In the beginning days of Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, I wrote a post called “Odd Girls Out.” This title did not win the article many views, so I modified it to read “Odd Girls Out: What Happened to the Original Female Autobots?”
The post has since picked up in views, for which I am thankful. The question is an honest one, readers; the Transformers franchise is naturally aimed at boys. There really are not that many girls who like cars and trucks and machines as much as boys do. Boys and girls are different and therefore have different amusements. It is totally, totally normal.
However, when it comes to characters, girls like those as much as boys do. This is probably why, in the original series, several of the male Autobots were paired off with a female counterpart in the episode The Search for Alpha Trion. In that episode, we were introduced to the leading ladies for Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Inferno, and Powerglide, who had accidentally been left behind on Cybertron when the male Autobots left to find a way to save their world. These ladies were Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, and Moonracer.
As with other franchises, Transformers was pushed to add more female characters to its roster as the years passed. So there have been many female Autobots in the franchise, readers. Most of them were added to the comics that followed the advent of the original Transformers television series in the ‘80s. I could not name them all for you for the simple reason that I do not know the half of them. I like the Transformers franchise, but I have not immersed myself in it for a while now. Therefore, I am only going to discuss the female characters I know of, and why I like them. If you want to know how many more female Autobots there are, you will have to look them up.
So, first off, we have the most important female Autobot to ever grace the franchise…
Elita One: Elita One is Optimus Prime’s girlfriend, for want of a better term, in the 1980s TV series and several of the comics. She has appeared sporadically throughout the subsequent Transformers’ media, including the absolutely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where she had no real speaking part and was killed in the final battle.
Though I have some gripes about her design and paint scheme in the original story (WHY did they have to paint her PINK?!?!?), as a character, Elita was made of some pretty interesting stuff. She had the regular sugar, spice, and everything nice, but she was also a good leader and a worthy counterpart for Optimus in that show. And she was quite capable of taking care of herself in most situations, too.
Regrettably, following portrayals of the character strayed away from this winning debut over the years. After all, these days a woman cannot be classy and a warrior; she has to be too tough to handle. This is the way the writers took the character, especially in the comics related to the Transformers films. It was sickening, after I first saw The Search for Alpha Trion, to read about how the writers had torn out everything that made Elita “strong enough” not only to be gentle but to be graceful and smart. (They also kept her pink color scheme – the one thing that should actually be changed! Pbbbbhhhh!)
If the writers ever wanted to go back to the original version of Elita’s character from the ‘80s, making only a few minor tweaks to her appearance and character to bring her up to date, I would ask them to do so. But they seem to find Elita One to be a total embarrassment to the franchise. Years after her first appearance, she is back collecting dust in the Transformers archives. Until someone pulls her out and places her in a new series, I will be missing this character very much.
Chromia: In The Search for Alpha Trion, Chromia was to Elita One what Ironhide was to Optimus Prime. The mentor of and wise subordinate to her commander, Chromia was a veteran of many battles and Ironhide’s longtime girlfriend. She had a rougher edge to her than Elita One; she spoke with a brisk, rough tone of command and she was not the least bit afraid of a two-bit Decepticon pushover. She was also extremely loyal and not prone to showing sentiment – at least, not until Ironhide had to say good-bye and go back to Earth. Then she gave him a smile and a big hug.
To some, Chromia might come off as a proto “Strong Female Character.” But that hug she gives Ironhide at the end of the episode hints at a soft side that she does not often show – but which differentiates her from the “SFC” trope.
Unlike Elita One, Chromia has been able to appear in later series and comics in a better light. She is the only female Autobot to survive the final battle in Revenge of the Fallen and was even considered as a guest character in the series Transformers: Animated. It is probably because of her rougher, battle-tested edge that she has received this treatment. Since she already seemed to be an Amazon warrior, the writers felt they did not need to make as many changes to her as they did to Elita One.
As I said above, I do not consider Chromia the stereotypical Amazon of modern impetus. She is a character I would like to see more of in the future – but I do not think there is much chance of her appearing on the small screen any time soon, unfortunately.
