Monday, May 4, 2009
THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL: G.I. JOE, THE WHEELED WARRIORS, AND SUBLIMINAL ANTI-ENVIRONMENTALISM IN THE 1980'S
Anyone else remember Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, the undeniably awesome cartoon that first aired in 1985 and returned (in syndication) from 1989-'96 on USA and Nickelodeon? That shit ruled.
Check it out:
Originally launched to support Mattel's fledgling Wheeled Warriors toy line (left), the show only made it for 3 months in its original incarnation, although 65 full episodes were produced.
Wheeled Warriors followed the story of Jayce, teenage leader of the Lightning League, whose botanist father disappears after a laboratory accident. It seems that a solar flare turned all of his plants into evil, shapeshifting creatures known as the Monster Minds who are in turn the antagonists of the show. But before his disappearance, Jayce's father, Audric, passes down half of a magical root to his son, which holds a magical secret. As a result, Jayce scours the galaxy in search of his dad, trying to combine his half of the root with Audric's half to unleash a mysterious destruction upon the evil Monster Minds.
Below: Saw Boss, organic ruler of the Monster Minds.
Awesome idea for a TV show, right? Of course.
But there are deeper issues here. Despite its visual and conceptual appeal, Wheeled Warriors held a very definite anti-environmental undercurrent, teaching youth that the Earth (and plants in particular) are evil and should be feared. How do we protect ourselves from the organic threat? Vehicles with superior firepower, of course. Technology. Military dominance. Am I reading too far into the plot of a children's television show? Maybe. But the 80's were uptight times. I would not be at all surprised to find out that DiC Entertainment (creators of Wheeled Warriors, along with countless other cartoon franchises) was receiving some sort of kickback from conservative groups. Do I have any proof? No. I don't need any.
Anyone writing a show about blood-hungry, vegetable-based anthropomorphic aliens has to have a Republican or two behind them. I won't deny that Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors was a kick-ass TV show. But I will question the moral ground its creators stood upon.
Below: The plant-based Monster Mind vehicle known as the "Terror Tank".
But this was all back in the ultra-Republican, militaristic Reagan era. Greenpeace was a public scourge and hippies were on the run. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine such flagrant anti-vegetablism ever even taking root in the Obama Age.
And don't even get me started on G.I. Joe: The Movie.
Oops, too late.
G.I. Joe was released in 1987, and almost seemed like the last gasp of the exiting Reagan Regime. Let's take a moment to consider the plot of this pro-military, anti-environment brainwashing machine:
In the film, we are first introduced to Cobra's true origins - a mysterious cult of biologically-friendly beings who reside in a Lovecraftian dystopia known as Cobra-La. Led by the part-snake mutant Golobulus (a character eerily similar to the aforementioned Saw Boss), the residents of Cobra-La predate the Ice Age, and plot to take back the Earth from its human captors. Golobulus recognizes that mankind's technology is polluting and destroying the planet, and through his puppet leaders Cobra Commander and Serpentor (below, right) vows mankind's demise. Eco-terrorism, anyone?
So how do the Joes combat this eco-centric scourge? Military supremacy, technology, and brute force. The bio-organic mutants are beaten back into their Himalayan hiding place, showing once and for all what happens to those who chose to live in tune with nature. This movie was GOSPEL to my generation. Did our tiny minds grasp the implications of its plot? Hell no. "JOIN THE ARMY AND KILL HIPPIES" was the film's true message, spelled out in flashing lazers, big explosions, and the howling of defeated organic beings.
I'll spare you my dissertation on the blatant racism rampant in the film, as well. That's a whole other post in itself.
So where did all this subliminal anti-environmentalism lead to in the early 90's? Let's brainstorm for a minute. Who was the shittiest, most boring protagonist from any cartoon in that era?
Without a doubt, anyone with decent knowledge on the subject would reply "Captain Planet, of course". Duh.
So think about it. In rad cartoons, the eco-terrorists are the BAD GUYS. But in lame snoozefests like Captain Planet and the Planeteers (also produced by DiC, I might add), the preachy, reprehensibly awful GOOD GUYS are the eco-warriors. Think about it.
For further proof, check out my last two 'Action Figure Corner' posts here and here. "Heroic" Moss Man = clean, antiseptic "pine" scent. "Evil" Stinkor = earthy, nefarious "patchouli" scent. BAM!
Posted by Shelby Cobras at 3:38 PM