Joe, the GI
So before Star Trek last night– which is great, by the way– they showed the preview for the upcoming GI Joe movie.
This is an old riff of mine, but it’s worth blogging. The GI Joe franchise (toys, cartoons, video games and movies) is all about a band of elite super-soldiers, each with his or her own set of amazing powers and abilities that the others can’t duplicate. Shooting fire, turning invisible, X-ray vision, ninja powers, flying with jetpacks…. Superhero, impossible stuff.
So what’s the problem? If you read the text of the original “GI Joe” comments, by Dwight Eisenhower, you’ll see it:
But all these agree with me in the selection of a truly heroic figure in this war. He is G.I. Joe. He has braved the dangers of U-boat-infested seas. He has surmounted charges into desperately defended beaches. He has fought his tedious, patient way through the ultimate in fortified zones. His companion has been danger. Death has dogged his footsteps. He and his platoon commanders have given us an example of loyalty, devotion to duty and indomitable courage that will live in our hearts as long as we admire those qualities in men.
In other words, it is the common man, the common soldier, who Eisenhower was celebrating. And, in fact, that’s who the original GI Joe toys honored, as well. To make GI Joe into a super-slick, superhuman fighting machine who is defined by his exceptional nature is to completely and totally miss the point of what Eisenhower was saying, about the real strength of the American war machine.