Did Hasbro hide a pro-Trump message on a “black” Transformers toy?

The new Autobot Jazz toy in Hasbro’s just-released “Transformers: Power Of The Primes” toyline is the subject of sudden and unusual controversy today, as eagle-eyed Twitter users identified that four miniscule squiggles in the toy’s racing deco are actually “Cybertronian alphabet” characters–and they translate into something entirely unexpected and potentially troubling for a toy aimed at children worldwide.

Hasbro artists have occasionally used this substitution-code alphabet, known as “Autobot Script” on the Transformers Wiki, to add hidden messages to a toy like a character’s name or catchphrase. But as Twitter user @TheLastGherkin pointed out, this particular graphic seems to reference an infamous term from recent U.S. politics when translated from “Cybertronian” to English:

 

“MAGA” is an abbreviation of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” and the four-letter word has been adopted as a rallying cry and social media hashtag by far-right online trolls and White Supremacist hate groups ever since. This is particularly ironic, as Jazz has long been considered by Transformers fans to represent an African-American ethnicity, as far as fictional alien space robots go. In the 2007 movie, and in multiple animated series from 1984 through 2017, the character was consistently voiced by black actors and used common black slang terms (explained in the movie as a dialect learned from “the World Wide Web”). In a 2016 Transformers comic book published by IDW, the character was used as part of a brief commentary on police violence, as Jazz stepped in to prevent a cop from shooting an unarmed black youth.

The tiny symbol and code appear on the side of the toy’s car mode, as seen in our photo here:

Sci-Fi/toy blog iO9 reached out to Hasbro for comment, and got the following response:

It was brought to our attention that a graphic appears on one of our Transformers figures that, when translated from Cybertonian letters to English, spells out MAGA. We investigated the issue, and discovered that one of our vendors inserted this as part of the design without authorization. We are addressing this with the vendor.

 

We do not intend for our products to carry political messages, and apologize to anyone who was offended by this message.

Without knowing more detail about the particular vendor involved, it’s difficult to ascribe the original intent behind the coded message. Either way, the specific character used as the bearer of this divisive message makes the situation more problematic, due to the positivity and inclusiveness Jazz represents to many longtime Transformers fans.

Discussion of this unusual matter continues in our Power of the Primes thread.

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