Monday, January 23, 2006

So I was thinking about after-school cartoons I used to love as a kid...

...and, naturally, "G.I. Joe" came to mind. Now, for those of you who don't know or care about G.I. Joe, you are a filthy communist and will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. As for the rest of you (middle-class white males between the ages of 20 and 35), please enjoy a rare, nostalgiac blog entry about something I actually remember with some degree of fondness.

I will, of course, tear it the fuck apart.

(NOTE: It is important to note that the following contains information gleaned entirely from my steadily fading long-term memory -- thank you, vodka on the rocks. In other words, I did not cheat and look up any of this shit on some sorry fanboy's eerily in-depth "G.I. Joe" website. This is all from memory and memory alone, so there will be errors, some of them glaring. If you feel moved to check them against the facts, please visit the following link.

G.I. Joe was a Great American Hero. At least, I'm sure he would have been if there'd actually been a character on the show who bore that name. Instead, G.I. Joe seemed to be the brand name of the organization that promoted good, wholesome, American-approved ethics here and abroad. They may have been affiliated with some branch of the U.S. military. At least, considering their easy access to the latest in high-powered laser rifles and submersible hovercrafts, I sure as hell hope they were. Otherwise, they were a disturbingly well-armed and high-profile renegade faction of patriotic vigilantes. Organized, powerful, freedom-friendly, and presumably pro-capitalism, G.I. Joe still failed to list one general infantryman by the name of 'Joe' anything on the company payroll. To the best of my recollection, the show was distressingly free of Josephs of any rank ... though perhaps the name's similarity to the pinko-friendly appellation of Josef was deemed too strong.

On the opposite end of the moral sliding scale was the Cobra -- er, just Cobra, I think. The Cobrans were a group of, uh, of bad ... people ... who, much like G.I. Joe, appeared to be basically American and spoke English perfectly. They were stationed in ... er, around the southern ... tip of -- uh, you know, I gotta say, I don't really know which country Cobra called home. I mean, my best guess is that the writers made up some imaginary, war-torn nation -- preferably in Eastern Europe -- for our token, world-domination-obsessed villains to call home. Contrary to popular belief, the Cobra organization did not, in fact, consist entirely of ambitious Asian snake-charmers or disgruntled herpetologists. Cobra was, instead, a group of ne'er-do-wells intent on ... uh, on maybe stealing all of the world's ... money? Oil? Notable world figures? I think they kidnapped some of those. They weren't trying to actually destroy the world, were they? Because that doesn't, you know, make a whole lot of sense ...

I can tell you that they never successfully killed anyone, as far as I can recall. Which, come to think of it, gives them a pretty shoddy track record as evil organizations go. Also, I think the name Cobra should be in all caps.

You know what? Forget this. Let's just review all of the beloved characters I can remember from the TV show. For reference.

If a character's name is listed in quotation marks, it means I have no fucking idea what that character's name is.

G.I. JOE: THE GREAT-AMERICAN HEROES

Duke-- Duke was the leader of G.I. Joe and, as such, was the dullest goddamn person in the entire show. Not content with having a furrowed brow, square jaw, broad shoulders, and a neatly-trimmed blonde haircut in full compliance with strict military guidelines, he also wore khaki, the blandest color in the rainbow. Duke was noble and brave and clear-headed and rational and tough and *yawn* -- oh, I'm, sorry -- and proud and good and ... and proud? Did I say proud?

In order to get his team motivated, Duke delivered memorable and inspirational directives along the lines of "Let's move out" and "Let's go" and "Let's hurry up and move out so we can go." I believe he also shouted "Yo, Joe" at random intervals. Or was it "Go, Joe?" I don't know. They both sound pretty stupid.

DID YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA?: In the original version of the G.I. Joe: The Movie script, it was written that Duke died after his violent run-in with Serpentor (more on this tool later). He died! Can you believe it? Wouldn't that have been awesome? Unfortunately for those of us who can't stomach boring, colorless authority figures, it was decided that he should instead slip into a coma. If you watch the movie, you can see the actual scene where he was supposed to eat it. Scarlet, I think, (located just out of frame, mind you) very eloquently informs us "He's slipped into a coma!" like she's suddenly some brilliant fucking surgical intern.

