Can Transformers Fall In Love?

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Bumblebee, which arrives in theaters Friday, is a coming-of-age story, replete with rock music, teen angst, and a pesky little brother (played by Jason Drucker). It also has a loose sort-of love story filled out by Memo (Jorge Lendburg Jr.), a skittish neighbor who’s deeply in love with protagonist Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). The more interesting love story, though, at least for those of us who like to thirst, is between Charlie and Bumblebee (voiced in part by Dylan O’Brien). Clearly, in this PG world, though, Charlie and Bumblebee aren’t meant to be lovers. Charlie is matched with Memo, and their love story is meant to be the backbone of the story.
Still, though, as the credits roll, the question lingers: Can Bumblebee fall in love? He can most certainly "get it,” whatever that means. He’s the youngest and the most clever Autobot, the Goose to Optimus Prime’s Maverick or the Justin Bartha to Optimus Prime’s Nicolas Cage. Bumblebee is the Autobot who most deserved an origin story — which is why Bumblebee exists in the first place. So, we ask again: Is Bumblebee a love interest for anyone (anybot) in the Transformers world at large?
Transformers, created in the 1980s by the toy company Hasbro in conjunction with Marvel, have always been toys for the younger set. The bots mainly do bot things. Things like morph into slick cars and argue about the future of the ‘verse.
“I really wanted to emphasize the human characters in the show, to give the audience something to identify with. But in retrospect, I think the kids just really liked the robots,” explained Transformers writer Bryce Malek in an oral history for The Guardian.
The Transformers were toys first, contraptions that shifted between car and robot seamlessly. This meant that their human aspects weren’t all that important. But still, they’re human and distinctly arranged. Per Bob Budiansky, a comic writer and editor who’s seen as one of the founders, a number of the original 26 are based on well-known characters. The autobot Ratchet, a doctor for the other bots, is based on the Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Ironhide is supposedly based on the main character from the TV show Ironside.
In the same Guardian oral history, Malek writes that when the Transformers were first being written, writers would pitch “inappropriate” storylines, like “the Transformers meeting space prostitutes,” a plot that has problems beyond that of propriety. (Raise your hand if you believe Transformers could pull of a successful sex worker storyline.) Still, though, Transformers were for kids, and kids — kids who weren’t me — didn’t need their creatures to fall in love.
In Bumblebee, the main conflict is simply that “Bee” isn't safe on Earth at all — the Decepticons want to extinguish the Autobots, who encompass the rebellion. The bots that come to seek Bee out — Shatter (Angela Basset) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) — are decidedly goon-ish, definitely evil and definitely not love interests for Bee. (But what if they fell in love with each other?) But Bee plays a role in Charlie’s burgeoning relationship with Memo — he smooshes them together so their faces almost touch, and he plays the right song for the occasion when necessary. This is a role that Bee also played in the 2007 film Transformers. Which means he’s aware of love, at the very least, and apparently a fan of it. When reached for comment, though, representation for Paramount confirmed that Bumblebee, at least in the Bumblebee universe, is a platonic figure.
I don’t know why fools fall in love, and I certainly don’t know why Autobots can’t.

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