t Luke’s triumph over Vader and the Emperor but instead we have ourselves Luke Skywalker back on Tatooine only everyone is played by different actors and the story is still the same but just different enough to make you seventeen shades of uncomfortable. Hasbro brought in a new writing team for the American dub, no longer would they rely on rushed translation jobs, this had to be good and somehow, had to line up with the events of Energon. Bless them, they tried, but the cartoon wasn’t made to be part of Energon so they couldn’t explain why continuity errors all that well – there was a comic series released which had Vector Prime explain characters have forgotten the events of Energon because the black hole has altered time and space and warped the memories of everyone on Cybertron, explaining why Optimus doesn’t recall ever beating Megatron or ever combining with Wing Saber and so on.

We saw the use of CGI animation again, much better executed than Energon beforehand, though limitations still shone through – characters had rather emotionless faces but there efforts made to show them smirking when they made jokes and somehow Optimus looks furious with his face guard up but otherwise they were essentially very large slow moving statues made to perform minimal movements. Characters would walk a bit or raise an arm or whatever, if they did anything more dynamic it was against a colourful anime background of blurred purple speed lines so the clip could be reused in any episode. The colouring was off as well, being perhaps a little too bright and bold compared to the less colourful backdrops and humans who dressed in more subtle tones of blues and greens. All in all though, Cybertron was much better put together and if you could look past the little “But wait…” moments that cropped up, you had yourself an enjoyable cartoon.

Reception

Cybertron had a lot to do to prove itself to the fans, who had twice been disappointed by sub-par rushed jobs of cheap dubs and to the credit of Cybertron, it did well. The toys sold pretty well, not with the immediate rush of Armada but the hype train was long since dead by Cybertron, the “catch them whilst they’re young” plan had worked a treat for Armada but new fans were slow to get into Cybertron and TV networks were reluctant to give Transformers much space considering how they’d used it previously to half-heartedly sell toys using twenty minute commercials. However, Cybertron had done well enough to redeem the franchise, justify its renewal in further incarnations and Hasbro ensured no shortage of merchandise was ever an issue as toys galore were made, pretty much every name in the bank got used for at least one toy.

As a cartoon, Cybertron sat well with fans, the dub had been given some actual work to make it enjoyable and the actors all gave much stronger performances in a project that returned Transformers to the roots – campy robot fights full of painful one-liners and “And then something cooler happened” moments. Fans of Galaxy Force were miffed that the localisation was so far removed from the original Japanese cartoon but otherwise, Cybertron is generally seen as the “best” of the trilogy and is one of the most well remembered cartoons based on Transformers. Cybertron paid homage to pop culture, Transformers history and not only did it draw inspiration and learn from the past, it improved on it, providing a colorful cast of unique characters in a plot that was never content to sit and repeat itself to death like Energon or bumble around in boredom like Armada.

Conclusion

Cybertron was what captured me in the fandom at a young age, Armada was the worm on the hook but Cybertron reeled me in and got me interested in knowing more about the history of the franchise, as is my obsession with my obsessions. Though not necessarily the most sophisticated and adult interpretation of the characters, Cybertron was made by people who cared, by voice actors who enjoyed the work and for an audience who wanted to believe Transformers had not yet seen its eternal decline. After this, Transformers went onto become a big deal thanks to Michael Bay’s own interpretation and the countless works inspired by the renewed brand value of shapeshifting machines firing pew-pew lasers at each other. Cybertron was not what we expected but considering what it was, that turned out to be a good thing.

The Unicron Trilogy Part Two – Energon

Carrying on from the previous article, for those of you who find yourself interested in this esoteric topic, today’s article will look over the second installment in this trilogy of Transformers cartoons, Transformers Energon (Known as Transformers: Super Link in Japan). Made in Japan but dubbed first in English and then sent back to Japan to be redubbed in Japanese, the series was devised as a direct sequel to Armada before it and to avoid the failings of the crude animation of Armada, it was animated primarily in cel-shaded CGI with hand-drawn animation being reserved for the human characters and backgrounds. However, though efforts were made to make Energon much more dynamic, exciting and altogether ‘better’ than Armada, what resulted was not so and Energon is remembered as a low-point of the franchise and the shitty little sibling of big brothers Armada and Cybertron. So let us now analyse it using the same three-stage formula utilised in my Armada retrospective!

Lore

Ten years on since Armada, Megatron is no more and the Autobots and Decepticons co-exist in an uneasy truce with their kind living on both Earth and Cybertron, making efforts to rebuild from the aftermath of war. However, the peace does not last when rogue Decepticons, dedicated to the revival of their leader Megatron, start harnessing powers beyond their comprehension and soon enough, Megatron is reborn and the war begins anew. Like Armada beforehand, there is a looming threat in the form of Unicron, thought dead but somehow still functional but what is new to this series is the other threat, a mysterious alien called Alpha Quientesson (Hardcore fans of G1 may recognise the name), who leads legions of ravenous beasts called Terrorcons with the goal of harvesting all the Energon in the universe so as to revive Unicron’s hollowed out shell as his own personal weapon of mass destruction.

