...Transformers is the best fandom on the planet.
Okay, so let’s dispense with the obvious: we’ve got our fair share of prejudiced people, as evidenced whenever a new female character is unveiled (a female gestalt?? it will never work) or there are more robots canoodling than usual in the current IDW run (gay robots?? preposterous) or the franchise is rebooted (why isn’t this exactly like 1984?? mah childhood!). But the same is true of any group, and if you’re looking for Transformers-centric criticism then you’ll be pleased to discover that our main gripes are whether robots based on animals are realistic, or the colour of a certain cassette tape character, or whether a robot with bunny ears evolved from an insect robot or a purple and black plane robot. Or whether the car with the flame decals was implicit in the murder of the robot messiah.
Truly, these are questions for the ages.
The real beauty of Transformers is that it has many forms and has been going for so long that it’s picked up a pretty diverse group of fans. You’ve got the original Geewunners, you’ve got your Munkky types, you’ve got your anything goes peeps, you’ve got your comics fans, you’ve got your moviegoers, you’ve got your fans who will watch anything that isn’t the comics, you’ve got your diehard collectors, you’ve got your pure Rescue Bots crew, you’ve got your Japanese-fiction-only club – it’s a right plethora, and quite unique on this side of the pond. The only comparable fandom I can think of is Super Sentai with its nine million series and crossovers, but even then I’d argue that Transformers is different because of its total lack of continuity. You can like Transformers: Prime without acknowledging Robots In Disguise (2015), and you can read More than Meets the Eye/Lost Light without having touched any IDW stuff that preceded it. Even in Hasbro’s “Aligned Continuity” there is a complete lack of any sort of sensible consensus.
Transformers as a whole is like a box of Celebrations: there’s something for everyone to love - even the Bountys. (Look, someone out there must like Kiss Players. There are TFWiki articles about it!)
So how does this translate to Transformers being the best fandom?
There are two reasons.
The first is that it’s our differences that keep us the tight community that we are. Last year I attended TF Nation for the first time and was blown away by the spirit of sharing, not shaming. People were so eager to tell you all about their love for something that it didn’t matter to them if you hadn’t read or watched it, and I came away with a list of new things to try. There was no sniffy hand-waving of Bayformer fans, there was no G1 elitism, there were no fisticuffs over my “The GoBots Were Better” teeshirt . It’s easy to forget in the internet age that people who hide behind avatars on social media platforms or forums aren’t who they are in the flesh, and that in mixed company opinions are spoken, not argued.
And the second, more vital factor are the toys - the reason the franchise even exists in the first place. A guest on the recent “The Toys That Made Us” Netflix show theorised that people collect physical manifestations of the intangible thing they love, and that is certainly true of Transformers. Visiting the bar at TF Nation and seeing a sea of people from all ages and backgrounds playing - sorry, fiddling and examining - with the toys they had just bought in the Dealer Room was a unifying experience. But more than that, the figures are an excellent fallback for our community: if two fans can’t agree on the lore, they can at least bond over their shared love of the plastic crack we’re all here for.
To conclude I want to call on our lord and saviour Optimus Prime, and arguably his best known quote from all of the franchises. Whenever he declares “Till All Are One”, he’s not saying we all have to be one homogeneous unit of fans who all think the same and like the same things. Heck, Hasbro wouldn’t survive if we all blindly adored one particular character/continuity to the exclusion of others! What I believe Optimus meant is a coming together of all types of folks working towards a common goal, and that’s what the Transformers community does. We may sometimes not see eye-to-eye on things, but for the most part we share our love of little plastic robots with people from all different walks of life from all around the world, and it’s that love that brings us together each year at conventions like TF Nation to meet old friends and make new ones.
And I for one am glad to have met you all, no matter how fleetingly.
You can follow Becka on Twitter @tainkirrahe