The G.I.Joe Cartoon: A Critical Analysis

Last week. the trailer for the new G.I.Joe movie was released:

There’s a 100% chance that I’ll be seeing this one.  It’s got a techno remix of the White Stripes!  The Rock!  Ninjas fighting on a cliff side!  The possibility that Channing Tatum dies!  What more could you want?

In honor of this trailer, I am going to review an episode of the classic G.I.Joe cartoon series.

For those of you unfamiliar with G.I.Joe, here’s a quick rundown on the basics:

G.I.Joe is America’s elite military force.  They are the best and the brightest, and most of the team members can be described in one or two words such as: Pilot, cowboy, firefighter, black guy.

The Joes concentrate almost solely on stopping Cobra – a terrorist organization armed with the latest military technology and seemingly limitless resources.  In the hands of a skilled leader, Cobra would be a real threat to global safety.

However, the world remains safe, because they are led by Cobra Commander.  In the comic books, Cobra Commander was actually a somewhat competent leader.  In the cartoon, he was a complete buffoon.

Here are his major flaws:

– His schemes are needlessly complex.  He’s got a legion of troops and high-tech weaponry at his disposal, yet Cobra plots rarely involve simply using their weapons to destroy their enemies.  Instead, a typical Cobra plot might involve attacking a science lab, stealing a gun that turns people into animals, and then threatening to turn the entire United Nations into mice.

– He doesn’t surround himself with good people.  I realize that when recruiting for a terrorist organization, you might not have the best and brightest talent to choose from.  Still, there have to be better options out there than what he’s chosen.

It isn’t just that his subordinates are incompetent; although they certainly are.  It’s the way that they almost purposely thwart Cobra Commander’s plans that make them so dangerous to him.   In just about every episode, a Cobra plot is ruined because one of his subordinates betrays him.

And they usually don’t do it for any personal gain.  They just seem to like messing with him and watching him fail.  It’s possible that many of the top Cobras are actually government spies placed in the organization to sabotage it from the inside.

– He has an odd love affair with the Joes.  The more you watch the show, the more it seems that Cobra Commander’s real motivation is to simply get attention from the Joes.

On more than one occasion, he has captured members of the Joe team.  You’d think he might kill them, interrogate them, or possibly even torture them.  No, he usually just has them compete in gladiator style combat.

The episode I’ve chosen to review is Cobra Sound Waves.

This episode takes place in a generic Middle Eastern country that “produces a third of the oil for the free world.”  So obviously the stakes are gonna be pretty high.

We start off with the Joes flying their Skystriker jets towards a Cobra base.  Piloting the Skystrikers for the Joes are:

Ace – The team pilot who likes to speak in gambling metaphors.  I’m not sure why the Joes needed a special pilot since apparently everyone on the team can fly a jet.  It’s very possible that Ace was a sarcastic nickname since he seems to get his plane shot down in every episode.

Gung Ho – A brash marine who only wears a vest no matter what the weather conditions are.  His specialty is opting to punch Cobras in the face rather than using his gun.  I’d say it was some sort of pacifist statement, but I think it’s just because he’s kind of stupid.

Roadblock – A large black man who speaks in rhymes and uses his patented “knock two Cobra soldier’s heads together” combat technique.

Right off the bat, we get a key staple of the show: A Cobra agent in disguise!

Cobra agents love wearing disguises.  And they especially love revealing their true identities by ripping off their disguise with a flourish.  You almost never see a Cobra agent calmly remove his mask.  Nope, it’s always done super dramatically.

This particular Cobra agent is Major Bludd, who despite the menacing sounding name never really did much besides scream “Cobra!” a lot.

Cobraaaaa!

There is a brief battle between the Joe and Cobra aircraft.  Somehow, the Joes and Cobras are able to hear each other while this battle is going on.  Either they all have really good hearing, or they’re simply broadcasting their conversations over open air.  I’m not sure which makes more sense.

Maybe I was too harsh in my earlier criticism of Cobra Commander.  Now that I think about it, every time his troops go directly against the Joes, they lose. So maybe the complex plots were actually necessary in order for Cobra to gain victory.

This incident is no exception, and the Joes make quick work of the Cobra jets.  But as it turns out, Cobra Commander actually wanted his troops to lose.  It was all a plot to lure the Joes near his base so that he could shoot them down with his new secret weapon.

Down goes another Cobra jet

But wait, weren’t the Joes headed there anyway?  Cobra just wasted two jets for no good reason.

