Sorry for the delay in making the next Dumbing of Age/MTMTE comparison! (In the interim I, uh, wrote some damning criticism of Rodimus and them some fan fiction about Chromia, so it wasn’t like I was completely unproductive. I also brainstormed some ideas for an essay I want to write on The Last Stand of the Wreckers, so brace yourselves for more “everyone you know will one day be dead!" analysis. Because you can’t spell "James Roberts" without crying.)
But without further ado, let’s get this show back on the road.
I think we can all agree that Ruth-as-Captain Megatron is indisputable in its awesome. Unfortunately, this comparison immediately raises an obvious objection: Ruth’s nemesis Billie is pretty clearly not Optimus Prime material. I mean, Megatron and Optimus might have that same “awkward sexual tension expressed through acts of physical violence” that Ruth and Billie have going for them, but that’s pretty much where the comparison stops. Optimus Prime is “wise and powerful beyond all understanding” (and is a messianic figure who has died to save his civilization a half dozen times). Billy is a depressed college freshman with a drinking problem (who has yet to die in any of Willis’ universes).
So, which Lost Light crew member does Billy most resemble?
Excellent tumblr user definitelynotawerewolf pointed out that Billy is obviously Trailcutter. They’re both struggling alcoholics who have crippling self-esteem issues, but when they’re not struggling with substance abuse, they’re both cheerleaders!
Also, we can only hope that Ruth will slap Billie permanently sober:
Tyrant, substance abuse counselor: all it takes is a firm hand.
But regardless of how completely excellent this comparison is, I had already conceived of Billie as another Lost Light crew member. (Sorry, definitelymaybeawerewolf.) And that pairing is:
Jennifer “Billie” Billingsworth / RODIMUS
Okay, okay: probably not the character comparison you thought I was going to go with. At first glance, there’s not much similarity between Rodimus, an Autobot who is literally an aerodynamic racecar, and Billie, who is often mocked for not being an aerodynamic racecar.
But let’s break it down:
- Both used to be captains, and now aren’t!
- Both have great legs!
- Both are really great at using their arms and shoulders to express how utterly annoyed they are at the world.
- Both aren’t as important as they think they are!
- When faced with a problem, both isolate themselves in hopes that their juvenile passive-aggressiveness with solve everything!
But seriously: great legs.
Billie and Rodimus are hot shit. At least, they’re accustomed to being hot shit… and to their credit, they’ve done a lot in their lives. I mean Rodimus of Nyon was never a newspaper editor, and I’m pretty certain that the Matrix of Leadership is too heavy for Billie to lift. But hey! Who’s keeping score?
They are, that’s who. Billie and Rodimus keep score. They know themselves by what they’ve done. And early on, that was a great idea: they were both up-and-coming leaders, flush with success—why not look at your triumphs as proof of just how amazing you are?
And look at those expressive arms! (But between you and me, I think Sal’s more Thunderclash than Walky.)
But man, don’t you know it—life gets difficult, and it turns out “precocious overachiever” is the poisoned chalice of report card compliments. There’s a difference between potential and success, and Billie and Rodimus are learning that the hard way. They’ve entered a new phase of life that demands not only ability, but also dedication and hardwork. Their changing life circumstances mirror each other—Rodimus went from maverick loner to captain; Billie went from high school big shot to just another freshman undergraduate—but the point still stands: in their new setting, success is predicated on them committing themselves in a way they’ve never had to before.
And you know, they mess up. Messing up is to be expected. They don’t have experience. Billie had started the ball rolling even before she set foot on IU, drunkenly crashing her parent’s SUV senior year. Rodimus, so used to personal bravery and quick thinking solving all of his problems, made one costly mistake after another.
Again: inexperienced, self-certain people make mistakes. That’s okay! It happens. That’s not the problem.
I lied. It is the problem. Fuck you, Rodimus, I liked Pipes!
Skipping class and dead crew members aside, the core problem is that neither Billie nor Rodimus have learned from their costly mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments of self-awareness and selflessness: kicking down doors, saving friends, heart-wrenching admissions of failure. But for whatever reason, they keep thinking the rules don’t apply to them—sobriety is for other people, avoiding needless risk is for other captains—and the people around them call them on their shit. Again and again and again.
Things Rodimus didn’t do: get drunk on energon, crash into a tree. Who’s the real loser, Billie?!
Hilariously, Billie is the one most likely to change. Her relationship with Ruth could be a healthy influence, and she’s begun to figure out that she’s not the hottest shit ever. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.
Rodimus… well, after Luna 1, Rodimus thought he had a chance at redemption. But his removal from command not only signaled the crew’s lack of faith in him, it also denied him—in his mind—the opportunity to prove that he’s become a better leader. So true to form, he’s sulked in his cabin ever since. Oh, and accessed what he thought was the voting record for the vote-of-no-confidence against him. Rodimus: Prime leadership material he ain’t.
But hey! Regardless of how well or poorly they’re coping with their respective falls from grace, we can all agree that Billie and Rodimus are both one drunken binge away from ordering three dozen "I WAS AN HONOR STUDENT; I don’t know what happened" bumper stickers.
Dumbing of Age Anime Style!
Amber, Ethan, Sal and Walky!