Someone once said that you don’t truly become an adult until you examine your childhood heroes and question if they were truly worthy of adulation. (I don’t know if someone actually said that, but it sounds good, right?) If that’s true, then there is no doubt that I am a full-blown adult. (As if having three kids wasn’t evidence enough.)
As a child in the 1980’s, there were two great icons of leadership in America: Ronald Reagan and Optimus Prime. The bloom is long off the rose as far as Reagan goes, and now I’m starting to wonder about Optimus as well.Every so often, I find myself thinking about the original Transformers cartoon. (Don’t judge.) In hindsight, it feels like the Autobots could have – and probably should have – ended the Decepticon threat early on in the series.
The Autobots had the means to take out the Decepticons. They greatly outnumbered the Decepticons (although the ‘Cons’ ranks did seem to mysteriously grow when convenient to the plot), and they had humans on their side. Maybe Earth technology and weaponry wasn’t as advanced as the Transformers’, but they could still do some damage.
They also knew where the Decepticons’ base was located: On the bottom of the ocean. Yes, the underwater location would have made an attack trickier, but it was far from impossible. In a way, that was an advantage as human casualties would have been minimal.
So why didn’t the Autobots ever launch an assault on the Decepticon base? Why did they seem content to just sit in their volcano and wait for the next time Megatron came up with a plot for world domination? Why were they always reacting instead of acting?
Perhaps you could explain their passiveness by saying that the Autobots sought peace, but that doesn’t seem realistic. It was fairly obvious that the Decepticons weren’t going to ever stop trying to conquer Earth and Cybertron. Peace is a noble aspiration, but at what point do you face reality?
Their passiveness likely had a cost as well. You have to figure that despite not being shown on screen, there were some human casualties during the various Decepticon attacks. Don’t some of those deaths fall upon the head of Optimus Prime?
In Transformers: The Movie, we find that 20 years after the events of the second season, the Decepticons have conquered Cybertron. Would the Autobots’ home planet have suffered that fate if the Autobots had been more proactive?
Maybe Optimus simply wasn’t the great leader that I once thought he was. He was courageous, led by example, and clearly cared about his fellow Autobots. But was he willing to make the tough decisions that a truly great leader needs to make? It doesn’t seem that way.