Why did the producers lose their penises over what could have been an earth-shattering moment in Joe history? Because Transformers: The Movie had just been released, and the "death" (i.e. cheap attempt at emotional depth that counted for nothing because it eventually got reversed in the TV series the following season) of boring, colorless authority figure Optimus Prime had the unexpected consequence of making a generation of little kids break down and cry like ... well, like little kids, I guess. How this was unexpected, I have no goddamn idea.

Anyway, Duke sucked.

Scarlet(t?)-- Scarlet was Duke's bitch. Granted, I don't recall ever seeing them kiss or anything, but I was still in the regrettable "girls-are-infested-with-cooties" stage of my adolescence then, so I didn't care. I call those "the lost years." Scarlet was the token female on the good side for quite a long time, and, like Smurfette of "The Smurfs" fame, must have gotten pretty exhausted from all that fellatio. There were, after all, a lot of guys in G.I. Joe.

As you can guess, Scarlet was named Scarlet because her hair was ... scarlet. Originality was not the reason we chose to watch "G.I. Joe."

I'm not sure why the creators of G.I. Joe even bothered to produce a Scarlet action figure. I mean, Christ, if your boy asked for a Scarlet action figure, you might as well have gotten him a Barbie doll because that kid already made his lifestyle choice, big guy.

Flint-- Flint was brought in later on in the series to give us an authority figure to turn to for consolation and leadership after the planned demise of Duke. Unfortunately for Flint, Duke chose to remain a corpse among the living rather than the dead. Flint was basically Duke with brown hair and a beret. He did retain Duke's suckage quotient, however.

Lady Jane-- Now, Lady Jane was Flint's bitch. Every leader of G.I. Joe gets a token lady friend, apparently. Since I generally revile redheads, I preferred Jane to Scarlet simply on the basis of her brunette status. Sadly, her hair was cut short like a goddamn lesbian's, and that's not doing me any good in the pants-tightening department, you know? Still, she was mouthier and spunkier than Scarlet, as I recall, so her pillow talk must have been something to behold. Add to that her form-fitting fatigues and military-toned body, and you've got one fairly happy pervert on your hands.

But when I was a kid, I hated her. The cootie thing. You understand.

I should also point out that in spite of her aristocratic moniker, Lady Jane was decidedly not a peer of the British Empire.

Gung-ho and Roadblock-- These guys were the "muscle" behind G.I. Joe. I think they were also black. Or at least one of them was. Actually, they could have been Canadian for all I know. They hoo-haaed a lot, and were tough-talking, no-nonsense head-bashers. They enjoyed roughing people up ... all in the name of patriotism, you understand. They kind of reminded me of those cocksucking meathead jocks you avoided in high school. And were just as unmemorable.

"Sailor Jerry"-- This fella was a Navy seaman, -- *hold for childish snickering* -- had a beard, and was never seen without his jaunty sailor cap. He may as well have been wearing cut-off jean shorts and a midriff-baring tank top for all the homosexual rays he was giving off. But then, I was just a kid and had no idea that men could enjoy other men in, you know, that way. And by "that way," I mean, "onboard a naval-issue battleship." To be fair, he wasn't especially effeminate. Just very, you know, thrilled and exuberant about being a Navy man. Now, I've known a few Navy men in my time (shut up) and I can assure you that no one who's ever actually been in the Navy was ever thrilled and exuberant about the experience.

He also had a pet parrot who I will christen ... Sailor Jerry's parrot. This bird was a real fucking smartass and would have been roasted alive on a spit if he ever crawled his way onto an actual naval deck.

"Running Refrigerator" and Spirit-- This guy was an Indian. It is okay for me to say Indian in this sense because G.I. Joe was created in the days before hyper-liberal P.C. terrorism completely whitewashed (so to speak) the after-school cartoon landscape. Now, as far as I can tell, the screenwriter's guidebook demands that all Indians be presented as spiritual, stoic, and one half-step above a zombie. Well, mission accomplished, fellas. This totem pole never cracked a smile, a joke, or the top of a beer can ... the last of which is especially odd for an Indian.