Whilst Armada started shite and got good, Energon was the opposite, a series that started strongly with hints of serious character development to be had was lost as the series went on and though there were 51 episodes made, the plot came to a standstill by around episode 20, giving us 31 episodes of “Unicron is destroyed… wait no, no it’s not… Ok now it is… damnit nope… Oh look a shiny coin!” Armada added depth as it went on but Energon seemed to lose it, despite starting out with some seriously interesting points:

  • Demolishor, a previously loyal Decepticon, doubts whether or not he actually believes in Megatron’s vision anymore. This made us think perhaps he’ll change sides right? Nope, he’s killed off and brought back by Megatron as a mindless drone.
  • Inferno, an Autobot but with a Decepticon past, struggles to resist the will of Megatron within his own head. Resolved by Inferno killing himself to silence the voice inside his head only to then be brought back from the dead and relegated to the background for the rest of the series.
  • Kicker, a human, hates Transformers despite being assigned as their ally. However, it’s never explained in clear detail WHY he hates them and his hatred for their kind is forgotten about two episodes after his introduction to the series
  • Rodimus, an Autobot leader in his own right, constantly fights with Optimus Prime about differing ideologies. Is this the start of a huge topic for debate? Nope, Rodimus gives up his side of the argument and says “Well Optimus is in charge so I guess he knows best…”
  • Wing Saber is dedicated to capturing his nemesis Shockblast, which he succeeds in doing but only briefly. Shockblast escapes and how does Wing Saber react? He doesn’t, he says nothing and his rivalry with Shockblast is never mentioned again

Individual episodes are then essentially filled with useless footage of thirty second long Transformation sequences and whilst the cast is expanded like Armada, new characters add nothing to the team and are just shameless excuses to promote toys. There is also a lot of time dedicated to having characters Skype each other to repeat plot points the audience is already aware of. There were a myriad of other poor choices too – most action sequences took place in outer space so the characters had no reason to transform most of the time, combiner teams (the central gimmick of the series) were only ever there to be combined into an ultimate robot and had no personalities beyond “We are a team of robots that combine into one big one”. Energon then, fell short of greatness by not so much a gnat’s wing as a dinosaur’s meat shaft…

Behind-The-Scenes

If Armada was a rush, Energon was a blur. We are talking artistic mistakes, typos in episode titles, repeated stock footage to fill gaps in episodes, Energon was about as lovingly crafted as one lovingly crafts their own turds. Energon suffered from consistently poor choices of character colour schemes (that made them hard to differentiate at a glance), gimmicky and wooden performances from their bulky character models and background designs that were poorly considered (i.e Unicron is mostly black in colour, as is the background he is set against in his scenes and when characters are inside his body, it is too dark to see who is doing what at any given moment… for 30 episodes, characters are fumbling in the dark trying to do a thing we stopped caring about them doing ages ago). The CGI, whilst allowing a consistent standard of animation hand-drawn animation could not, was sub-par and character faces were hard to read for any emotion. As a result, the movement of faces was limited to them opening and closing their robotic lips in sync with what they were saying but you could not visibly tell if a character was happy, sad, angry or pensive, they all just constantly looked somewhat perplexed… as did the audience. In defense of the animators, their budget was miniscule.

Editing and script-work wise, we had ourselves a hastily mashed together assortment of fight scenes, banter exchanges and transformation sequences. Nothing flowed naturally and as a result, the episodes were confusing, seeming to be twenty minute chunks of a single long flowing film that didn’t do much in the way of establishing shots so we’re just expected to go “Oh, we’re at this point in the plot, I remember”, meaning you had to watch EVERY episode to make any sense of anything – that or wait for Optimus Prime to recap the plot but even then he only stated the obvious. The scripts were rushed translations of a Japanese writing team’s work and so many lines didn’t make sense in English, may characters were named incorrectly, sometimes multiple times in a single episode and the performance of the actors reflected a lack of understanding of the script. Energon also had some deadpan silences where clearly nothing had been written in and actors improvised… badly, often saying stuff just to fill the gap. Given all of this, Transformers Energon left a sour taste in the mouths of fans who still hadn’t gotten over how much of a dud Armada was.

Reception

Transformers Armada was a mess that defied expectation, it started bad but redeemed itself whereas Transformers Energon had a hopeful start but condemned itself to the slot of “Worst thing to come out of the franchise, shit I’ll watch Michael Bay’s stuff over this” in the eyes of fans. Energon was released in line with the 20th anniversary of Transformers but came as a real smear on the honour of the franchise, a hapless shambles of a poorly strung together plot pushing toys nobody wanted all that badly (The toys themselves did not sell as well as Armada before them and many characters sat on shelves for so long, they were eventually repurposed into discount multipacks given new names and sold off as minor characters from other continuities). Energon has been fixed rather recently, 2014 saw the release of a re-mastered version of all 51 episodes as a DVD box set with the script retweaked and awkward silences filled with something more than just “So…” and typos/colouring errors were fixed but at the time of release and for years afterward, Energon was seen as an abomination and efforts made it to fix it have been too little too late to save it from being a lowpoint in the franchise.

Conclusion

Energon lost me too, it wasn’t on any channels I had access to as a little kid so I never really got into it, having never really had the chance. I owned some Energon figures simply because they were cool looking Transformers. Energon was sold around the gimmick of combining characters together – most of the cast could transform into goliath sized wrecking machines by combining together, be it two robots, three or even five and Optimus Prime himself seemed capable of combining with just about anything he touched. Energon had grand ambitions but failed to deliver and ultimately did more harm than good, in fact Energon’s redeeming grace was that it was so shit, Hasbro asked a different company to make the next series of Transformers and what they delivered was gold-dust, especially by comparison. So next time, let’s draw this to a close with what fans consider the best thing to come out of the Unicron Trilogy, Transformers Cybertron, a series that definitely learned from the past to make big strides in the right direction.