G.I. Joe: The (Un) American Hero?

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 6th, 2012 at 5:18 pm,

gi joe history G.I. Joe: The (Un) American Hero?

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the big summer tentpole of the week and of course, with the premiere of the film comes all the attention uninformed mainstream networks try to pile on at the eleventh hour.

In regards to G.I. Joe, it was an inevitable that we would eventually have to hear one particular voice of dissent speaking up: Those who think that G.I. Joe has been stripped of the ‘Americanness’ that once made it great. I wouldn’t call this news, per se, but it definitely made it onto a major news network (MSNBC), so if you haven’t seen it, take a look at the video before we get into the lengthy debate:


The guy crying foul in the video is John Miller from the Conservative publication National Review. Now before you dogpile Mr. Miller and start tearing him down for expressing his opinion (as it is), let’s at least consider his point of view:


gi joe original action man figures G.I. Joe: The (Un) American Hero?

If you’re over the age of 45, then you’re probably ancient old enough to remember the days when G.I. Joe was a 12″ “Action Man” figurine inspired by WWII soldiers (with some Korean War influences thrown in the mix). The original toy line – launched by Hasbro in 1964 – included four figures corresponding to the four branches of the U.S. Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). Accessory packs (or “blades” for you old-timers) were sold separately, allowing kids to customize each “Joe” with the “blades” they purchased. If that sounds like Barbie for boys, that’s because it was.

This early incarnation of G.I. Joe was unapologetically an American icon and a proud military warrior crafted in homage of those who were out there in the world, fighting the good fight on behalf of the U.S. And that depiction is exactly what guys like John Miller remember: It is the core essence he feels has been lost from the G.I. Joe franchise with it’s new international scope and Robocop-style’ outfits.

And while it might be easy to say “Let it go, dad,” just take a minute first and think about all the beloved staples of YOUR childhood that have been “ruined” by Hollywood in the last couple years (or will be ruined in the next few years to come). Suddenly it’s easy to sympathize with the cranky old-timers, isn’t it?


gijoe real american hero G.I. Joe: The (Un) American Hero?

Yes G.I. Joe got his start as an over-sized, pro-military, knock-off Barbie doll, but what really turned the franchise into a permanent cultural fixture (and a cash-cow for Hasbro) is undoubtedly the G.I. Joe resurgence of the 80s, which turned a whole new generation (mine) onto the franchise and also coined the phrase “A Real American Hero.”

The 80s G.I. Joe came in the form of “modern” action figures (3.75″ short now), and a toy line that included vehicles, accessories and massive play sets. Hasbro also pioneered new strategies in merchandising with G.I. Joe, marketing the toy line while simultaneously launching other media ventures. These included an accompanying Marvel comic book series and, of course, two installments (1985-87, 1989-91) of an uber-popular cartoon series (and one legendary cartoon movie), which helped lure millions of young kids (me included) into the revamped world of G.I. Joe and their nemesis, an evil terrorist organization known as Cobra.

If you’re between the ages of 20-40, then G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is probably the G.I. Joe you’re familiar with. Names like Duke, Scarlett, Lady J, Hawk, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, Baroness, Destro, Zartan, Serpentor or (my fav) Sgt. Slaughter are ones you know and love – and you certainly know all about epic gunfights using red and blue lasers.

That’s MY G.I. Joe.

Continue reading ‘G.I. Joe: The (Not) American Hero?’

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  1. With all due respect to John Miller, he’s entirely uninformed and clueless. GI Joe hasn’t looked the way he’s describing it for thirty years – an entire generation – nor has it been a ‘single guy.’ It’s an anti-terrorist force, and has been since the early 1980s. And with all the legitimate political problems in the world, can there be anything more vapid than complaining about a pointless popcorn flick like this? And not even bothering to do research first?

  2. Wow…I am amazed. First I played with G.I. Joe as a kid in the late 60′s and early 70′s. I watched the cartoons in the 80′s and for me it was all entertainment and still is. My fateher served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years and I served for 17. Hasbro is trying to make money and keep people emplyed. It’s just a movie, get over it.

    If not pick up a weapon and join the ranks of young people who are defending our country every day.

  3. @Billy

    Dial it back, would you? Of COURSE war should be avoided, but NOT “at all costs.”

    I should avoid putting a bullet in someone’s chest, unless they’re trying to seriously harm my wife or daughter, but I won’t avoid it in that case.


  4. Red and blue lasers would be sweet!

  5. Wow, and I thought I was easily excitable lol Definitely backing out of this thread now. But all in all, RELAX people. For crying out loud, Duke is being played by the guy who starred in BOTH “Step Up” movies. You know, the dancing flicks?