*hold for angry letters from humorless constituents*

The Indian had a pet eagle, or "spirit brother," called ... Spirit. Spirit was as equally noble and vapid as his owner, making for a real tag team of fun when the Joe gang headed to the bars after 5, I'm sure.

Ace-- This guy was G.I. Joe's in-house astronaut. I'm not exactly sure why G.I. Joe felt they needed to keep an astronaut on staff, but there he was.

"Frosty"-- This guy had a beard, always wore a heavy white parka, and drove around on some kind of snowmobile/motorized dog sled contraption that was, naturally, equipped with laser missiles. I think he lived at the North Pole and always kept an igloo ready when G.I. Joe had to head to colder regions to do battle with C.O.B.R.A.

Snake Eyes-- All right, now this is where it finally gets good. Snake Eyes was everybody's favorite Joe member. Hands down. He was a ninja-like commando ass-kicker dressed completely in black -- no eye holes, no mouth hole ... shit, no nose hole -- and he never said a fucking word. Now that is the moutherfucker you want on your team when it's time to rearrange some fascist faces, am I right? And best of all, zero backtalk.

As for his code name, er, well, I don't really know. I mean, we never saw his eyes, so their resemblance to those of a snake was open to question. And we also never saw him at the craps table, so his luck at that particular casino game was also never fully addressed.

Sgt. Slaughter-- Oh, Christ, was this guy a sack of warthog excrement. Believe it or not, this lump of donkey vomit was based on an actual pro wrestler at the time. Sgt. Slaughter was fat, jowly, balding, sweaty, homely, and middle-aged -- exactly the kind of guy you'd want promoting the U.S. Army, right? God, did I hate this crap factory. He always beat up anyone he went against -- anyone -- no matter how many in number, even though in real life the guy didn't look like he could go down an escalator without having a pair of defibrillators handy.

DID YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA?: Sgt. Slaughter -- the pro wrestler -- defeated the Ultimate Warrior (thanks to interference from that dicklick "Macho Man" Randy Savage, of course) to become the WWF Heavyweight Champion sometime after the "G.I. Joe" series passed into the cartoon graveyard. And his gimmick at the time? He was playing an outspoken Iraqi supporter (this was during the first Gulf War). Wow. That takes some really fat, ugly balls, my friend. What a way to slap your Joe heritage right in the kisser. You fucktard.

C.O.B.R.A.: THOSE ASSHOLES

Cobra Commander-- Now, this guy -- this guy is a shining example of the quiet brilliance of the "G.I. Joe" writing staff, and I'm not being facetious here, believe it or not. I know I knocked the Joe Show's originality level earlier in this entry, but the creation of Cobra Commander and his completely unexpected personality makes up for every lame laser battle in which no person on either side ever got wounded, let alone killed.

Who would you expect to lead the enemy forces in the Joe universe, hmm? An impressive man, no doubt. Powerfully-built, perhaps, calculating, ruthless ... one who inspired loyalty through abject fear and terror, of course. A larger-than-life monster with the cold, dead eyes of a trained assassin. A man who wouldn't think twice if it came to stepping on a baby's face to get what he wanted in life. This terrible, heart-stopping villain would be a wonder unto himself.

And he would not be the leader of C.O.B.R.A. No sirree.

Cobra Commander was a snivelling, whiny, irritable crybaby who threw a tantrum every time a henchman sneezed. I'm sorry, but in my opinion, this twist on the norm was sheer genius. Aside from being a physically weak and puny specimen, Cobra Commander was an unashamed coward who never put himself in the line of fire. His hissy fits following every loss he inevitably suffered would do a spoiled six-year-old girl proud. This "man" inspired zero fear, zero terror, and zero loyalty, and yet, there he was, leading the evilest goddamn empire in the world. This guy -- the kind of guy you would expect to be the token double-crossing, mutinous, unreliable, low-ranking minion -- this guy was the Force of Evil's commander-in-chief. Insanity. Brilliant, ingenious, wondrous, ball-waving insanity.

