Before I continue, I want to point out that this involves details from the latest "Till All Are One". If you haven't read it and don't want to know some deets, turn back now because there are
When the concept of "Forged" and "Constructed Cold" were introduced, I thought it was just some superficial difference caused by how the sparks were formed. I found it to be an interesting plot element because it created an unimportant difference that could allow the writers to approach genuine bigotry that doesn't really have to step on anyone's toes. And yeah, it can and still does fill that purpose. My problems are really just nitpicks in the grand scheme of things, but they are problems that still bug the hell out of me.
For a refresher, forged bots are mined from the ground, and the metal that they're embedded in, sentio metallo, is then allowed to find the natural body shape for the spark to be housed in. A constructed cold bot, however, is manifested from the matrix and put in storage until it's needed to animate a new body. Since there's no sentio metallo for it, it doesn't really get a 'choice' in what it looks like. The problem I have with this is that the difference becomes a lot less superficial, and a lot more genuine and concrete.
There are also some conditions that come with being forged. For example, Ratchet isn't just a brilliant surgeon, he is 'organically' fine tuned to be a surgeon. At the beginning of MTMTE his hands were starting to seize up. If he didn't need a certain level of dexterity he would probably pull a Rodimus and just get new hands. Constructed Cold and Forged bots can both just get new limbs, but freshy made limbs won't give you the kind of dexterity that being forged gives you naturally. Instead he used Pharma's hands. While Ratchet isn't religious, I had hoped that given their technological advancement Ratchet was just holding onto some kind of irrational bias. A lot of us tend to have them. But I could be wrong in my assessment and it actually is just irrational bias.
But since then, I've gotten the impression that it really is that constructed cold hands are more likely to be more dexterous.
I really don't like the 'organicness' that's been added to the process of making transformers. Don't get me wrong, the idea of sentio metallo isn't necessarily terrible. I rather enjoy the protoforms from Beast Wars. In the case of Beast Wars it's really just an alternate way of building a transformer. It's new technology, so to speak. In the case of IDW you kind of end up with a robot baby for a brief amount of time. I just don't like baby Transformers. I find the concept whimsical and childish. Though I will admit that the writers at IDW constructed an explanation that makes it interesting, despite my dispreference.
This isn't the only difference between forged and constructed cold that bothers me. According to Tyrest, being constructed cold makes you automatically predisposed to being a filthy law breaking deviant. I'm still not confident there's sufficient proof to show that this is actually the case, but if it turns out to actually be the case that's going to frustrate the hell out of me. Then there's also the matter of point one percenters and outliers.
Now, I gotta admit, I can actually get into this on some level. Some bots are naturally more physically capable, or have some sort of mutant ability. Outliers honestly don't bother me because, while they come with special abilities, they're not really more special than any other transformer in the grand scheme of things. Tailgate may be totes strong, but even if the war were still going on he wouldn't be relevant because of it. Point one percenters are a different case entirely. They tend to be prone for greatness in some way nor another. If you're a point one percenter, chances are you're just naturally gifted in terms of physical strength and prowess, and likely to serve some sort of role of importance. Maybe they'll be in some sort of leadership position such as Optimus or Megatron, or maybe they'll be an exceptionally gifted warrior capable of undergoing some form of augmentation such as Ultra Magnus, Sixshot, or Overlord, or maybe both in the case of Tarn. Then you have Dominus Ambus who could be augmented, and was also well renowned as a generally swell guy.
Now, I'm not saying point one percenters shouldn't exist. I think they're cool as a plot element to explain why some bots are predisposed to just being freakishly strong. Like, FREAKISHLY strong. Like Grimlock. But when it comes to them being generally better than everybody else at everything it starts to rub me the wrong way. For example, Megatron is a hybrid, technically. He has a constructed cold body with a mined spark, but he's still a point one percenter. Regardless of how his body was built, him having a super special spark, just like Optimus, really does sell the idea that if your spark is green then you're likely destined for greatness. I think it would have meant a lot more if Megatron were just constructed cold.
It would have been so much better if Megatron were considered a knockoff, put in a mass produced body, with a spark that's by any other means common. A bot that's potentially never got a good education due to being on next to the bottom rung of society. A bot who probably had to educate himself through his own efforts. A bot who wasn't special, and wasn't given any advantages by his class or his birth. A bot who was in some senses an everyman. A bot who managed to pull himself up. A bot who managed to start a movement because he had the better ideas. A bot who didn't need to be special to become great. Sure, he would have still become space Hitler in the end, but before that he would have been a heartfelt revolutionary stuck in a world that was designed to be unfair. Sure, he had a lot of that going for him, but by making him 'special by default', you rob him of his achievements and failings.
