September 07, 2008

Spirit in G.I. Joe

"G.I. Joe DVD Battle Packs":  Return of the Real American HeroesG.I. Joe was often criticized as little more than a glorified toy commercial. Re-watching these shows now reveals that this criticism may be unfair to the average toy commercial, since many toy commercials show more narrative coherence. I'm not sure it's much of a compliment to say that the show is exactly as bad as I remembered it--it's not a show that managed to look better in the glow of nostalgia, but it's also not a bitter disappointment watching it later in life.And:The debut mini-series takes its name from the technological terror in question: the M.A.S.S. Device, capable of teleporting matter from anywhere around the globe. The second series, "The Revenge of Cobra" (also known as "The Weather Dominator"), does little more than add even more cast members to both sides and replace the teleportation device with one that controls the weather. The actual details of each episode are almost irrelevant because so few of them really make much sense.

This second mini-series may be technically more accomplished than "The M.A.S.S. Device," but it also firmly establishes elements of the formula that would soon be laughed at in schoolyards everywhere. Machine-gun sound effects are entirely replaced by laser blasts, and while the massive volume of fire being sprayed by both sides takes its toll on the hardware, neither side seems able to hit a man-sized target, and parachutes deploy just in time to pull pilots out of exploding planes. These massive and curiously non-lethal battles would rapidly make "G.I. Joe" shorthand for a show shaped by BS&P directives that might have satisfied the networks, but didn't fool anyone in the target audience for a second. The second series also adds the Native American soldier Spirit to the Joe lineup, burdening him with equal parts good intentions and bad stereotypes with his distinctive outfit and broken English pseudo-mystical blabber.
Comment:  I know next to nothing about the G.I. Joe series and don't want to know more. <g>

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

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