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G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero?

In the chapter Spinning out of Control, Gary Cross states that during the 1980’s, “toys lost their connection to the experience and expectations of parents” in order to enter “a realm of ever-changing fantasy” (309). With this he implies that when toys became centered around fantasies instead of realistic issues, they lost their educational value and became less useful for the lives of children. He then goes on to argue how through the use of program length commercials, Television played a major role in the further detachment of toys from any realistic context.

Program length commercials, or PLC’s, were TV shows that promoted a specific toy by giving children “a set of fantasy situations and personalities upon which to model play”. Among the most popular PLC’s, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is the only one that caused me to agree with Cross’s argument. When referring to this particular PLC he says that it “offered boys no more than a simple vision of ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ in a fantasy world where violence was a constant” and that it “certainly did not orient children to the real world of international politics”. When looking at the current American political atmosphere, it is curious to see how the rhetoric revolving American Foreign Policy is so similar to that in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

On the day of 9/11, President George W. Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are “a beacon for freedom” and because the attackers were “evil”. Since that day, this oversimplified view of the problem has actually been the prevailing view among politicians and citizens across the country. In the G.I. Joe theme song, there is one particular part that echoes a profound similarity to the speech given by President Bush:

GI Joe is the codename for American’s daring, highly trained
special mission force.
It’s purpose, to defend human freedom against Cobra-
a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

This is probably the reason why many critics “complained that G.I. Joe and other action-figure lines celebrated the United States as high-tech world policeman” (298).

Gary Cross is right when he says that this PLC fails to teach children that world politics is not simply an issue of good vs. evil, where the U.S. government is the good guy and whatever country they happen to be fighting at the time is the evil enemy. As Ron Paul explains in one republican debate, there are a lot of reasons behind the 9/11 attack other than pure hatred and desire to spread terror. It is important to teach children that their actions have consequences and that before judging a situation they have to look at the context as well as the different perspectives of those involved.

Side Note: I am not trying to justify the 9/11 tragedy in any way.

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