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#24

Blackarachnia

By Warcry

"Even when I'm good, I'm still bad."

Percentage of vote: 19.6%
Average ranking: 13.9

Although we sometimes like to pretend otherwise, your gender still has a great deal of influence on your life and how the world deals with you. And in fictionland, that influence is if anything even more powerful and pervasive. In too many works of fiction to mention, female characters only exist as objects for the males to fight over or rescue. And Transformers, sadly, is more guilty of that than most. Female characters barely even exist in most branches of the official fiction, and the scant handful that do exist are usually either reduced to sex objects (in the case of human characters) or one-dimensional stereotypes. There are a very, very small number of exceptions, and out of that small number there is one character that stands out as the deepest and the most important: Blackarachnia.

She wasn't the first female Transformer. She wasn't even the first with a starring role in a TV series. But Arcee and Minerva were both bland, deeply stereotypical characters that are now beloved mostly for their nostalgic value in one case and their foreignness in the other. Blackarachnia, though? In spite of her sexualized design and seductive behaviour, her gender quickly became a secondary concern. She was a full-fledged person with plans of her own, hopes and dreams that usually had nothing to do with her male co-stars and a whip-smart intellect that let her go up against the smartest characters on the show and often come out the winner.

"Lazily stereotyped as a femme fatale (she really isn't),
the Predacon Blackarachnia was a sign of Beast Wars'
incredible maturity. Outwardly selfish and scheming,
she shows great compassion and selflessness on her journey
to becoming a Maximal. Her relationship with the squeaky clean
Silverbolt was well portrayed and she's still the greatest
female character in Transformersdom."

--Simon Hall (Skyquake87)

Her relationship with Silverbolt could easily have undermined her status as a strong, independent female, but miraculously it didn't. Though she eventually grew to return his love, she never became any less dangerous or cunning. What the relationship did do, though, was give her something to care about other than herself. And that took her in a new and interesting direction, forcing her to rethink her loyalties to the Predacon cause as she slowly came to realize that there was more to life than just power.

But although Blackarachnia's relationship with Silverbolt tends to get the most attention when she is discussed, it's not the only interesting facet of her character. In fact, it's not even the most interesting. Her entire character arc is an extended debate about nature vs. nurture, about how free will cannot be constrained. Blackarachnia's life is a testament to the fact that, yes, good people can be led astray and can do evil things...but that they can come back from that abyss and make things right. She was a child soldier, essentially, taken in by a megalomaniac and mentored by a cackling psychopath. But she overcame her upbringing and when it counted she was numbered on the side of the righteous.

To paraphrase one of my favourite writers, redemption is a rare and special thing. It's not for everyone. But Blackarachnia found it, and she damn well earned it. She'd never admit it, but she's just as much of a hero as any of her fellow Maximals -- moreso, even, in some cases.

"It took a long while but deep down
she knew what was the right thing to do."

--tec

Of course, it would be negligent of me to talk about Blackarachnia without mentioning something aside from her personality that made her so popular.

...

No, not those. Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about the brilliant work of her voice actress, Venus Terzo. Obviously an incredibly talented woman, Ms. Terzo made Blackarachnia sound sultry and dangerous, tempting and disdainful all at once. She tends to be forgotten about when fans talk about the Beast Wars voice cast, overlooked as we heap (rightfully deserved) praise on Gary Chalk, David Kaye and especially Scott McNeil, all of whom are a big part of why one of more of their own characters appear on this list. But Blackarachnia's voice is just as iconic and well-done as any of theirs, and her actress deserves just as much praise.

It would be remiss to talk about Blackarachnia without mentioning her starring role among the cast of Beast Machines, but honestly, I don't really want to. The show's creators were told to ignore what had happened to the characters in Beast Wars and nowhere was that more apparent than with Blackarachnia. She went from a strong female character to a needy one obsessed with her boyfriend, and while some change in character in her new circumstances was understandable, this was not a popular turn with her fans.

On the other hand, fans of the character were very happy to see a new version of Blackarachnia show up in Tranformers: Animated. This version of the character got a decent amount of love in our poll as well. Though quite different from the Beast Wars version, the Animated character was equally deep and compelling, with a tortured past that intertwined her backstory with that of Optimus and Sentinel Prime. A techno-organic mutant who hated her biological parts, Blackarachnia allegedly served Megatron but only followed him out of convenience, serving her own interests above all else before eventually going her own way -- sound familiar? Though this version never found the redemption that the original did, she was a compelling character to the end.

"Though Arcee is probably more popular, Blackarachnia
is the first female Transformer to ever have a real
character arc in fiction. She was deeper than most of
her male comrades. In a weaker show she would have been
arm candy for a male hero, but in Beast Wars it was different.
If anything, lovable dope Silverbolt was HER arm candy."

--Warcry (yes, I quoted myself -- rampant abuse of power!)

Shockingly, it's been nearly twenty years since Blackarachnia made her debut. Just as shockingly, not a single female character has even approached the level of depth and development that she received. But maybe that shouldn't be a surprise after all. Blackarachnia smashed through the proverbial glass ceiling of toy cartoons and became something much, much more than "good, for a girl". She was one of the best things about Beast Wars, and even now I still count her as one of the highlights of the franchise.

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