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Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Musings on G.I. Joe

The 80s were truly a great time for cartoons. Many of the cartoons which achieved greatness then were redone and re-imagined in the 90s with predictably disastrous results. For a decade it was nearly impossible to find the originals.

Now, a dual resurgence has occurred. First, many of the originals have been released on DVD. Unfortunately, Rhino, the company which had been publishing them, lost the rights to Transformers & G.I. Joe; Sony, which picked them up, has been derelict in re-selling them. As of now, you can still find them on Amazon if you're willing to pay out the wazoo.

Next has been a Hollywood resurgence. Hollywood has been pretty much bereft of new ideas for a while, relying on sequels, remakes, and adaptations of books, comic books, plays, etc. Now, as those of us who grew up in the 80s have families and money, they're trying to get us back to the theater.

Transformers was an unqualified success. With the exception of their underuse of "the sound:"

They pretty much got everything right.

G.I. Joe, however, is at risk of being mutilated. What follows are some random musings on the history and future as I sit here watching the 1986 G.I. Joe movie.

• Why do laser rifles expel shell casings?

• Why does Sgt. Slaughter bear an uncanny resemblance to "Weird Al" Yankovic?

• Who was hotter: Scarlett or Lady Jaye?

• What the fork was up with Serpentor? "Let's order a pizza. THIS I COMMAND!"

• Burgess Meredith as the villain? How cool is that!

• Are they gonna do it right and just get Alice Cooper to play Zartan in the live action flick?

• Okay, so it looks like they at least aren't dumb enough to actually base G.I. Joe in Brussels, the bureaucratic uselessness capital of the universe. Are they going to come to their senses, however, and realize what made G.I. Joe so popular?

Michael Bay figured it out. Transformers and G.I. Joe the TV shows would never have been as beloved without the unapologetic heroicness of the heroes. There was no attempt at making the villains "misunderstood" or "victims." The villains want to control everything and don't care how many people they have to kill in order to do it. In fact, they prefer to kill more people when given the choice.*

Heroes place themselves between bad guys and innocents. Bad guys place the innocents between themselves and the good guys so that they can point to civilian casualties as "proof" of how bad the good guys are. The fact that there are so many these days who fail to see the distinction between these two is pathetic. People who cry "torture" on someone who panties on another person's head (and was duly punished for it) but turns a blind eye to people being put feet first through a shredder is truly clueless.**

The soldiers in Transformers were unapologetically heroic. So it was in the G.I. Joe cartoon series. Unapologetically heroic and unapologetically American.

Let's get one thing straight. There isn't a society on this planet that doesn't have dark eras in their history. Many groups who complain about brutality done unto them forget the brutality they committed upon others in the past.*** That's no reason to not be proud of yourself and your nation.

Transformers succeeded because it was apolitical and heroic. It had the same view of heroism that was displayed so wonderfully in "Live Free or Die Hard": heroes don't sign up to be heroes. They know what has to be done and that they have to do it because nobody else is around to do it.

G.I. Joe was a Real American Hero. Not a Real International Hero. G.I. Joe didn't take time to "celebrate diversity." G.I. Joe just had diverse people who were all on the same team. Everybody remembered where they came from let their friends enjoy the benefits - from the ninja Storm Shadow, to the Indian Stereotype Spirit, to the cajun Gung-Ho. They embodied the classic archetype of America - call yourself American, learn our language, teach us to make your food, and we will all be greater than the sum of our parts.

Bottom line: Movies and Cartoons are for entertainment. Optimism plays much better at the box office than pessimism for one simple reason. We spend every day being confronted with what we've done wrong. We spend every day dealing with the complex consequences of our missteps. When it's time to relax, we need to recharge. We need to remember what we've done right. We need to know that it's all gonna be alright in the end. We need to know that although only Christ could conquer death, that we can beat it back when it tries to take over.

We need to take time to feel good about ourselves because of what we have accomplished. We'll go back to work on fixing our problems Monday. For now, let's take the weekend to relax.

And hope maybe they'll at least get Voltron right.

*Helen's speech to her children about the true nature of the people they are fighting in the Incredibles is perhaps the single best explanation of this that has ever been given. [back]

**It should be noted that the Abu Ghraib scandal only hit the media when the DOD announced indictments on those responsible.[back]

***This amnesia tends to be especially prevalent on days like yesterday.[back]


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