It is time to tell you a tale, a tale of how giant robots have influenced my life. You see, I am all about story telling. It is part of human existence and I love it. Long before we had books and science, we sat around camp fires telling eachother epic tales of mythical heroes and deeds. Storytelling is in the roots of how we learn, and giant robots make it effing AWESOOOOOOME!!!!
When I was 4 years old, I did what all other little boys did, I watched Transformers.
No. NO! Not those! Damn you Michael Bay!
Yes. Yeeeeeeees. Hell yes! That’s what I am talking about!
You see, the cartoon was all about marketing cool toys to kids. From a storytelling point of view there wasn’t really anything special about it. What was special was the movie, because it was NOT for kids. It’s a movie that could never EVER come into existence today. At the time it was made, it was assumed that anything animated was for kids and to this day, the movie has a G rating despite being filled with cursing, brutal murder and effing genocide.
The villain of the movie is a giant ass robot named Unicron. Now when I say ‘giant ass’, I mean space monster big as a effing planet giant ass. In the opening scene of the movie, before the opening credits even role, he eats a freaking planet. It’s a planet of robots, so I guess they didn’t count as people as far as any adult was concerned, but my four year old mind made no such distinction. There were robot children playing in the streets, robot people going to work, and genuine terror in their eyes as the sky turned black and the inescapable gaping maw of Unicron filled the horizon, come to swallow everything they had ever known and loved alive.
…what the hell Travis!? Yep. Seriously. Unicron eats an entire civilization alive. There are two scientist dudes that see him coming and have just enough time to attempt an escape. “The ships! Get to the ships! It’s our only chance!” one yells to the other. They run to two small ships as the runway crumbles around them, being sucked into the sky. The second guy stops for a moment to look up in terror before he climbs into his ship. That moment cost him his life, because his ship was a split second slower to take off and was sucked into Unicron’s hungry mouth of annihilation. Of an entire planet of people, there is only one survivor. (Spoiler alert, later on in the movie he is fed alive to robot sharks. Which death would have been better?)
That is just the opening scene! The opening credits haven’t even rolled yet! Nobody even freaking watched this before they gave it that G rating! No person in their right mind could watch that scene and honestly tell you it was OK for children. But, it was awesome. I think being forced to think about such deep and scary concepts at that young age kick started my mental development, in addition to scaring the hell out of me. The rest of the movie showed me my childhood heroes having their heads blown off, ripped apart and melted by acid, including the legendary Optimus Prime. One of my earliest memories is crying my eyes out as he delivered his dying words to his surviving followers.
Anyway, I’m not here to traumatize you, I’m here to talk about storytelling! There are two parts of the movie that expanded my horizons in terms of imagination, and one part that I just want to tell you about because it remains one of the most bad ass things I have ever seen.
About half way through the movie, they are flying through space in two spaceships. The spaceships get separated and crash land on two different and bizarre as hell planets. The first planet blew my mind because their ship crashed in a robot ocean, filled with all kinds of robot fish, robot plants and even a giant robot squid. How can such a place exist? my child mind pondered. Wouldn’t everything rust? What is the water made of? I dare to say that these questions started me down the path of being interested in chemistry, because I vividly thought about that planet years later when I had my first chemistry class in high school.
The second planet was made out of effing space garbage. Just scrap metal, trash and whatever floats around in the cosmic empty void. It seemed great at first, the good guys got out of their ship and starting fixing it by welding the holes closed with scrap metal. Because, you know, that’s how you fix spaceships.
That’s when the garbage bots attack. An entire civilization of robots that are made of and sustain themselves with garbage. There is an epic fight scene as they fend off an army of mismatched monster robots, set to the soundtrack of Weird Al’s Dare to be Stupid. That’s right, Dare to be Stupid. After the battle they end up becoming friends, and they find out that everyone on this planet has learned how to talk by intercepting and watching old earth TV signals. That’s right, everything they know about the universe comes from TV. They all talked like they were news anchors, or like they were straight out of a daytime soap opera.
How could such a place exist? What was truly strange to me, was that it worked. Something about the music, and robots and garbage planet all came together to make sense, and it was really cool. They convinced the robot people to help them fight Unicron, and they all got onto a giant spaceship chanting “Destroy Unicron! Kill the Grand Poobah! Eliminate even the toughest stains!” over and over. When I imagine civilizations in the stories I write, I still think about that planet.
Let’s switch gears for a second (Ha! Get it? Because robots…) and talk about one more time when giant robots influenced my life. I had grown up a bit (well, kinda) and I was like, 15 or 16 and in high school. A glorious show called Gundam Wing came on TV after class and one scene in particular made me think in a deep way about personal goals. If you watched the scene now, it would be corny as hell and you would think I am a moron for saying that. The thing is though, when I was 16, I WAS a moron! So it worked.
The thing about high school is, there is a period of time when pretty girls rule everything. As a young man your worth is determined by popularity, if you have a girlfriend, and what people gossip about you etc. There is always that group of pretty girls that control all three of those factors and can get what they want from anyone. Be it someone to help them with their homework, attention, or just to cut to the front of the line at lunch. Furthermore and more importantly, pretty girls dominated stories. Every hero was on a quest to save a princess, every action movie star got the girl in the end and everyone was obsessed with sex and romance. That was true in my world, until that scene in Gundam Wing came along.
The main character was a high school age kid (like me!) but instead of being a dipsh*t boring regular person, he was the pilot of a giant robot death machine. He had come on a secret mission to destroy military bases, fight other giant robots and kill bad guys. However, you can’t blow sh*t up ALL the time, so during the day he pretended to be a regular high school student to blend in. The thing is, he was a loner (like me!). He didn’t make any friends and his personality was off putting (uhhhg, like me.).
However! This was his lucky day, because he was noticed by the school’s prettiest and most popular girl. The thing is she accidentally saw him with his giant robot of death once, so she knew his true identity. Out of the goodness of her heart, in front of a crowd of other students, she handed him an invitation to her birthday party. The students applauded and I imagined what I would have done. I fully expected the main character to be stunned, clearly he was an a-hole because he didn’t get any attention and all he needed was some love in his life and a girl to fight for, just like every other hero ever.
Without a word he tore the invitation in half. Sixteen year old Travis was stunned, how could the main character be such a jerk! The crowd of students went silent, and the pretty girl was so hurt a tear welled up in her eye. “Why are you so cruel?” she asked. He wiped the tear away from her eye, and leaned in to speak. I whole heartedly expected him to apologize or explain or give some excuse, but instead, cold as ice he said:
“I’ll kill you.”
He strutted away, and she was left with horrible realization that this guy does not give a f*ck. He isn’t here to save anyone or get a girlfriend, he is here to blow sh*t up and kill people. She knows his identity, so she is going to die. And that was AWESOME. Sixteen year old Travis had never imagined being so dedicated to a goal, and it planted the seed of the idea that exceptional people don’t let anything stand in their way, and they don’t care what anyone thinks.
Now you know a little bit more about Travis, and he hopes you have a wonderful week!
Click here to waste five minutes of your life watching the only fight scene ever set to a Weird Al song. (Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong.)