DID YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA?: The unforgettable voice of Cobra Commander was supplied by the late, great voice actor Chris Latta. Where else do you know that screechy tonal quality from? Why, only the most memorable of all Transformers, of course: the Decepticon jet and second-in-command, Starscream. For those of you who don't know -- and you should be deeply ashamed of yourselves -- Starscream was the token double-crossing, mutinous, unreliable minion on The Transformers. Together, he and Cobra Commander were an unrivaled pair of self-serving weasels that millions of young boys grew up secretly admiring. After all, these backstabbing jerks clawed their way up to unmerited positions of power and, despite countless examples of their sheer ineptitude and lack of management qualifications, stayed there. And isn't that what the American Dream is all about?

Destro-- Destro was the guy who, by all rights, should have been the leader of C.O.B.R.A. He was a ruthless, no-nonsense, hardass bad dude dressed in black ... whose head and body happened to be composed entirely of metal.

CYNICKITE: Um, excuse me?

MATTHEW: No, I'm not kidding.

CYNICKITE: Uh, well, was he a robot?

MATTHEW: No. No, he was not a robot.

CYNICKITE: Maybe he just wore a metal mask and bodysuit ...

MATTHEW: I don't think so. I mean, his lips moved when he talked and he was capable of various subtle facial expressions.

CYNICKITE: Er, well, perhaps he just liked to, you know ... wear metallic-colored body paint. Daily.

MATTHEW: No, I'm pretty sure people would curse and rub their hands in pain after stupidly deciding to punch a man made out of metal. And besides, a bad guy who paints himself silver on a daily basis? That's all kinds of sad.

CYNICKITE: Then I'm just plain stumped. And very, very ugly.

Yeah, I'm not sure the writers thought the "mean man of metal" idea through very thoroughly when they were creating the Destro character. I mean, were his internal organs metallic in nature, too? His heart, his brain ... his pancreas? I don't seem to recall him eating or drinking a lot, so maybe he was some weird kind of cyborg ... who liked making out with his girlfriend, the Baroness. Oh, God, that opens up a whole new set of questions about his genital makeup that I'm not even gonna attempt to address.

Anyway, Destro was always bad-mouthing, taunting, and occasionally roughing up Cobra Commander, but he never bothered to actually usurp his position as head villain, even though he seemed to have all the requisite physical, mental, and leadership abilities to do so. Still, I was glad he didn't, because C.O.B.R.A. without Cobra Commander would have been just another evil-leaning organization ... that operated effectively and efficiently.

I should add that it is my firmly held belief that Destro is first cousins with Dr. Claw, the villain from the "Inspector Gadget" cartoon series. Compare their right arms, if the spirit so moves you, and share your thoughts on this meaningless topic.

The Baroness-- Well, the good guy leaders got to have "special lady friends," so it seemed only fair to offer the same corporate benefit to the head honchos on the side of evil. Since the asexual Cobra Commander could only ever really love himself -- as it should be -- he wisely opted out of his company's Nagging Harpy program. Destro, however, was not so lucky...

The Baroness was evil. We the viewer instantly knew she was evil for three very strong and valid reasons: she wore glasses, had dark hair, and spoke with a Russian accent. Having a vagina pretty much cinched the deal. The world of 1980's action-oriented cartoons was an uncomplicated one, indeed. However, I'd like to think that we as a nation have come a long way since the days of these hoary old stereotypes; after all, my blood no longer rises to a boil at the sound of a Siberian inflection. Sadly, my intense distrust of bespectacled brunettes remains as unshakeable as ever.

Tolerance takes time, people.

You know, another thing about The Baroness ... doesn't the fact that she calls herself The Baroness imply that she observes some kind of class-based system of government? I thought the whole point of the Russkies' beloved communism was to do away with that kind of distinction and individuality; you know, the whole "everyone must be equally miserable" ideology and all.

Or was she German? Maybe she was German. I don't know. Whatever. She was ugly.

Stormshadow-- Here you are, folks. The pinnacle of the "G.I. Joe" series. Seriously. Stormshadow was a ninja dressed in white who wielded a deadly pair of black katana blades, seldom spoke, and always whupped major Joe ass. This was, without a doubt, my most cherished Joe action figure and I never shared him with any of my brothers.

