The Transformers franchise, which has always been more than meets the eye, just introduced its first officially nonbinary character, Nightshade. They make their debut toward the end of the first season of the franchise’s latest TV series, Transformers: EarthSpark, which premiered on the Paramount+ streaming service on Friday.
According to screengrabs shared on Twitter and YouTube, Nightshade is a nonbinary Transformer who uses they/them pronouns. Nigthshade isn’t the first Transformer who’s a member of the alphabet army—it’s been previously established that Anode and Lug, two characters in the IDW Transformers comics, are a transgender couple, and Arcee is transgender—but they are the first canonically nonbinary Transformer.
Transformers: EarthSpark is an animated series available on Paramount Plus that introduces a new generation of Transformers born on Earth, known as Terrans. Nightshade first appears late in the first season, and as seen in screenshots from the episode, is introduced as they/them. “He or she just doesn’t fit who I am,” they say. The Nightshade hashtag on Tumblr is currently full of ecstatic Transformers fans who are happy to finally see themselves represented in the franchise, and a YouTube video titled “NON-BINARY TRANSFORMER!!” lauds the series’ new character.
While most of the video’s comments are also supportive of and excited for Nightshade, a few commenters appear angry that the transforming robots are trans and nonbinary. “Transformers fans having a normal one over EarthSpark,” writes a Twitter user who shared screenshots of a few negative responses. Is it hilarious that people are mad that there’s a nonbinary alien robot in a series about alien robots who asexually reproduce and transform into different shapes? Yes, of course it is.
Nightshade has technically been in Transformers media before, as pointed out by Transformers superfan and host of the Transformers Slag podcast, Daniel “Protoman” Arseneault. “Nightshade was originally in a Hasbro toy line called COPS and a female character, so over the years they use that Nightshade trademark over other brands to keep it ‘alive and in their ownership,’ Arseneault told Kotaku over Twitter DM.
Nightshade is also the name of a BotBot toy released years ago, which Arseneault explains was Hasbro’s way of “[keeping the] trademark safe.” But this iteration of Nightshade is entirely new to the franchise—and is clearly getting a ton of attention.
Kotaku reached out to Transformers: EarthSpark showrunners as well as the actor who voices Nightshade for comment.
Update 11/14/2022 8:20 p.m. ET: While Nightshade is the first Transformer to be introduced as nonbinary, reader CyandraZ points out the case of Acid Storm, a character from the preceding Cyberverse series:
As the Transformers wiki says:
In-keeping with depictions of the character in other continuities up to this point, Hasbro has generally presented Acid Storm as male; the bio on Hasbro’s U.S. website refers to the character with male pronouns, and the toy’s package art uses a masculine-styled Seeker head. In the animated series, on the other hand, the character has a feminine voice provided by actress Jaime Lamchick, indicating that they are intended to be female (with other Seeker characters Nova Storm and Skywarp being similarly gender-swapped). However, an apparent case of animation oversight resulted in Acid Storm constantly fluctuating between the show’s two distinct “male” and “female” Seeker designs from episode to episode, and even scene to scene. When questioned about this, Cyberverse writer Mae Catt offered an in-universe explanation for the inconsistency, stating that their changing appearance was “just something Acid Storm likes to do,” implying the character is genderfluid nonbinary. In response to further queries, Catt noted that “pronouns are up to Acid Storm.”