Firestar and Moonracer: These two Autobots appeared in the same episode as Elita and Chromia. Firestar did not have a big speaking part, so I cannot say much about her – other than she liked to fight fires and appeared to be the perfect female counterpart to her boyfriend, Inferno.
Moonracer, on the other hand, was portrayed as the rookie member of Elita’s crew. She was eager to fight and tended to make mistakes more often than the other ladies. But she was the “best shot in the universe” as she told her boyfriend, Powerglide, before she successfully shot down a pole without actually looking at it.
Firestar and Moonracer both appeared in the comics after this, but I do not know enough about those appearances to say much about either of them. However, I would like it if the writers for new Transformers TV series would include them in the cast list. Why not use the female characters you have before you go off making new ones, or why not show us the originals in addition to the new ones? Some people have no sense.
Arcee: Of all the original female Autobots, Arcee is the only one to return to the small screen with relative consistency. I do not watch her in the reruns of the third season of the 1980s Transformers series because I do not like Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod. It also strikes me that she comes across as something of a powederpuff in the original series. I may be wrong; I have never really watched her in that show and so I cannot say anything about her part there with certainty.
I can say that I was not impressed with her appearance in Transformers: Energon. The third Transformers series I was exposed to, I was very happy when a “girl Transformer” finally appeared on screen. But as Arcee became less and less involved with the main cast, and as she proved to be less and less of a fighter, I lost interest in her. This might have been around the time that I got tired of the color pink, too. I could never understand why a tough female Autobot would want to flaunt such a wimpy, frilly color on the battlefield.
My third introduction to Arcee was in Transformers: Animated in a flashback with Ratchet. She was still pink, which was exasperating, but she was also interesting because she added a new dimension to Ratchet’s crusty character. In the flashback, the two had been captured by a Decepticon bounty hunter. Since Arcee had vital Autobot information in her mind and could not escape the ship as easily as Ratchet could, she begged him to wipe her memories to keep the Decepticons from getting the information.
Ratchet was not eager to do this because he had fallen in love with Arcee, as she had fallen in love with him; the procedure was so dangerous he might make her forget him. But eventually Ratchet was forced to erase her memories just before he got the two of them away from the Decepticon. Jubilant at their escape, he told what he thought was a groggy Arcee that they had in fact made it out…
…only to find that the procedure had wiped Arcee’s entire memory. Not only did she no longer remember the important information or Ratchet, but she had forgotten her name and everything she had experienced prior to Ratchet’s address to her.
The fourth time I met Arcee was in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That was a brief meeting because she and her “sisters,” Elita One and Chromia, had hardly any lines in the film. Arcee also died along with Elita in the final battle, so their entire part in the movie was nothing but a big waste of time.
Arcee (Transformers Prime)
The last time I saw Arcee was the only time I had a genuine respect for the character. This was Transformers Prime’s Arcee. Not only was she painted blue with only a few pink highlights, she was no powderpuff. She was strong, fast, and sharp, but more than that, much more, she was vulnerable.
At the beginning of the series, Arcee lost her partner on Team Prime, Cliffjumper. It was hinted, but never expressed, that she and he were an item. His loss hit her hard, making her snappy, angry, and bitter for the first few episodes of the series. So you can imagine how she came across to the human boy she was assigned to protect.
Jack Darby had his own problems as well. Abandoned years ago along with his mother by his father, Jack worked a dead end job and rode a bicycle everywhere he needed to go. The whole reason he and Arcee met was because he thought her motorcycle form was beautiful and he stopped to admire her. The interplay between the two characters at the beginning of the series was great, especially as Arcee thawed to Jack and developed a maternal, protective attitude toward him.
Unfortunately, I think the series drifted away from giving this relationship its due. I am all for having the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ interpersonal relationships shown to the audience, but I would like it balanced with a good showing of the Autobots’ interpersonal relationships with their human friends as well. Prime eventually tilted in favor of the former, leaving the promising friendship between Arcee and Jack hanging. If we ever get a chance for this kind of friendship to reappear in a Tranformers series again, I would like to see a better balance between the two relationship sets when we do.
