Guns, violence, tanks, skiing good guys with bright red beards, professional wrestling, and bad guys named Cobra are what made GI Joe what it was. I could simply stop there and you’d think this was a great show. It wasn’t. Not at all. GI Joe was a show with all the flair that never lived up to its potential. GI Joe might very well be the Clay Aiken of kid’s shows.
(And by that I don’t mean it’s totally gay)
GI Joe was actually based off a comic book series. When a show bases itself off a comic book it’s usually pretty good. The reason why the show failed is because it had very little to do with the comic book whatsoever. This show was literally created to sell a different toy each episode. Things were so much different back in 1985. You didn’t have to be subtle with marketing. All you had to do was have something or someone blow something up then turn it into a toy and boys all over the country would be shouting “I want that!” at their TV screens.
The show followed a group of elite American soldiers. The opening sequence states “G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.” If they’re so unique then why go with Joe? Isn’t Joe what we call the common person? They should have gone by GI Barry or GI Ezra. Something a little more unique and individualized.
I have two big problems with this show. The first is they didn’t have any memorable characters. The character names included Low-Light (he could see in the dark), Wet Suit (he peed his pants frequently), Cover Girl (she enjoyed makeup), Blowtorch (he would do inappropriate things to a man named Torch), Quick Kick (a world class kickball player), and Bazooka (he loved bubblegum). I’ve found in military based television shows or movies it’s important to distinguish between each character. Saving Private Ryan is a perfect example of this. Each character looks very different. Black Hawk Down is the complete opposite. They all look the same and I couldn’t tell who was who. GI Joe did differentiate between their characters but they did it so well that their names meant nothing.
(The Village People with guns?)
My other problem with this show was nobody ever seemed to die. War is all about death. Whenever someone would drop a bomb on a truck the bad guys would jump out and make a run for it before the bomb hit. This teaches kids a bad lesson. People must die in war for it to end. If cars are just blowing up the war will last much longer. It’s a sacrifice that’s needed for eventual peace.
GI Joe achieved a resurgence in popular thanks in part to parody videos of their “And knowing is half the battle” videos. I remember watching these at a Jewish friend’s house while the cool kids had sex and smoked pot. The nerdy Colombian kid and I watched parody videos and 9/11 conspiracy ones all night long. There was also a Japanese-Canadian kid who spent the night looking at porn and laughing. I don’t miss being young.
Great toys, interesting characters, and an incredibly lame plotline were what made GI Joe what it was. I always thought the main bad guy Cobra was pretty cool. He wore a mask and pretended to be a snake. Joseph Gordon-Levitt played him in the movie somehow. I guess nobody else in the entire world was available. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fine actor. A villain named Cobra? No thanks.