Year of the Movie--A Retrospection
by Sharon "Tut" LaBorde
As I write this, "the year 2005" draws rapidly to a close. A period of time which I had anticipated ever since a fateful summer afternoon in 1986 is about to pass into history. Sure, I knew we wouldn't see any titanic battles between Autobots and Decepticons; and while 1980's nostalgia is present in our pop culture, it certainly hasn't prompted anyone to wear a jumpsuit this year! But looking back, the fictional world of 2005 gave me one bit of insight that continues to prove useful in the actual world of 2005 and beyond: a lesson of death, and the passing of generations.
By the time I turned nine and saw "Transformers: the Movie", I had already seen a little of death. My great-grandfather had died very suddenly the year before; but while I knew him from occasional visits to south Louisiana, I didn't feel close enough to him to feel very sad. However, I did have a pet duck named Feathers who, in spring of 1986, was killed by some unknown kid throwing rocks. That was perhaps my most bitter taste of mortality at the time, as we put her in a makeshift coffin my mother fashioned from a shoebox and material printed with a duck pattern. At the start of summer, Feathers' two web-footed former companions were taken to a petting zoo, and I never saw them again. I was told shortly afterward that a maurauding fox broke into their pen, but for a long time I refused to believe anything had happened to them.
So imagine my reaction as I watched "Transformers: the Movie" a couple of months later! Two characters I'd spent practically every weekday afternoon with for a year and a half, namely Optimus Prime and Starscream, met their end within half an hour. Starscream's loss had a particular impact upon me. Here was someone I identified with, who had a voice, a personality and aspirations, no matter how fictional. Physically neither he nor Optimus were real, but their personas were still tangible to me. I remember feeling such an awful sense of finality as Starscream crumbled to peices that I wept silently. I enjoyed the remainder of the movie, to be sure, but at its close I still felt empty because I knew that Starscream and Optimus were gone.
I had to get used to the following cartoon season at first because the setting and main cast of characters were so different. One aspect I certainly appreciated, however, was Rodimus Prime's struggle to accept his burden of leadership. He clearly felt a void in his life that had been left by Optimus' passing, but he and the other Autobots perservered in spite of their loss.
I couldn't honestly recall at what point I reached this correlation in my mind, but I've realized that real life progresses in much the same way. People grow old and die, or something happens to them and they die before growing old; but it happens regardless for everyone. Eventually, everyone reaches a point in their lives where most of the people their own age or older have passed on, and most of the people currently in their lives are younger than they are--just as it was for the characters in the post-Movie universe. Someday we'll all be like Kup, for example, full of tales of the past and memories of colleagues long gone. But rather than lose ourselves in what used to be, we have to press forward in the company of new friends and family, just as Rodimus, Kup and the rest of the Autobots did. Besides, none of us will be lucky enough to have the Optimus Primes in our lives come back from the dead, so keeping their wisdom alive in our memory is all the more important.
As for the subject of life after death, which I do happen to believe in, the instance that most correlates to my own view of 'beyond' would have to be one of my favorite moments in the Movie; when Hot Rod finally regained the Matrix, he heard his leader's voice saying, "Arise, Rodimus Prime". It was as though Optimus had been watching over Hot Rod the whole time, no longer physically alive but present nonetheless. To me, that was an affirmation of the bond of friendship they held in life, which extended beyond the limits of physical existence. By extension, that may also have been why I so enjoyed seeing Starscream come back as a ghost: mischievous as he was in life, no longer being tied to the corporeal world simply made him even more irrepressible!
The Transformers cartoon and Movie may have been a humble place to learn such universal lessons of life and death, but I found those lessons there nonetheless. I'm also sure that, even as I write these words, all the news channels are running retrospectives on the year 2005 and its most notable events. Some of those events, such as Hurricane Katrina, had a direct effect upon me and other people in my life. But I've been able to accept and cope with those changes in our world because of the futuristic version of 2005 that I watched unfold long beforehand.
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