Blackarachnia and Airazor: These two characters appeared in Transformers: Beast Wars, which I never saw. I cannot say anything in favor of or against Airazor; from what I understand, she was the little sister of the group, a sweet, kind, and naïve ‘bot that the rest of the gang loved. Blackarachnia I know a little more about because she sounded interesting. A Decepticon/Predacon who defected to the Autobots/Maximals out of love, Blackarachnia is a well-remembered ‘bot in the Transformers’ franchise.
However, she was reimagined in an unflattering way all around in Transformers: Animated. In that series, Blackarachnia was Elita One. This combination of the two characters had been infected by giant organic spiders on a mission with the future Sentinel and Optimus Primes. She became a half-organic, half-technological being who held a grudge against Optimus for leaving her on the planet when it looked like she had died in a fight with the spiders.
Aside from my obvious dislike of this version of Elita One (the only one I know of that wasn’t PINK), the rebooting of Blackarachnia did not do justice to my impression of the Beast Wars character. Next time, Transformers writers, if Blackarachnia must be a half-organic, half-technological Transformer, can we PLEASE keep her original character arc in place? I am flexible on everything else, but making her Elita One – for Pete’s sake!!! X(
Override: Now Override has a bizarre history outside of the U.S., so I am not even going to go there. She was a female Autobot in the Canadian translation of Transformers: Cybertron and in the Transformers canon that has been developed in America following the Transformers films. This is the version I am going to talk about, so if you want to dredge up the confusion surrounding the character in other countries, do it on someone else’s blog, reader(s). Are we clear?
Good. All right, the fact is that I really, really like Cybertron’s Override. She was everything I had wanted out of Arcee in Energon and more. The leader of the planet Velocitron, Override was the fastest racer on that world. She had been for years. By the time the Autobots met her in Cybertron, Override had begun to get bored because there was no real competition for her on Speed Planet.
Then Megatron and Hot Shot arrived on Velocitron in search of its Cyber Planet Key. Megatron raced Override for information about it and actually made her fight for the finish line (she won, though), while Hot Shot told her about the universe-eatng black hole that was the big bad of the series and asked her what she knew about the Key. At first, Override was torn. She did not know who to trust, as Megatron took advantage of her ignorance to claim that the Autobots were evil and he was the good guy. (Studiously leaving out the name of his organization in the process; even Megatron knows that the word “Decepticon” does not exactly inspire confidence in too many people.)
In order to solve the issue, Override let Hot Shot race her. Even the fastest of the Autobots could not keep pace with Override, but Hot Shot would not give up. There was too much at stake and he had never met anyone who could beat him before. He pushed and pushed himself to the breaking point as Override worried about which Transformer to believe. Finally, she decided to settle the issue the way that Velocitronians settle most problems – with the biggest race in Velocitronian society, the Speedia 5000.
Hot Shot eventually won the race, but before he did that, he saved Override from a boulder when she had an accident mid-race. The gallantry he demonstrated made an impression on Override and she began to favor the Autobots. This became full-blown allegiance to them on her part when Megatron tried to grab Velocitron’s Cyber Planet Key after Hot Shot won the race.
Override became a valued member of the team following these events and – unlike Energon’s Arcee – she did not fade into the background during the series. She was not as front and center as she had been during the Velocitron arc of the story, but she was never far away from the action. Also, unlike the Amazonian trope, she was not averse to receiving gentlemanly aid. After finishing with Velocitron, Hot Shot would again act to protect Override on Jungle Planet, while other male Autobots would also give her a hand from time to time as the story progressed. Override was happy to say thank you at these times, even though she could usually handle herself in a fight.
I was especially happy when Override got the chance to shoot her Decepticon counterpart, Thunderblast. Of all the galling female Decepticons I have ever seen (and I have not seen many), I would have to say that Thunderblast takes the absolute cake. She was such a petulant, snide, girly contrast to Override that I was somewhat disappointed when the two never had more than one direct confrontation. But I totally agree with Override’s comment when Thunderblast and she first met: “Sheesh, where did they find her?!”
