#28 - Transfans

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This Nickscast are covering an unfortunately named fandom: TransFans (Transformers fans). What is it about a franchise so tied to toys and the 80s that helps its fandom to grow and thrive today? What is its key demographic? Why did Orson Welles get involved in the Tranformers movie? And where is all the Transformers fanfic? This week, we’re going to transform and roll out (to find out)!

Next week, we’ll be working our way through the mysterious pines to a place thats all sunshine and roses on the outside, but suspicious and enigmatic on the inside; we’ll be talking about Twin Peaks fans.

Episode outline

Last episode’s Famous Last Words

Z: Why did Orson Welles agree to be in this movie?

The Transformers: The Movie was the final film to which Orson Welles contributed. Welles was in declining health during production. Shortly before he died, he told his biographer, Barbara Leaming, “You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy.” He elaborated, “I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I’m destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen.” According to director Nelson Shin, Welles had been pleased to accept the role after reading the script and had expressed an admiration for animated films
Wikipedia - The Transformers: The Movie

Z: … I found a reddit AMA …
G: Orson Welles did an AMA?!
T: From BEYOND THE GRAVE

It is his enduring legacy, and I guess Citizen Kane or something
— G

G: Why was Weird Al’s Dare to be stupid included in the movie? Who thought that was a good idea?

It was used as the music for the “Junkions attack” and “Junkions become friends” scenes in the movie; the song’s rampant pop-culture referencing certainly fits with the pop-culture-talking Junkions.
Reportedly, it was included in the movie soundtrack because Scotti Bros. Records decided to promote acts on their label heavily, and Al (always popular with the kids) was one of the biggest. As Al himself tells it, he just got a phone call one day and said “Okay”, and that was basically the last he heard about it, save the royalty checks.
TransformersWiki - Dare to be Stupid

T: Who is the primary demographic supposed to be? Still going, can only assume it’s 30-somethings.

… Michael Bay takes a weird, reverse approach with the ‘Transformers’ films: the primary target audience for these films is adults, but Bay is talking down to them as if they were children, and the humor and subject matter is exceedingly regressive.
Screencrush - Trying to Understand the ‘Transformers’ Franchise: What Is the Meaning of All This?

I will stand by my words though! I’m still not sure who the important audience is.
— T

Fandom Facts

Origins:

Origins: this is actually a bit dizzying. There’s a lot of different origins of Transformers.
— T

Varied. All franchises are focused on a race of transforming sentient beings with one faction, the Autobots—lead by Optimus Prime—in their struggle against the Decepticons—lead by Megatron. The reasons for the clash differ from series to series. There are at least six different universes.

  • Generation 1 (G1): 1984-1987
  • Robots in Disguise: 2001-2002
  • The Unicron trilogy: 2002-2006 (Armada, Energon, Cybertron)
  • Live-action films: 2007—present
  • Transformers animated: 2007-2009
  • Transformers prime: 2010-2013

That is a lot of just origins! I don’t usually spend nearly as much time talk about the things [Transformers].
— T

Fandom Origins:
The first fan activity was probably the letters pages in the G1 comics by Marvel. There was also the Secret Transformer Autobot Rescue Squad (S.T.A.R.S.) fan club, but interaction between fans was still quite limited. Unofficial fan clubs started as early as 1986, like the Transmasters club. Some fan clubs were officially recognized by Hasbro in 1991 which started the use of the Transformers likeness for use in non-profit purposes.

I would like to go into more detail but there is SO. MUCH. HISTORY.
— T

Names:
Transfans, Transformers fans, TF Fans

Most Active:
Probably the early 2000s to the present, referred to as “The Big Bang”; a nostalgia boom sparked by the movies. The movies have been a huge factor.

Size of Fandom:
As usual, this is hard to estimate. If BotCon is any indication (which is supposed to be the largest transformers convention, and was the only officially licensed one), at least between 3000 and 4000. TFCON, another large convention, reports attendance around 2500. Assuming a funnel of fans where there are less fans attending conventions and more consuming the media in general, this puts a lower bound on the fandom.

Around the world:
Mostly North American, though there are conventions in Europe and Asia as well.

In 1998, several Scandinavian Transformers fans decided to form their own fanclub, the Nordic TransFans Association, which eventually got its own website, NTFA.net, in 2001. NTFA remains one of the largest European Transformers fan communities to this very day.
TransformersWiki - Fandom

Where does fandom live:
Mostly in a few websites, and in real life:

Fanfics:
Archive of our own has approximately 20000 (all Transformers media)
Fanfiction.net has approximately ~1600 for Transformers / Beast Wars, and 930 for the new movies

What did we discuss?

The enduring Transformers franchise (toys and media) ~ Different draws to the Transformers franchise ~ Build-your-own canon ~ Highly curative element to Transformers fandom ~ Stickiness of canon and multiple universes ~ Retelling of the same story ~ Irreconcilability of Transformers canon ~ Potential toxicity of Transformers fandom ~ Division built right into the fandom ~ Isolation of minorities in a mono-cultural fandom ~ Speculation on the openness / closedness of Transformers fans

Fans of the week

Also, Joe Fiduccia, who we had a chance to chat with at Forest City Comic Con 2016. If you want to learn more about his Optimus Prime build, check out his Facebook page.

This week’s spotlight

TFCon
World’s largest fan-run Transformers convention. Started in 2002, and often has voice actors from the different shows in attendance. Located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada!

