My name is Selena Chaivaranon; I am a senior and Sociology major, and am deeply interested in the ability of the media to influence public agenda and to cultivate the idea of what is considered normative. In my university capstone course, I had previously investigated the ways in which Transformers characters are portrayed on-screen in the original 1984 cartoon, the live-action movies, and the Transformers: Prime cartoon, with respect to how they embodied American cultural values, such as the promotion of patriarchy and freedom, the division of gender into a strict binary system,the norm of violence, and the division of what is “right” versus what is “wrong.” This semester, I am focusing on how the creators themselves (such as the artists, script writers, directors, voice actors, etc.) discuss the characters and the creation process of the Transformers TV shows, movies, and toys. How deliberate are their decisions? What sorts of stages do these characters go through in their initial design phases, and how are those elements translated into a final product? How are the characters, and the principle values they embody, divided up between their factions? These are but a few of the questions I had wanted to explore in order to gain a better understand the process and degree of intentionality that goes into creating a long-lasting, well-known franchise.
The messages that these creators try to embed in TV shows, which are intended to market material products (toys) to children in part illustrate what is accepted and appreciated in American culture today. I am interested not only in the ways in which children’s media often perpetuates harmful stereotypes of minority groups, but in how it can also promote ideas of equality and acceptance. This has become especially important to me given the recent surge in hate-crime across the USA, and I am thrilled to have been able to gain additional first-hand experience in conducting my own research in this topic.
I recorded and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from print materials (such as art concept books and memorabilia collections), web pages, and online videos (such as interviews and panel presentations), and synthesized the data as they corresponded to themes surrounding gender and sexuality, the division of “right” and “wrong,” and violence. At this point in time, I have finished the first draft of my research paper and am currently working on editing a second draft, and putting together a poster presentation. It is my hope to also prepare a version of my paper for publication, so that I may add to the existing body of literature surrounding not only the Transformers franchise but of American media and pop-culture.