Maybe You Should Have Watched G.I. Joe
One of the biggest hot buttons across the internet these days is equality, representation and diversity. People of all creeds, colors and lifestyles are coming out of the woodwork professing how great it is that film and television these days ensures a representation of practically every lifestyle one could opt into.
Well, not to bash all those out there who love to shout, "It's about time!" But, maybe they should have been watching the original G.I. Joe cartoon between 1983 and 1986. Heck, even the 1987 movie and 1989 to 1992 second series. Or for added emphasis, collect the toys and comics.
Between all of these avenues, G.I. Joe introduced a plethora of characters from all walks of life. Men, women, and all from various races / countries. Not only that, but the majority of them had stories focused strictly on them to emphasize and highlight that they weren't just some background character there to check off a box.
Women were shown as strong, intelligent and self reliant characters who were respected by their teammates. Typically when captured (and the men were captured too), it was a result of self sacrifice while chasing down the enemy. When this occurred, the men didn't rally and shout, "We have to save the women." Instead, they would make encouraging comments, such as, "Scarlett will be okay. She can handle herself."
They also stood up to those few times where people did try to disparage their female comrades in arms. For example when an Admiral is scoffing Lady Jaye to Flint and his response is, "She's not just a lady. She's my teammate!"
Several episodes even focused directly on the ladies. An example is season one's, Spell of the Siren. Not only does The Baroness take over as the leader of Cobra, but G.I. Joe only comes through as a result of Cover Girl, Lady Jaye and Scarlett defeating the enemies by themselves. At the end, Scarlett destroys the conk, and when asked why, states, "Just making the world safe for you men," to which Lady Jaye responds, "Somebody has to."
In terms of equal representation, the Joe team was superb at ensuring all walks of life were held in high regard.
Some of my favorite episodes were the likes of (1) Red Rocket's Glare, an episode which focuses on Roadblock and his family and (2) Chaos in the Sea of Lost Souls, which introduces us to Quick Kick, who defeats Storm Shadow to help save both Alpine and Bazooka. Speaking of Storm Shadow, his original nemesis on the Joe team wasn't Snake Eyes, but rather Spirit. I don't feel the need to point out what the races of each person is, suffice to say, there is a good variety of representation in this paragraph alone.
G.I. Joe, while a real American hero, didn't stay inclusive of the borders of the USA. Heck not even Cobra. Both had skillful teams, formed among the best of the best from all sections of the world. Some of my favorites from both sides are;
Australia - Ripper, Torch, Major Bludd
Belgium - Thrasher
Canada - Back-Stop
England - Buzzer, Big Ben
France - Tomax, Xamot
French Indochina - Firefly
Germany - The Baroness
Japan - Budo
Mexico - Long Range
Wales - Monkey Wrench
Mind you, that doesn't even count any of the characters which were USA based, but have mixed or non-American roots. Additionally, it doesn't include those who's origins remain unknown to the G.I. Joe community in order to keep their past a mystery.
At the end of the day, G.I. Joe may be a cartoon, which may lead to people dismissing it vs. human characters in actual movies. However, representation is still representation. Hasbro could have easily made every character a male, a staple in the world's military services during the 80's, but it didn't. It saw the value in relatable characters to all walks of life, while also instilling in young minds that color, sex and creeds don't limit a person's potential. Nor should it close your mind to what that person can offer as a valued teammate or friend.
Representation will continue to evolve in this ever changing society of what is and isn't socially acceptable. However, it isn't a new concept, and it shouldn't be treated as such.
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