This goddamn Hub channel keeps playing terrible cartoons from my childhood. It started with G.I. Joe and now its Transformers. Let me state up front that Transformers is a terrible cartoon, with convoluted plotlines, horrifically inane dialogue, and is actually a stupid idea when thinking about it – various vehicles transforming into giant robots = stupid. I know a good deal of people like Transformers and I don’t mean to insult their intelligence (which I hope I’m not doing) but I just find it insipid; I have no idea why I liked this as a child.
Last night I recorded an episode about a group of Autobots and Decepticons traveling back to medieval times. The other episodes I watched (or rather, tried to watch) recently were too dumb to finish but I felt a time travel episode may prove entertaining. Turns out it was. However, it wasn’t the antics of these transforming robots that I enjoyed; it was the critique of energy consumption that I enjoyed more.
According to Wikipedia here’s a description of the Transformers’ primary energy supply, Energon:
Energon (sometimes spelled with a capital letter, sometimes not) is the preferred fuel of the Transformer race. It takes many forms, including ore, crystal, gas, and raw energy, but it is most commonly used by Transformers in its liquid state, which is stored in many different mediums, most famously the energon cube. It is ubiquitous in Cybertronian culture; in addition to being the Transformers’ primary “foodstuff”, it also serves as the default power source for their machines and weapons, and is even used as a currency, a catch-all fuel of life, technology, war and commerce on Cybertron and beyond. This widespread use also comes in defiance of its extreme volatility: energon is prone to detonating explosively if mishandled, and is even used as ammunition in order to exploit this attribute.
Sounds like oil, doesn’t it? Supposedly the Transformers depleted the energy supply of their home world and are now searching the galaxy for more. Earth, apparently, contains a great deal of Energon and the two sides (Autobots and Decepticons) are fighting over it. Maybe I’m incorrect but doesn’t this sound like what many believe is the primary motivation behind the Iraq invasion? From a Middle Eastern perspective, wouldn’t America seem like the Decepticons? The Decepticons are a ruthless group of energy hungry fascists, willing to break oaths, kill civilians, and destroy fragile ecosystems to control natural resources. Doesn’t the United States do all three things mentioned above? I’m not trying to completely bash the nation housing my parents coupling (which popped me out) but I’m just playing devil advocate.
The above Energon description also states the fuel is a currency, much like oil. However, unlike oil, the Transformers use Energon for sustenance. Oil’s only really valuable for electricity and powering vehicles; it has no use outside of our socially constructed reality and carrot’s more valuable than gasoline without the society we inhabit. The Wikipedia source also assets that, “True energon is an emanation of Primus, the creator-god of the Transformers,” suggesting Energon is religious in nature. Essentially, the Transformers believe the energy sustaining them is part of a deity, a “part or parcel of God” (Thoreau). I’m having difficulty seeing the difference the predominant Western religion (capitalism) and the Transformers. For capitalism’s survival we need energy. We’ve built an entire civilization around the flow of power; without it we come to a standstill. Without Energon, the Transformers die. The similarities are interesting.
Earlier in this essay I mentioned the Decepticons’ similarities with U.S. foreign policy, especially regarding oil. I feel placing all this exclusively on our government is a fallacy, since America’s attempts to usurp the natural resources of other nations isn’t a solo effort. Instead it’s done in conjuncture with various energy conglomerates, which are also responsible for subjugating indigenous populations for resources. Shell’s actions in Nigeria come to mind, especially Shell bribing Nigeria’s puppet government into killing dissidents, fighting for the survival of their people and environment. Once again, the Decepticons engage in similar activities, manipulating populations (through both fear and violence) so they can accrue Energon.
The Autobots exhibit many positive traits common to America’s population and government, whereas the Decepticons are the antithesis: conniving, crude, and malevolent. I would be wrong if I said the United States directly resembles the Decepticons since our nation, and even our government, is capable of munificent actions. It’s possible the Autobots and Decepticons represent the duality of America – its institutions and citizenry. The Decepticons symbolize American corporations and multi-national conglomerates, which according to the documentary The Corporation, are both psychotic and sociopaths. They also represent many facets of America’s foreign policy, which many times are belligerent and vile. The Autobots are the benevolent aspects of America’s foreign policy: kind, compassionate, and helpful. The Autobots’ actions, like America’s, aren’t always altruistic, but there are many instances where our nation’s actions benefit both us and those on the receiving end. The Autobots want energy, but they’re not willing to destroy for it, somewhat resembling America’s food for oil program (although many aspects of this agenda are quite self-serving). Ultimately, I can’t help believing the protagonists and antagonists of this mediocre cartoon resemble two sides of the same coin, showing the duality of American, and also Western, ideology. Like Trey Parker and Matt Stone said once on South Park (and unfortunately I’m paraphrasing here), “America wants to have its cake and eat it too.”