Now, what got me to start this journal was the latest issue of "Till All Are One." As it was established long ago, Starscream was constructed cold. He was an 'artificial' spark put in a mass produced body. Superficially he's different. Only really inferior to point one percenters, but that's like, EVERYBODY. With Starscream, though, it wasn't just implied that he was different due to how he was 'born', but he was also inferior because his spark didn't get to pick his body. It was implied that if he were put in sentio metallo first, he'd have a better body and a better sense of self. He would be 'perfect' if he were different. That frustrates
Like I said before, I found it interesting when I thought the differences were superficial. This is just insulting. It would be like saying that if black people were white they'd wouldn't just be happier with themselves, but they'd be perfected. I'm not saying that's the intention here, but that's how it reads to me. It robs Starscream of his complexity. Rather than him being shaped by his life, he's shaped by some metal goo shaped hole in his life. If only he had been found in the ground he'd be his truest self. It's unintentionally insulting.
It was also implied that this is why Starscream changes his design so often. Nevermind that transformers, both constructed cold or forged tend to change their designs pretty regularly, either in order to fit into their environment better or simply due to a shift in preference. I could see Starscream's ever changing form being like humans with clothing and hair dye. Starscream's vain, and having him change bodies for the implications in the new issue just doesn't really seem to fit.
If anything, I preferred the quickly mentioned reasoning for Anode. She just identified more as a she than a he.
Now, one character who's method of birth I enjoyed has been Springers. If you read Sins of the Wreckers, you'd know he was was artificially constructed in a way that was similar to constructed cold, but still pretty unique in it's own right. There isn't a need to mine for new Transformers, or create them with a holy artifact. They can be made in a lab. Ultimately the differences should be superficial since his body is identical that of a constructed cold Cybertronian, but adding characters created in this fashion would be a very interesting plot element.
I think there's still time for IDW to correct course. It's not like this comic needs to necessarily show that Starscream has some discomfort about his body on some subconscious level, or that artificial sparks of any variety should be inherently inferior to bots with natural sparks. Unfortunately some elements I don't like will have to remain, but I do hope that this implied standard is eventually shown to be nonsense.
I'm going to try to present an opinion that's different from my own. While I disagree with it, I think it's a very interesting, and legitimate perspective that's worth consideration. I saw this more as a race thing. I was raised in a place where the majority of people had a different skin color than my own, but the people who shared my skin color were pretty bigoted towards the ones that didn't. They more or less say that they're inherently inferior because they were born in the wrong bodies, more or less. Some of them use religious reasoning, or pseudo scientific reasoning. They also didn't like non-straight people. That had an even more religious tinge to it. When I read this, that was my perspective, and it still is.
However, the friend I talked to has gender dysphoria. If you live under a rock, it means that you don't feel like you were born in the right body. For them, this being an issue with Starscream was immensely relateable. Trying to think of it from that context, it does change my view of the material somewhat. I actually think that's a good place to go. Transformers has tried to approach it in the past, either intentionally or not. However, none of them have been particularly good.
The biggest example is probably Arcee. In her case it's a lot more palpable. Only, Arcee wasn't born female, she was forced to be female, and this was immensely traumatizing for her. Even though IDW has made strides to distance themselves from that, it's still very much at the heart of her character. She's violent and a little emotionally unstable. Granted she seems to be less of at least one of those. The problem though, is that Arcee was a rather poor thought out way to introduce gender to the IDW comics. It would have just been better if female transformers were just a thing and wasn't questioned. Even now when it's brought up in Transformers it makes me cringe.
There's also the case of Anode and Lug. Both of them were originally male, but found themselves identifying more as female. I'm happier with this. It doesn't really address some of the complexities of gender dysphoria, but she's already transitioned, seemingly to her satisfaction. She's got other things to worry about.
Starscream's case isn't really gender dysphoria. His 'perfect self' is still male. It's not even entirely altmode dysphoria because he still turns into a plane of some sort. He's just not a seeker. However, this was explained by a character that wasn't Starscream, and considering that this is something that Starscream is currently going through, it isn't shown very well. As a result, my friend gets the dysphoria part, but I interpret it as something vastly different.
This actually kind of makes this more frustrating to deal with, and not because of Transformer biology, but more in terms of character development.
This is pretty good topic to approach, and as I said before, doing it with Transformers gives it a certain level of safeness. Sure, some people will claim it as SJW BS and refuse to buy it, but we've had gay robots and female robots, and the comics are still around. For those of us who don't have dysphoria, I think it's important that the ideas are portrayed in a way that's more concrete than a few body changes (that Transformers pretty just do anyway, even if they're forged), and some sort of religious hoodoo. Some of the experience needs to be captured to convey it in a way that's both convincing and relateable. At least as relateable for a cis person as it can be. (And in case this is misunderstood, I also mean relateable for trans people, or people with gender dysphoria, and done in a way they find acceptable. Especially since this would be representation for them.) And done in a way that doesn't allow a possible interpretation to be "that's racist."
Though being disproportionately incarcerated, labeled, and being called imperfect by others who don't share the same 'condition' (that word makes me uncomfortable) as you still comes off as something resembling racist to me.
(Granted, I will slightly yield to my friend on this, since their position feels more legitimate than mine, even if I think it could have been done infinitely better.)