When I was a boy, I wanted to be Optimus Prime when I grew up; sadly, some dick told me it wasn’t possible, just around the same time my grandfather died, 1988 sucked for one Toni Smith. Now many aspired to be Optimus Prime for being a just and fearless leader, I was three; I wanted to be a giant badass robot with a face plate and a goddamn axe for a hand. As my three year old mind evolved into the jaded four year old who knew he couldn’t be said robot, I too eventually saw Prime as the wondrous and just leader of the Autobots, one who would be on the front lines along with his soldiers, not risking their Sparks without risking his own. Deep down I still want a goddamn axe for a hand, but I digress.
As we all know, Optimus Prime became an epic figure in pop-culture during a time when the typical American Youth were being essentially raised by television and other forms of multimedia entertainment: this is why so many found guidance in what was really a cartoon character.
Cartoon character or not, Optimus Prime was an inspiration and a father figure to many of us in the 80’s; that’s why a certain film from 1986 did a number on our young minds. Many of us didn’t actually see “Transformers; The Movie” around the same time, I was two, I can’t remember when exactly I saw the thing, I think I was five, but I do remember how much it sucked to watch Optimus Prime die. Even today, many of my friends and myself decry the death of Optimus Prime, but recently I reflected on my childhood rancor from my adult life.
Optimus’ death and subsequent replacement with, ugh, Hot Rod actually came at the perfect time. Losing Optimus showed us that nothing lasts forever; even cherished, treasured things go away. Now the late 80’s and early 90’s saw a massive amount of something that created the jaded nature and pop-culture worship in our generation: many of us saw are parents get divorced. Broken homes became a common institution, I recall only about four kids in my class didn’t get two Christmases, and two of those kids were jewish. Nevertheless, thanks to the events of “Transformers: The Movie,” I had a pretty good inkling of the course of events this divorce thing was going to take.
just like I always said to my students. Optimus Prime is watching you! ^_^