Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You can have my action figure when you pry it from my cold dead hands

Figures that the event that would end my dry spell on this blog would be the profaning of one of my childhood icons:

Paramount has confirmed that in the movie, the name G.I. Joe will become an acronym for "Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity" — an international, coed task force charged with defeating bad guys. It will no longer stand for government issued, as in issued by the American government.

The studio won't elaborate, saying filming hasn't begun and details are still in the works, but the behind-the-scenes rumblings are that the producers have decided to change the nature of G.I. Joe in order to appeal to a wider, more international audience.

At first I thought this was typical Fox News propaganda, but there seems to be independent confirmation.

I'm reminded of this Penny Arcade strip for some reason.

I'm hardly a big fan of American imperialism, but the essential fantasy of GI Joe was the "Real American Hero" who recalled the morally upright American soldier of the post-Second World War era, and stood in contrast to the sins of Vietnam. Obviously, this involves a lot of mythology: the Korean War US soldier was no angel, nor were most serving in Vietnam baby-killing devils.

It should be noted, however, that while G.I. Joe was an anti-terrorist unit, their arch-foe, COBRA, was a domestic terrorist group. COBRA was a bunch of malcontented Americans sick of the system that had "screwed" them (Cobra Commander himself being a failed used-car salesman who became a millionaire through pyramid schemes), living secret lives alongside their fellow citizens. In the comics, COBRA had tanks hiding in auto shops all over the USA, and had even taken over a small Midwestern town, Springfield, and turned it into a fully-indoctrinated home for COBRA personnel, complete with their version of the Boy Scouts (but more like the Hitler Youth). The upper ranks were bolstered with some Eurotrash mercenaries like Destro, the Baroness, and Major Bludd, but COBRA was largely a domestic terrorist group. That's why G.I. Joe was a secret unit in the comics--the U.S. military is not supposed to operate on American soil without an emergency declaration.

G.I. Joe was never really a propaganda tool for the U.S. armed forces, given that their enemies were completely over-the-top James Bond villains (in the cartoon, COBRA destroyed the Golden Gate bridge like 5 times). There's no need to change the basic concept of the show and comic out of some sort of marketing agenda: foreigners will watch any American action-film that isn't too oppressive with the flag-waving.