(Kiriska’s) 2017 Artist Alley Survey
Are you an artist at conventions and want to help gather useful data for Fanthropology? A friend of ours, Kiriska, is gathering data on Artist Alley attendees and is providing the data for free (and you can buy the reports for $5, if you don’t want to do your own analysis). You can even check out the 2016 results.

I just love it because its the intersection of the fannish part which is subjective and the data part which is objective.
— T (Kiriska’s survey)

…But you’d never figure any of that stuff out unless you had data, and nobody collects that data because its hard to get!
— T

The Race Against Time
Now in its third year of running, the Race Against Time is the Nickscast’s annual charity livestream where we work our way though Chrono Trigger, obtaining all its endings, and also raising money for the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Last year we raised over $1200 CAD, and have plans to surpass that!

This year, the event will be held August 12 through to August 13, starting at 10am ET. You can also subscribe on Twitch.tv/theraceagainsttime in anticipation of the event!

Are you in, or out?

G is out.

Transformers doesn’t interest me at all.
— G

T is out.

I’m out. … There’s a lot of vibes I’m getting from this fandom that I’m not enthused by.
— T

Z is out.

I could not tell you why I enjoyed the movie as a kid.
— Z

T: I mean, if you want fighting robots, you’ve got Pacific Rim, Evangelion, Godannar, G Gundam, any other Gundams, Voltron…
G: I don’t like mechs at all and I love the new Voltron!

Famous Last Words

This week’s famous last words around next week’s fandom, Twin Peaks!

G
Did twin peaks have a notable effect on coffee and donut consumption in the US?

T
If Twin Peaks is a show that wrapped up the plot, then kept going then ended… why would it get a sequel?

Z
David Bowie’s appearance in Firewalk with me significantly increased sales of his music.

Where can you find us online?

We are everywhere! Most notably though, we like to hang out in a few places on social media:

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  • We’re also on iTunes, and Google Play, and would love it if you could leave a review and rating!
  • if you want to reach us, and for some reason none of those work for you, try nick@thenickscast.com
  • You can check out our website; that will mostly bring you back to this stuff.
  • Everything is thenickscast, so if you can’t find us, go on your social network and search for that!
  • … You’re still looking for ways to reach out? You can also use the hashtag #fanthro on Twitter!

What is “Fanthropological”?

How did you read this far without asking this question?!

Fanthropological is an anthropological (ish) podcast where we bring the fan’s-eye view to you! Each week, we take a look at a different fandom, dig up interesting background, trivia, and history, and try to get to why it is that people are a fan. We also try to highlight good causes related to that fandom, and find interesting things that fans have created to share those to the world. Each episode is about an hour. Ish.

Who is “The Nickscast”?

We are the Nickscast! Three products of late-80s / early-90s pop culture who love exploring fandom and everything geek … who also happen to have been best buddies since high school, and all happen to be named Nick. Yes, we are super creative. Dare we say, the most creative.

Ahem

We are Nick Green, Nick Terwoord, and Nick Zacharewicz: We started the Nickscast as a labour of love, and as a place to entertain and to discuss our love of fans and fandom, and all that is shiny and interesting in that realm. It’s what lead us to start our first podcast, our satellite podcasts, Fanthropological, and so much more.

We want to help others learn more about different fandoms, and to create empathy with other fans: We dream of a world where other fans aren’t “those Weird-o’s”, but just folks with different tastes. A world where fandom is full of discourse and analysis, and there are plenty of tools and resources to help. Fans building communities to do good in the world. Because everyone’s a fan.

Notable quotes from this episode

I hope you all listening out there are enjoying your sunny, sunny day because we have not enjoyed one in many weeks.
— G

Being alone at the top of the show is much easier with a second person.
— G

Scott McNeil always turns up somewhere.
— G (Regarding Beast Wars)

I got out of that bucket of syrup alright though.
— Z

Dying of embarrassment is, like, the most Japanese premise for a series I can think of.
— G (regarding Konosuba)

Sometimes there’s only a finite amount of story.
— G

It’s hard not to talk Transformers and not talk about the toys, because the show doesn’t make sense unless you realize that its because of the toy…
— G

Z: …this is from an article entitled “How Transformers Have Sex”
T: I AM INTRIGUED.

Maybe this is like the T / not-T divide where we’re talking about a fandom that is highly oriented around collecting things, and that falls off my cliff of understanding.
— T

Imagine when the toy transformers came out. It’s two different things. It’s a car or a jet or whatever, and it turns into a robot. Compare that to GI Joe!
— G

I think that its a toxic kind of fandom. That might be taking it too far, but I am going to deliberately place that inflammatory statement like a ticking time bomb at the centre of this discussion!
— T

G: People enjoy being transformers fans because they like having those arguments
T: That’s possible, that just makes me very sad

What better way to assert your identity than to say, “this particular configuration of transformers is the best one”…
— G

T: If you say the fifth doctor is the best doctor…
G: … which he is

…Hard to get a kind of view of the fandom. In this one it seemed more like looking I’m through a keyhole than a window.
— T

Up to this point, there hasn’t been a Transformers series where its just the Transformers going through high school or working 9-to-5 jobs, or meeting in cafes and having love triangles
— Z

Hasbro, make it so.
— Z

I wasn’t talking about the subtle classist war that is bubbling between the unicorns and the pegasi and the horses.
— T

Transformers fandom: a turkey.
— Z

Credits

Sources

Music / Sound

  • All music and sound for this week’s episode were provided by Nick Green!

Artwork

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