Strongarm: I have mentioned Strongarm, of Robots in Disguise fame, a couple of times in other posts before today. The one that I can remember off the top of my head is “Robots in Disguise: Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” But I think I mentioned her elsewhere as well.
I have a lot of issues with Strongarm. Now these are my issues and mine alone; they do not have to be yours, readers. First, in Transformers: Energon, her name belonged to a male Omnicon. I think several other series in the franchise had a male character who was an Autobot named Strongarm as well. So the fact that the Robots in Disguise crew decided to saddle a female character with a MALE character’s name grinds my gears even now.
My other problem with Strongarm is that she swallowed the rule book. As of this season in the series, she has gotten better about reading from it. She rarely pulls out the regulation manual these days, though she can still cite it without looking at it. This makes her stiff and unlikeable; I am all for following the rules, but that does not mean I have to be beaten over the head with them. The fact that Strongarm devours regulations like her favorite food reminds me too much of Ultra Magnus, another Autobot with his nose contiually stuck in the system. (I am not the only one who is reminded of Ultra Magnus when Strongarm cites the legal code; another fan suggested that she could be Magnus’ daughter.)
This penchant for worshipping the rules and regulations stifles Strongarm’s creativity. She has been getting better recently, but not by much.
The other thing about Strongarm that bugs me is that, to me, she is so obviously meant to be the “Strong Female Character” on the Bee Team. This is evidenced by the fact that even for a Transformer, Strongarm has more bulk in one arm than Override or Elita One had in their entire bodies. I am not saying that all female Transformers should look like these girls, but the fact is that Strongarm’s muscle structure looks unnatural even for a Cybertronian.
When such an evident character design is presented in a show like this, I cannot help but feel that the writers are stabbing me in the eye with the cause celeb of the moment. The reason I feel this way toward the writers regarding Strongarm is because, a) she was the first female Autobot we saw in the series, so they had to be making a statement; b) she was supposed to be a cop ‘bot, so they wanted her to be all muscly and brawny to make the statement that “girls can be cops, too.”
I flat-out do not like the character the way she was created; the emphasis was on her physique, not her character, and it shows. That is lazy storytelling and it does not sit well with me. I do not like Strongarm; I merely tolerate her to watch a show I enjoy. This leads me to the second female Autobot we see in Robots in Disguise….
Windblade: Windblade is a fan-made Transformers character. Hasbro had a series of polls prepared, and they used these to ask fans what kind of new Autobot toy they wanted made. The answers the fans gave to the questions built the framework the writers and toy creators used to design Windblade.
I have to say that Hasbro’s whole idea in this regard is fantastic. If Marvel would adopt a program like this, for stories as well as new characters, they might clean up a lot of their problems overnight – not to mention find some new talent for their dwindling reservoir of artists and writers. But I will not be holding my breath for them to try this; we fans are not the “in-crowd” they listen to these days.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Windblade is a much better character than Strongarm. I base this opinion solely on what I have seen of her in Robots in Disguise; I have not read any of the comics where she appears.
In the show Windblade at first comes across as somewhat arrogant and overconfident. This attitude of hers smoothes out as the series progresses; though she remains confident in her skills and keeps her whiplash-quick voice box, she shows a softer side as well. Windblade demonstrated protective, almost daughter-like feelings for Optimus Prime while working with him in season two. This made her confident, teasing banter seem less sharp than it had when she first arrived and (rightly) criticized Strongarm’s stiff behavior. She proved to be gentle as well as competent, and that means a lot in a female warrior character.
All in all, Windblade is a character I want to see more of. I think she can hold her own among the ranks of female Autobots already extant and shows promise of not falling into the “Strong Female Character” trope which gave us Strongarm.
However, this does NOT mean that I do not want Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, Moonracer, Override, Blackarachnia, or even Arcee back in future series. I maintain that Elita and her female friends are still “Odd Girls Out” and that they should be brought back in future stories. I do not want them to be “Strongarmed” versions of the originals or arachnoid manhaters; I want them to be the classy female characters they were when they were introduced – though I am all for ditching the pink color schemes. Until Hasbro does that, I will have to be satisfied with just having Windblade.
‘Til next time, readers: “Autobots, roll out!”