    And Marlon Wayans who donned white skin and drag make up for “White Chicks”. I think it’s safe to tone down our expectations.

  6. LOL @OllieJ – way to put things in perspective, bud! :-D


  7. @ Sergio Johnson and Copernicus:

    It strikes me that this kind of punditry is exactly the thing that gives Conservatives a bad name. I mean, if someone’s going to get riled up over a B-moive based on a cartoon based on a toy which he evidently never heard of, which is vaguely based on a toy he remembers from his childhood, then obviously, we, as a political movement are not to be taken seriously. That’s the message this kind of thing sends.

  8. @Republibot, while you have a point, keep in mind that it’s not like conservatives have the market on this. Extremist political views (no matter the view) are the problem. Unfortunately, the media loves to put these people in front of a camera, because these kinds of individuals just get other people even more worked up. Just consider the reaction this one video clip has produced in response this article.

  9. @ Bill Blume:

    That’s actually a very good point. Certainly Conservatives aren’t the only people who harp on non-issues to make a soundbite and a name for themselves. Certainly we’re not the only ones made to look stupid by such behavior.

    I do think we should avoid it, though. Let’s let the left say stupid things about cartoons, and overreact to trivia. Let’s just keep our yaps shut unless we have something to do other than mindless complaining and whining, and we’ll let that be the purview of the Left. They can make themselves look petty and stupid all day long.

  10. He’s completely right. The movie looks completely different than the cartoon and the toys of yesteryear. Just because it’s got generic action and Snake Eyes in it, doesn’t make it G.I. Joe. It’s just too far removed from the source material, and that’s what the rude host failed to see.

  11. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that it’s that the movie doesn’t look American enough…it just doesn’t look like G.I. Joe…at all. Part of that is, I think, because it does seem to be a little lacking of the patriotic flare that the old cartoon and toys wreaked of. It was part of the fun. This just looks like some other Hollywood action movie that doesn’t really have any soul.

  12. I have read the whole tread.

    It’s a movie, just a way to spend a couple of hours, and forget your problems. Enjoy it for what it is.

    We don’t have to breakdown all the socio-political ramification of the film. Each movie we see is in a fake world of make-believe. Get over yourselves.

    My only problem with the movie is that Snake-Eyes mask has lips. Just watch it or don’t, and stop complaining already.

  13. I thought I heard in a commercial someone saying “A real American hero.” Anyway, the thing that struck me was the male anchor who seemed to get all riled up. Right or left, those guys and gals must have high blood pressure!


  14. Its a sad day when people are ashamed to be proud of their country. The whole context of this argument is that those who support and hail America as an ideal for the world to follow are now being looked on as radicals. Sorry guys but I for one do not and will not be a World Citizen. If you can’t stand up for your own country then in my opinion you certainly aren’t going to form any sort of force to oppose aggressors across the world.

    G.I.Joe has been till recently “A Real American Hero”. You can prattle on about how things have changed but in truth the only thing that has changed are peoples willingness to accept mediocrity. The watering down of basic principles and ideals to be more acceptable to the rest of the world did not get us where we are as a leader in the world.

    This movie is a prime example of how trying to please everyone ends up pleasing no one. If they had stuck with the original story line from the Hasbro series of the 80′s there would be less disgust with this current movie. But like all things Hollywood they had to remake it in their version of what they want it to be then act surprised when people are willing to accept a bad knock off of the orginal. if the reversioned Joe was so successful how is it that no one even watches or know about it till now. Iron Man is a prime example of how to do it well and they stuck with the orginal concept.

  15. @ Aleric

    That sounded more like you using this issue as your personal soap box.

    The issue here is that G.I. Joe has been a lasting property that has had to “change with the times” on more than one occasion, including the Vietnam War, another time when American military policy was not being favored domestically or abroad.

    In today’s political climate (as people have already pointed out), a Gung-ho U.S.A. military team operating in foreign countries wouldn’t be “heroic” or even realistic (not that much about this movie will be). They would have to be deep-cover spooks and mercs to be doing that kind of thing!

    And what kind of “PRO-USA” GI Joe story would there be to tell? What that wouldn’t force viewers to weigh the film against current events?

    The idea is ESCAPISM and MINDLESS (key word) FUN. I think in some ways making the Joes an a-political “We are the world” superhero team fighting a-political, non-religious Super-terrorists is the only way to accomplish that.

  16. I see what you’re saying, and it’s a valid point, but to me, if you take the USA out of G.I. Joe, you’re just left with a generic team of action heroes. They could call it any title they want and it would still work. They just haven’t made a movie here that is undeniably ‘G.I. Joe.” I’m all for changing over the times, but not to the point where it doesn’t even resemble the source material at all. Snake Eyes is the only thing in the movie you’ll look at and go “Oh hey, I remember that.”