The Joes arrive at the Cobra base and we get to see two more staples of the cartoon: A massive Cobra base built in the middle of nowhere, and a new weapon which is actually effective at first.

Cobra architecture is not exactly subtle

The Cobras have built a sonic weapon, and since it is still early in the episode, it works effectively.  The Skystrikers get shaken apart, and the Joes are forced to bail out.  Cobra soldiers then take to their motorized hang gliders to pursue the fallen Joes.

If you were in a hang glider and were attacking someone on the ground, would you fly low enough so that they could jump up and grab you or throw sand in your face?  If so, you would make a good Cobra solider.

Ineffective!

Despite their idiotic strategy, the Cobras do eventually manage to capture the Joes in a giant net.

All that technology and they end up using a giant net

Ah, this episode features Destro!  Destro is the second in command of Cobra.  You can tell he is evil because he wears a metal mask.

Destro has what you might call a unique style

The Commander and Destro argue with each other.  They have a strange relationship, and behave almost like an old married couple.  They always insult each other, but yet Destro often calls the Commander “My dear Commander” and in turn, the Commander refers to Destro as “Noble Destro.”

Bolstered by his success against the Skystrikers, the Commander has become convinced that G.I.Joe is no longer a threat.  Destro – apparently more familiar with the typical outcome of Joe-Cobra conflicts – is less optimistic.

The Joe prisoners are brought into an arena of some sort.  Looking down on them is Cobra Commander.  The Joes proceed to insult him and get a hearty laugh out of it.  They don’t seem to be especially threatened, but considering that Cobra prisoners have a 100% rate of escape, they probably have no reason to be.

The Joes don’t let imminent death stop them from having a good laugh

Cobra Commander receives a call – on a phone that looks like a snake, naturally – so he can’t witness the Joes demise.  Immediately after he leaves, a giant robotic crab crawls out of the ground and attacks the Joes.

Yes, Cobra Commander chose to build an arena and a giant robotic crab just in case he happened to capture any of the Joes.  Like I said, he’s got a weird relationship with them.

Someone’s tax dollars at work

We then cut to the rest of the G.I.Joe team who have set up base at the palace of the Sheik.

The Joes are being led by Flint in this episode.  Scarlett tells Flint that she’s worried about the Joes that got shot down.  Flint says he is worried too, but it is a higher priority to prepare for an upcoming Cobra attack.  He assures her that “those guys can take care of themselves.”

Maybe he’s simply not worried because the Joes always manage to escape from Cobra.  But I’m starting to get the impression that Flint really doesn’t give a crap about the missing Joes at all.

Really, over the course of the series, Flint never seems very concerned when any of the Joes get captured.  In one episode, Duke (his superior officer) gets captured, and Flint seems almost giddy that he is now in charge.

The only time he seems concerned about missing or captive Joes is when it is his girlfriend Lady Jaye.  If she gets captured, then all of a sudden, rescue is the top priority.

But since Lady Jaye isn’t in this episode, the prisoners will apparently just have to fend for themselves.

Don’t let the expression fool you. He’s not worried. At all.

Unlike Flint, Scarlett is VERY concerned for her friends.  Typical woman; always worried about stuff.

Scarlett is determined to do something to rescue her friends.  She enlists Wild Bill – The team’s helicopter pilot and cowboy stereotype – to help her look for them.

I’ve noticed that for an elite military unit, the Joes ignore their leaders and abandon their posts pretty regularly.

Back at the Cobra base, the Joe prisoners determine that the robotic crab is tracking them via infrared sensors.  In a matter of five seconds, the Joes are able to make a small campfire, which they use to distract the crab.

Seriously. It took them five seconds to make this fire. These guys must have been amazing Boy Scouts.

Roadblock proceeds to throw Ace over the arena wall, where he takes out the Cobra guards with some nifty karate moves.

Hiiiiiii ya!

Ace then uses the guards’ lasers to attack the crab.  The crab may be resistant to lasers, but the door to the arena and the ceiling are not.

Do you think Cobra soldiers ever complained that they spent so much money on building robots, and skimped on the ceiling to the point where it would collapse from some laser fire?

Then again, considering that they had to build a new base in just about every episode, I guess it’s understandable that they wanted to cut some corners on construction costs.

That’s just poor workmanship right there.

The Cobras pursue the Joes, but once again, when matched up directly against each other, the Joes win.

