22 August 2002 | thousandisland
Really a VERY GOOD show, and it made a very good generation.
It's remarkable that people in the 80s were inventive enough to make a series this rich in appeal and character, just to sell toys! I returned to this show after nearly fifteen years' absence, expecting it to be bland and lacking the rosy tint that so often glorifies childhood TV shows. I was in for a surprise when I rented a 4-episode video from the local Blockbuster. This show is just as good, if not better than it was.
The Joes are likable, but the villains are the eye-catcher here. Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness, and Zartan are delightful and give the enemy cause such charm that one is secretly disappointed when they consistently bungle their schemes for world domination. Cobra Commander is the easy favorite for his arrogant and hypocritical personality, and his passion for the job is what really makes the show work. He is much more honest, expressive, and intense about his goals than any of the "Good Guys." Then we have Destro, who is the "Straight Man" of Cobra: smart and level-headed, ever-irritated with Cobra Commander's foolishness, but forced to go along with the program.
Rounding out the enemy ranks are a host of clever characters like Zartan and Stormshadow, and the Lady in the Boys' Club: The Baroness with her intelligence and subtle sensuality, but just as much fire as any of her coworkers. Definitely puts the "bra" in Cobra and is one of many examples of what a fair and politically correct show this is. And the gals don't wear PINK, folks! Also you will generally not see a light/dark stereotype happening for good and evil in GI Joe. The Cobras and Joes are all multicultural and all dressed in random color arrangements. In fact it is even Cobra's ninja who dresses in white and the Joe's who dresses in black, and Cobra Commander and his troops are in red and blue. They reversed the color stereotypes that virtually every other cartoon series has strictly adhered to; This show is about good vs. evil, NOT light vs. dark.
Now of course, it's not *perfect.* The Joes are often too good to be human, meaning that their triumph and infallible integrity seem to set their meters at "Superhuman" rather than, ironically enough, "Average Joe." And you just can't feel for Perfect People as much as you can for regular morons who can't catch a break. Unwavering integrity means that the Joes' dialog rarely strays from The Course: cooperation and scout-inspired helpfulness.
This is unlike the Cobra characters, who are sometimes almost friendly and helpful with each other, then critical and insulting, then with unspoken consensus.Sometimes united in their smugness, other times in conflict about the correct course of action. The Cobras are more like real people, because they are not so perfect that they can't fail, or get enraged, or be confused or combative, and these states allow them a lot of interesting and character-deepening dialog. The Joes' limited emotional expression also limits their dialogue, and requires the "space" to be filled up. And GI Joe Filler is really awful. It is long strings of clichés and dumb metaphors that only make the Joes seem even more like ciphers.
However, this is a great show because it depicts the struggle between good and evil (even though you may find yourself disappointed when the good guys win), and it does it with a style and maturity that blows modern cartoons out of the water. Yes, there are cheesy moments and some bad lines. There is the type-cast "Dignified Indian" character who isn't allowed to escape camera range without posing serenely and imparting something profound and prophetic and overwhelmingly Indian, while his bald eagle with inexplicably white wing feathers and brown tailfeathers perches nobly on his shoulder. And it doesn't make sense that the foley people were able to find genuine stock effects for said eagle and other animals such as cougars and crows and lions, but a *person* had to perform the whining and growling and barking for the Rottweiler in the show. And no one will ever understand how you can run through a dense barrage of laser fire without being grazed in the slightest, or parachute safely through the fireball of an exploding helicopter without the flames damaging the chute.
But "GI Joe" is a nostalgic and wonderful TV show. It is full of goodness and morals, of justice and fair play winning the day over greed and cruelty. It is the shining example of what a better world TV provided for "80s Kids," what strong lessons it taught because it was intense and riveting. Every child everywhere would grow into a better adult for watching "GI Joe". They were what they claimed to be: "Real American Heroes" and stood for everything that parents continue to try to instill in their kids. They didn't pull punches; they told the whole story, violence and all, because to take that from it would detract from the power of the message: that we must fight evil, for the benefit of all people.
I think I read it here, that "80s kids were made of tougher stuff"? And they were. And better stuff, too. Because they were built on shows like this.