The Romance of the Machine: Quietly Writing About Love

Three essays about love and pop culture 

I have a new piece out at the Cultural Gutter, a site which hosts essays about disreputable art in all its forms.

“The Romance of the Machine” looks at Hasbro’s Transformers toys, in particular their current comic More Than Meets The Eye. My essay explores how even big-brand media can be “rich enough to speak of loss, grief, thwarted dreams, the desire to do good in an imperfect world, and, most importantly, of love.

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Sergeant Pepper-style cover

Last time I wrote for the Gutter, it was to commemorate the death of actor Ernest Borgnine. I wrote about watching him in Airwolf as a kid and how meeting him at the British Film Institute brought a moment of peace to my brother and me during a family squabble.

“I wonder what would Ernie Borgnine do / I met him once and he was really really cool”

Around the same time as that Borgnine piece, I wrote about Daredevil comics and male teachers for US gender site Role/Reboot.

I looked at an amazing superhero comic which questions the violence we usually associate with the genre, and suggests that real heroism lies in the patient, endlessly difficult work of care and nurture.

In each of these pieces, I’ve been trying to look at how pop culture in its most money-driven forms – big corporate identities, toy brands, Saturday afternoon adventure shows – still has space for the flawed, complex reality of love. Caring for your family, or your friends, or your partner; commitment to your vocation, and to connecting honestly with the people in your care. Sometimes that love is part of the writer’s intent, sometimes we have to find it or make it for ourselves as consumers of pop culture.

Whichever is the case, it gives me hope to see that even within these short, episodic, brand-driven tales – where you’d be forgiven for expecting broad strokes, bright colours, clenched fists, and not too much sophistication – we can find meanings that are deep, subtle, and generous.

“Transformers: The Romance of the Machine” will convince you to pick up a toy comic about fighting robots. Check it out at the Cultural Gutter.

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