First posted on July 20th, 2011 on The Retroist Retro Blog and Podcast - CW post link
We at the Claymation Werewolf Laboratories believe in bringing you a well rounded reporting of history. Sure televisions, cartoons, toys and videogames are important; probably more important than anything else in the world. However, we can not forget the unique, if fairly insignificant, role that politics have played in the forming of our society. We are of course all human and everyone, aside from myself, makes the occasional mistake. Politicians and world leaders are no different. Making decisions that impact so many while under the glare of the media spotlight can be an enormous amount of pressure. With everyone watching and waiting for your every mistake, those mistakes can lead to incredible humiliation. It is one example of that humiliation that I would like to exploit today for my own personal gain. From the Claymation Werewolf Political desk, I’m Rhett Kahn.
It was a brilliant scheme. Find a popular example of physical fitness; an undeniable example of a group at the height of their condition and build a training program around them. Being that this was the United States, the search soon focused on popular culture and with that in mind the choice became a real no-brainer. There was a group so powerful, so versatile that we should all strive to emulate. And that group was none other than the GoBots.
In the 80’s, the whole nation had GoBot fever! Carter himself had long been recognized as a fan, and even a champion of the budding Transforming Robot Genre. And there was a lot to be a fan of! Never before had such a group of heroes been brought together with such grace, with such power, with such total originality! It seemed like nothing was beyond their power! They could change from robots into vehicles and then back to robots…and then vehicles and so on. Because of this huge array of abilities, on October 22nd The Carter administration announced The Challenge of the GoBots. The plan was simple; create a program of exercise, training and ultimately; national tests. Integrate these tests into the physical education programs at elementary and middle schools all over the country. At first the results of the program were great. Kids everywhere were getting some exercise. Reports from all over the country were pouring in and it seemed that America’s students had devoted themselves totally to becoming more and more like their robotic champions! Not only were children getting in shape, interest in automotive and mechanical skills had reached an unprecedented levels.
Unfortunately as time rolled on, revelations started to surface that all was not well in The Challenge of the GoBots. It seems that due to an error in planning and forethought the program was way to GoBot specific. Instead of becoming active, vibrant and healthy citizens; the challenge, as it was laid out, encouraged children to actually become transforming robots. It started simple enough with rope climbing, jumping jacks and push ups, but the advanced levels called for the children to perform unreasonable physical feats. It was required that students fold their arms, legs and head into their bodies and replace them with wheels, wings, propellers and rudders. Then children would also somehow have to become metal and robotic, rather than flesh and blood humans. Ultimately, in order to gain their certificate of completion, the kids would have to pass the final test which involved completely changing from a human into a robot, into a vehicle and then back into a robot. They would then have to defeat at least one member of the evil renegades in mortal combat (or guardians, if they in fact chose to be a renegade themselves.)
These later elements of the program appeared to be unachievable. To begin with, humans had no biological ability to become robots. Additionally, most academic experts frown on any kind of school program that ends in a battle to the death. Not only were the details of the program itself ridiculous, there had began to be an uproar about the Challenge of the GoBots existing at all. Several children were seriously injured or permanently disfigured and there was almost 100% failure of anyone to reach the final test.
Through a combined effort of liberal human rights groups protesting the challenge because it required people to no longer be “human” and conservative groups protesting because the title Leader-1 sounded “commie,” the entire fitness program had become political poison. With teachers dropping out of the program and the news media demanding answers, Jimmy Carter and his advisors scrambled to respond to the public outcry that had started to surround his bold but ultimately ill-advised Challenge of the GoBots. Carter made one of the most impassioned speeches he had ever made. He claimed that this program could work; it would work! We as a nation, could come together and if we worked as one there was nothing, nothing that we couldn’t achieve. If we denied ourselves the possibility that children could become intergalactic transforming robot warriors, why then we denied every bright hope and dream we could ever have. And hope, yes hope was the most important natural resource in the United States of America. Ultimately it was discovered that hope was not the most important natural resource (turns out it was oil) and the Challenge of the GoBots was shut down forever.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Carter was embarking on his bid for a third term. In the end, everything fell apart. Despite his best intentions and his public call for understanding the people were fed up with his optimistic, cartoon based policies and he was unable to withstand the force of the campaign of Ronald Reagan. Reagan ran an aggressive campaign and the slogan “Transform failure into success, not children into vehicles!” proved to be a strong influence on the public.
In the aftermath of the GoBots debacle, our nation finally did come together. They came together to pick up the pieces left by…the GoBots debacle. Even former president Carter did his part. He began a long career in charity by starting The GoBotron foundation, a group dedicated to building custom built housing for all of those affected by the misguided program. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected but have continued their lives and ultimately have become stronger as a result. We all have our own hardships to overcome, my wife will always have motorcycle tire where her left arm should be and that is something that we have learned to deal with. Soon after taking over the office of the President, he replaced the Challenge of the GoBots with The Presidential Award for Physical Fitness. While it has resulted in a lot less injuries and considerably less cyborgs, it has also not been a smashing success. As of this date, no president has ever won the award.