I have doubts at how hard the Cobras were even trying.  At one point, an unarmed Roadblock merely growls at the Cobras and they run away.  Maybe they figured that since Cobra Commander cares more about giant crabs than their well-being, they shouldn’t give 100% effort.

And we’re now at the nation’s oil fields which are under attack by Cobra’s jets.  I’m not sure of Cobra’s strategy.  Are they trying to capture the oil fields or just trying to destroy them?

If they want to capture the oil, it might not be the best strategy to keep firing missiles at the tanks.  I’ve heard the stuff is flammable.

Oddly enough, the Cobras are being especially effective.  They’ve destroyed many of the Joe vehicles already.

Flint is pissed because most of his team is missing.  I can understand being upset about Scarlett and Wild Bill since they went AWOL.  But he was the one who didn’t care about Ace, Gung Ho, and Roadblock earlier.  Now that he needs them, all of a sudden he’s concerned?

Back at the Cobra base, the Joes have escaped from Cobra, but are now trapped in a cave with no apparent way out.  This is no problem for the ever-resourceful Joes who know that if you stick three laser guns in the ground and “overcharge” them, they’ll explode and open a huge hole in the ground.

Fortunately for the Joes there just happens to be an underground river in the middle of the desert.  They fall into the river, and eventually make their way outside where they’re conveniently spotted by Scarlett.

The Joes return to base and climb into the Skystrikers, ready to defend the oil fields against Cobra.

This raises the question: Why weren’t any of the other Joes piloting the Skystrikers?

While five of the Joes were missing, there were still plenty of others who could have flown them.  Instead, we saw the Joes try to shoot them down from the ground.  Didn’t they think it would be more helpful to have some of their own planes in the air?

Once the Skystrikers join the battle, Cobra reverts to their ineffective ways and have to quickly retreat.

Cobra sharpshooting at its finest

Nearby, the nation’s ruler – Sheik Ali – is watching the battle.  It isn’t explained why the ruler of a wealthy nation would be anywhere near the battle, let alone standing by himself in an open desert.  He is pretty much asking to be captured.  He gets his wish when Major Bludd and the other Cobras stumble across him.

One of the Joes – Airborne – gets a premonition that the Sheik is in trouble.  Apparently, Airborne has ESP.  Considering that he was only in about two episodes, this is a pretty big character trait for him.

Either I’m getting a migraine or the Sheik is in trouble!

He also sounds exactly like Optimus Prime.  For some reason as a child, I never realized that the same actors did most of the roles on both Transformers and G.I.Joe.

The Joes seek to rescue the Sheik, but they know that they can’t fly directly at the Cobra base due to their special sonic weapon.  But conveniently, as they discovered earlier, there is an underground river that runs directly underneath the Cobra base.  So a small team should be able to infiltrate the base using a boat.

Meanwhile, a few other Joes fly towards the base in the Skystrikers.  Naturally, the Cobras use their sonic weapon again, and force the Skystrikers to pull away.

But the Skystrikers were only a diversion!  The rest of the Joe team uses this opportunity to attack using non-motorized hang gliders!  Destro says that because the gliders have “no mechanism to shake apart” the sonic weapon is useless against them.

Wait…what?  Wouldn’t sound waves that are powerful enough to shake apart a jet also tear apart a hang glider?

Hang gliders – the ultimate weapons

I guess Destro knows what he’s talking about, because the weapon has no effect on the gliders.  The Joes are then able to easily destroy the sonic weapon.  Cobra Commander and Destro promptly blame each other and then try to escape the base in a helicopter along with Sheik Ali.

Just as they’re going to escape, Destro makes one of those baffling decisions that makes me suspect he’s actually a Joe spy working to sabotage Cobra from within.

He declares that having the Sheik as a prisoner does him no good, and throws him out of the helicopter before it takes off.  Apparently, Destro can’t see any usefulness in having the ruler of a wealthy nation as a hostage.

But as determined to thwart his own plans as Destro is, the Sheik is even more determined to sabotage his own cause.  He declares that Cobra Commander and Destro must pay for their crimes, so he jumps onto the helicopter as it takes off.

He clearly didn’t think this all the way through

The Sheik either really wants to be a Cobra prisoner or he has a death wish.  What did he think he was going to accomplish by jumping onto the helicopter?