Yes, the cynical idealist was a selfish prick in his formative years. He fully intends to consider growing out of this stage before he dies of of liver failure in five years.

Anyway, Stormshadow was to C.O.B.R.A. what Snake Eyes was to G.I. Joe ... and give the Joe writers some credit for decking the bad ninja out in white and the good ninja in black. Although now that I think about it, what exactly is the stealth factor of a ninja who wears a blinding shade of white when he operates almost exclusively in temperate zones, as Stormshadow did? I mean, visits to the mountains and the tundra, sure, I'm with you, but in the forest? Or jungle? Or desert? Or Toledo? Um, I think they'll see you coming, Bright Lite.

Stormshadow had kind of a weird relationship with G.I. Joe's frowny-faced Indian. They would occasionally save each other's lives out of some stupid sense of honor. In hindsight, I can appreciate this as an attempt at more than surface-level character development and depth, but, uh, I was ten at the time. If you were gonna hold hands, you better be breaking wrist bones.

"Zathura"-- I'm sorry, I have no goddamn clue what this guy's name was. He was a bit of an odd duck, this one. He had long hair, wore a mask across his eyes (or was it face paint?), spoke with some kind of British dialect (I think), lived in a bog, and presided over a group of white trash thugs called The Swamp Rats ... or something. I remember him mostly because the action figure had a translucent panel on its chest that changed colors depending on how hot or cold it was.

I have absolutely no idea what purpose this served.

He did get to have a girlfriend, though.

"Xander" & "Gary"-- Not sure about these names, either. They were a pair of British (naturally) twins. One of them had a kickass facial scar and a cool name that began with something like an "X" or "Z," and the other one ... was his brother. Kudos to the Joe marketing staff for creating a set of nearly identical twin characters, thus forcing our parents to buy two of the exact same fucking doll. And, of course, we'd only want to play with the disfigured one. Boys will be boys.

These guys were pretty sharp dressers and all-around classy chaps. However, they did have one major unique characteristic: if one of them felt physical pain, the other one also felt its effects. I suppose on a very rudimentary level this seemed like a keen and original idea to the writing staff. Unfortunately, aside from defying basic biology and common sense, this seems to me like a pretty stupid and useless trait to have. After all, by kicking one limey's pasty, well-read ass, I've effectively taken out two opponents. Though I suppose one American beating up two Britishmen is considered a fairly even exchange in most martial circles. ZING!

Firefly-- With the success of Stormshadow, it was only to be expected that the bright-eyes at Joe marketing headquarters try their luck with a second ninja character. Firefly was a lame ninja who wore gray with black spots and hauled around demolition equipment on his backpack. I think. Now, never mind his idiotic color scheme (which, I'm sure, kept him well-hidden in the giraffe enclosure at the local zoo by night), but will somebody please explain to me the logic in outfitting one of your stealthiest commandoes with the noisiest goddamn explosives on the planet? I'm sorry, but the equation Ninja + Bombs = Hey, Look at that Poorly-Disguised Polka Dot Ninja Lobbing Grenades at Us in my math book.

Serpentor-- Ugh. I mean, sweet, sandy shit for breakfast. What. The. Fuck. Were. They. Thinking?

Serpentor was the guy they brought in to head up C.O.B.R.A. once everybody finally realized that Cobra Commander's chief talents lay in the belly-aching department. And Serpentor saw fit to dress up like a big yellow cobra.

Really. I swear. He did. He really, truly did.

A snake? A snake? Buddy, snakes don't have arms and legs, for God's sake. You look like the mascot for a third-tier college football team. I mean, he even had his ugly mug sticking out of the open cobra mouth. And he always carried a staff, too, because, really, what self-respecting snake doesn't walk around on two legs while wielding a stick in its forearms? And the worst part was this doorknob took himself seriously. How could anyone not have a sense of humor when they had to struggle out of their giant cobra costume just to take a dump? How the C.O.B.R.A. henchmen kept from giggling like Japanese schoolgirls whenever this camel phallus issued an order is beyond me.

