I’ve already purchased my tickets for the Transformers movie. Although he’s upgraded his vehicular style, I’m happy that Bumblebee is in the film. Believe it or not, he’s the earnest robot I wanted to be when I was 10 years old.
Even as a kid, identifying with “Spike” was too obvious; the “human kid who hangs out with the Transformers” routine gets old pretty fast. I didn’t wannabe a wannabe; I wanted to be a freakin’ Autobot! (Later, sadly much later, I did get a life). Still, even back then my sights only went one step higher than Spike, aspiring to be the yellow and weakest member of the Transformers family.
Maybe it was because he was the teams “spy” and I was a bit gawky, shy and furtive. Perhaps though I didn’t realize it at the time it was because Bumblebee was voiced by Dan Gilvezan, who also voiced Peter Parker on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends, which had previously been my favorite cartoon. Still, I tend to think the roots lie deeper. something to do with both a desire to be part of a grand story the victory of good over evil while humbly recognizing I wasn’t cut out to be the hero of the tale. At a young age, I think I had some godly perspective of my own place in our greater narrative.
Plucky and perpetually positive, Bumblebee looked up to Optimus Prime. Dedicated to the Autobot’s moral mission, he aspired to be like the Autobot leader. One of the friendliest “bots, he tried to model Prime’s compassionate heart and his unyielding sense of justice. Technically small, weak, and virtually without personal defense, Bumblebee was still included in Prime’s automotive assembly, enabled to participate as a valuable member of the team. Optimus had found a way to turn Bumblebee’s weaknesses into strength, utilizing his unique attributes as a vital part of the factory-fashioned family. When the badguys ran from Bumblebee, it was usually because (whether he knew it or not) Optimus Prime was standing right behind him.
Agreeing with WIRED magazine that Optimus Prime was created as both Father and Savior, I look back with some satisfaction that my narrative resonance rested on the little sunshine Beetle. When the chips were down, he and his team confronted on all sides by the enemy, he was always visibly – vocally – confident that Optimus Prime would save them. His tech specs read “small, eager, and brave, Bumblebee acts as a messenger and spy.” Even the idea of being a messenger appealed to me. that a hero like Prime would commission a message for me to carry, or that I would simply get back home first to carry the message of his victory against the enemy.
This became much more important as I became a Christian, recognizing the “Bumblebee” in me was eager to carry the message of the resurrected “Prime”, that the true Hero of our metanarrative would deem me to have worth and dignity, taking someone weak and worthless and giving me a job description, a mission, and a family participating in the amazing work He has specially equipped me for.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. – Romans 12:3-5
We don’t share everything in common; unlike Bumblebee, I’m not sure I can “go underwater for reconnaissance and salvage missions”. Still, the steadfast but dependent robot was not the worst role model a young boy could have. Here’s hoping something of that old Bumblebee is maintained in the upcoming film, and that a new generation of kids can grasp some similar parallels.