    This isn’t about being pro or anti american…it’s about interpreting a popular franchise to the big screen poorly. It just sow happens though, that G.I. Joe was synonymous with their zest for America and fight for its citizens. You take that out, and what do you have? A group of heroes that barely resemble their cartoon counterparts fighting in metal suits? Why don’t we just make the Transformers not from Cybertron, and instead of cars, they turn into anything they want? In the end, we have a G.I. Joe movie in name only.

    And they could definitely do a movie about US heroes defending the US. They make movies and TV shows about that all the time. They don’t have to police the world in order to be heroes. Any fan of popular culture could tell you that. They don’t have to be Team America. But, they can be The A-Team, Jack Bauer, and the Avengers all rolled into one.

  17. Good points Aleric.
    I wouldn’t mind being a World Citizen if the rest of the world followed (old school) American Constitutional values. I say old school because that’s all changing into a new world.

    This film (IMO) is only a futuristic version of the original propaganda material. Its been altered into a NWO-PC version ready for the kids. :-)

    Everythings going green and global. I can only hope this glorified war film tanks… I don’t mind realistic war films like “Hurt Locker” marketed to adults but this is disgusting. (IMO)

  18. @OllieJ

    have you ever seen Requim For a Dream? I wish people would get off Marlon’s Wayans back especially since the lip flappers have probably never seen him in that flick.

  19. @790


    I love people who hate on the “green and global” movements. Dude, the economy went global years ago, communications went global years ago, is cultural globalization really that surprising?

    LIFE IS CHANGE. It’s one of the first things (at least I learned) when crossing over from boy to man.

    And you’d be a “world Citizen” if everything in the world was old school American??? Double LOL.

    I’d be happy to be a Death Metal fan — but only if Death Metal started using hip hop rhythmic patterns. :-)

    I’d also be a Ballet fan — but only if ballet was more like the NFL.

    NWO, New World, blah… blah… blah…

    People (liberal or conservative our whatever) always swear the world has become an alternate universe just because their value system isn’t the dominate one anymore.

    The next thirty years are going to be hilarious to witness (for me at least, I’m good with change).

  20. Wow, I’m sure Vic is glad I missed this story, and I think I will stay out of it, don’t get me started on political stuff, lol.

  21. So what were the pro american military movies that have bombed in the box office? really wanted the host to list some

  22. The Green movement is a fraud and our leaders are doing everything they can to strip away the freedoms our GI’s fought for in WW2.
    You find that humorous ???

  23. this isn’t our grandfather G.I. Joe, this isn’t our 80′s G.I. Joe. this is the 2009 G.I. Joe to try and sell toys and make a profit. I’m not looking at this as a political war film. I’m lookin at it as being a fictional (should i even say war film?) based very loosely on a toy line.
    should they have written it so that Cobra was aligned with Osama Bin Laden or Kim Jong Il to make it more realistic?

  24. @ 790

    No, I find you a bit too paranoid. But hey, “just because you’re paranoid…”

    But seriously, I’m curious to hear how you felt about the span of 2000-2008.

  25. Compared to when Kofi, NOW?? LMAO

  26. Isn’t anyone here fearing that we have to endure more of Marlon Wayans and Channing-Piece-Of-Trash-Can’t-Act-Tatum in the sequels!?!?!?!
    Thats the real crime here, not whether G.I.Joe is unpatriotic or not. When this movie does huge numbers, Tatum is going to be everywhere. Paramount, you couldn’t find someone better to be Duke?
    I’d rather have John Cena than Tatum.

  27. John Cena even has the disproportionately huge arms like the G.I. Joe action figures did

  28. this is just another reason to hate MSNBC. they never even gave that guy the benefit of the doubt. he was yelling at that guy from the beginging. everyone liked G I JOE because he was the “real american hero” and they kicked whoevers butt that tried to attack us. this movie is gonna suck because they’re tryin to hard to go “around” the real american hero tag-line

  29. Well Kofi, I’m not paranoid, just well informed. There’s a difference. ;-)

    I’m also not a neo-con or a socialist democrat if that’s what your getting at. Where I stand I don’t see any difference overall between the two party system.

    The Bush admin did a lot of damage to our constitutional rights under the false flag of terror. Now obama wants to take away what little freedoms we have left in Heath Care under the term “Reform.” Have you read some of the aspects of the Heath Care bill,???
    So the fact that I’ve kept up on all the dark aspects of society makes me paranoid ?