If Destro is indeed a Joe spy, he must be getting really frustrated at this point.  His motivation may be uncertain, but it is clear that he DOES NOT WANT THE SHEIK AS A PRISONER!  He kicks him off the helicopter yet again.

It looks like the Sheik is about to plunge to his death, when Scarlett is able to use her crossbow to shoot a rope around the Sheik and pull him to safety.  The Sheik will just have to kill himself some other day.

Afterwards, the Joes are treated to a banquet at the Sheik’s palace.  Scarlett thanks the Sheik for his generosity, but the Sheik reveals that his servants didn’t prepare the meal.

Instead, Roadblock and Wild Bill decided to cook some of their own specialties: barbecued hot links!

Um…aren’t Arabs forbidden to eat pork?  Good job, Joes!  You probably just caused an international incident.

Forget what you heard. 9/11 was retaliation for this.

In conclusion

It isn’t the greatest G.I.Joe episode ever, but it was still a pretty good one.  We got many of the usual elements including: ethnic stereotypes, inexplicable plot devices, and complete lack of understanding of the laws of physics.  Plus, I always enjoy episodes that feature Destro.

I’m also wondering if there wasn’t an anti-technology message being pushed by the writers.  After all, it wasn’t Cobra’s high-tech weapons that captured the Joes, it was a simple net.  And in the end, it was the non-motorized hang gliders that were crucial to victory.

Or maybe this is a children’s cartoon and I’m over thinking things a bit.  Yeah, that’s probably the case.

Of course, no G.I.Joe episode would be complete without the public service announcement at the end.  So I found one that features my namesake:

I’ll provide you with a little bonus analysis here:

0:01 – Why is the kid playing baseball in such nice clothes?  Everyone else seems to be wearing a uniform, but this kid is wearing a sweater and khakis.  You’d think he would at least take off the sweater if he was planning on sliding.

0:03 – The catcher is full of crap.  He was safe.

0:07 – Boy, that escalated quickly.  I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

0:09 – Fortunately, Cutter happens to be watching the game.  Good to see that our elite military troops take time out of their schedules to watch little league games.

0:17 – Cutter suggests finding an impartial third-party to settle things.  Well, why doesn’t he make the call?  Isn’t he impartial?  Wasn’t he watching the game?  The kid was clearly safe, so why doesn’t he just make the call and be done with it?

0:19 – The kids decide that “Johnny” can serve as ump.  If I was Cutter, I’d be a little more concerned about Johnny than with any fighting the kids might be doing.  This random older kid is just hanging out watching some kids play baseball and not rooting for either team?  I might check his name on sex offender lists.

0:24 – Cutter seems OK with this.  It seems like he wasn’t paying attention to the game, missed the call, and now he’s just happy that it won’t be up to him to settle the debate.  If he has to leave the kids’ fate in the hands of a sexual predator, so be it.

Now we know.  And knowing is half the battle.

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About The Cutter

I am the Cutter. I write some stuff. You might like it, you might not. Please decide for yourself.
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8 Responses to The G.I.Joe Cartoon: A Critical Analysis

  1. OMG, Lol. There is so much hilarity in this. The episode was at its ridiculous best, of course. Ever notice that Destro is wearing a METAL mask and yet his lips move? So is it really metal, or cloth or is his skin just painted silver? Once in the comic, he was laying out catchin some rays with the Baroness and was wearing only his mask – and a speedo. That would have to really make your face hot.

    There is just so much to pick on with this series, you could go on forever. I mean, they are a “top secret” military operation, but in the beginning sequence, they are flying jets and shooting lasers at each other around the freaking Statue of Liberty. I’m pretty sure people would notice this.

    But I especially love the didactic cartoons at the end of the episodes. WTF with that creeper guy staring through the fence? Yeah, he’s impartial! He wants to take all of us back to his basement! ICK. Cutter, let’s think this through. Come to think of it, like you said, why is Cutter there either? Are any of those kids his? Is he a creeper too? What? So many questions. Please do more!

    • The Cutter says:

      Sometimes I feel bad mocking these. I mean, they’re kids cartoons, and I loved them as a child. But some of the stuff is so non-sensical, I just can’t help it.

    • I think of it as a form of appreciation. I mean, sure they were ridiculous, but this was a level of ridiculousness you have to respect and pay homage to! Certainly better than Dora and Bob and all the other children’s shows I have mercilessly mocked. Then again, I’m mean. 😀

    • The Cutter says:

      No, you’re not mean. They deserved it.

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