DID YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA?: Don Johnson of "Miami Vice" and Burgess Meredith of TV's "Batman" and the Rocky movies lent their voices to G.I. Joe: The Movie. Johnson played a cocky, insufferable, dickhead new recruit for Joe, and Meredith was Golobolus, an ancient, bald half-man, half-octopoid/blob. I only bring this up to give myself an excuse to quote one of filmdom's greatest lines ever. Now, imagine this being delivered in the irreplaceable Meredith's unforgettable raspy tones:

GOLOBOLUS (to a mouthy captive): Be silent or you will be silenced!

Gold, my friend. Solid, auditory gold.
___________________________________________________________

JOE PUBLIC SUPPORT ANNOUNCEMENTS: Everyone remembers these, of course. Those mercifully brief, "do the right thing" shorts appearing at the end of various episodes that inevitably capped their trite messages with "And knowing is half the battle." They covered such important topics as how to stay afloat after the kidnappers toss you from their speeding getaway boat and how to stop a nosebleed incurred during an especially physical disagreement between soccer dads. My personal favorite, however, was the one where a Joe member, apparently satisfying his community service obligations, advised a pack of homely children to stay away from a downed power line. I've gotta be honest here: Anyone stupid enough to handle an electrical cable that's whipping around on the ground while shooting off sparks is doing the human race a favor by voluntarily removing themselves from the gene pool.

Still, Joe felt differently. After all, why risk losing a potential future recruit, right?

I wish C.O.B.R.A. had had public service announcements instead. They could have taught us how to properly egg a difficult neighbor's house, or how to cheat on our taxes.
__________________________________________________________


Well, I hope you've all enjoyed this surprisingly lengthy foray into the nostalgiac world of violent, jingoistic cartoon propaganda. Join me next week when I plan on tackling the pint-size, sapphire-hued world of "The Smurfs." And believe me, those little fuckers have it coming...

In closing, maybe I should start a sorry fanboy site about all things Joe.

CURRENT MOOD: Alert and wary of predators.

__________________________________________________________

TIME OUT FOR MATTHEW'S FIRST ANNUAL SELF-SERVING PAT ON THE BACK! Here are a pair of reviews from the show I'm currently featured in. I'm the Patten fella they talk about who plays three different roles. The first one says I'm "a surprise" because apparently I've been reliably incompetent and/or unmemorable in past productions.

One! One marvelous review!

Two! Two marvelous reviews! Ah, ah, ah!

I also got a third thumbs-up from Katherine Beeson of Brookfield News saying I played all three roles with "controlled hilarity." Obviously, the poor woman is madly in love with me. This is understandable.

Keep an eye out for next year's Self-Serving Pat on the Back where I hope to drink a gallon of Sailor Jerry rum in one hour with no lasting ill effects.*

*There are currently no plans for a third annual Self-Serving Pat on the Back.

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5 Comments:

Blogger The Fourth Earl of Excelor said...

Kudos on the reviews.

12:22 PM  
Blogger hucklebuck said...

Simply the most fun you can have with your pants on! -touts guy who actually survived the length of this entry.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Chuckles O'Plenty said...

"Eat fist, you ungrateful bastard!" -- touts guy who's gonna punch you in the teeth.

Kidding. The cynical idealist loves all of his loyal, unwitting constituents.

Except you and you. And you there by the soda machine. Asshole.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Dakota said...

What I most enjoyed about the self-serving pats on the back was that in discussing the play, they also expose your actual name, which of course led to googling, which uncovers the fascinating fact that you, sir, are apparantly obsessed with rhinos.

I mean, rhinos? Can we discuss?

10:27 PM  
Blogger Chuckles O'Plenty said...

Yes, I'm beginning to question the wisdom in inadvertently revealing my "real" name. Especially since people seem so intent on googling it...

Does that hippo-humping asswipe STILL have my rhino/hippo exchange posted on his creepy website? People make me angry and sad.

Anyway, long story short, the cynical idealist loved dinosaurs as a kid (still does). So naturally, at the ripe old age of four, he decided that a rhinoceros was as close to a prehistoric beast as he was gonna get in the Quaternary Period, and thus the present "rhinophilia."

Hmm, I seem to have coined a word that frightens me immensely.

Stop googling me.

1:12 PM  

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