Recently I noticed the first season of the 80’s GI JOE cartoon hit DVD again. Now, I am not foolish enough nor nostalgic enough to buy these things, but it got me thinking about the show again. For years in the 90’s I looked back on particular episodes with that hazy awe those of us reared with the relatively crude toy commercials -cough- I mean cartoons of the 80’s seem to reserve for them. But as we all know from the advent of the home entertainment revolution, you can’t go home again. A couple years ago when these DVD transfers made their initial appearance I tried to watch the first season from the beginning through Netflix. As I’m sure anyone interested enough to still be reading this can attest to, the novelty wore off really fast, leaving me with a bad case of the childhood hangover blah’s.
In seeing these re-releases on the shelf I became intrigued again at those episodes I remembered as being particularly strange. This time however I took the smart road – instead of wasting time or money on these things I did what the rest of the world would do. First I found an episode guide with a summary page, skimmed the lengthy nerd-document until I found certain key names or triggers and then I went to youtube and set about watching them in an abbreviated manner.
Did memory hold up?
Not really. However, one episode in particular, although still succumbing to that mildly retarded quality in animation, plot and character still left me slightly in awe for its subject matter. The name of the episode is ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ and in it we get everything from animal-masked devil-worshippers, attempted human sacrifice, Destro’s witchcraft-practicing family history and a freakin’ squid monster to boot! Check it out:
First thing that springs to mind, beside the devil-worshipping, is that it is amazing how the Baroness character, despite being outfitted in thigh-highs and all leather, was essentially completely de-sexified by the cartoon. Of course at the time these were made there was no adult audience for such characters; it wasn’t until the people who were kids at the genesis of the action figure wave grew up and got jobs that it became possible to market toys to adults and as such sexualize them in the translation from childhood toy to collectible action figure/movie character. Still, despite her leather-clad clunkiness in the first few moments of this episode we get a nod toward more ‘adult’ ideas, i.e. Destro’s inclination toward sowing his royal oats. And then, what’s this, Lady Jaye in a nighty, being chained up and lowered into a pit? Sounds like something from a Nunsploitation flick, eh? Let’s see where else this goes.
I know it sounds goofy and it’s probably just me remembering how I perceived this as a kid, but there are some moments here that have a bit of a spine-tingling quality to them. Not suspense, but that elating surprise that something so innocent is actually going to go, ‘there’. Take Spirit-Iron Knife’s precognition that ‘This house is filled with a deep evil‘. Too tame for ya? How about the masses of animal-masked worshippers before the, ahem, Cauldron of Chaos** chanting ‘Sacrifice descend, dark power arise‘ – sacrifice?
This is almost startling in it’s darkness. And let’s not forget what has to be the first time in a show known for its ‘point-blank-range-but-no-one-dies’ factor, that we witness a character die. Where? I believe good ol’ Snake Eyes tosses a Cobra Trooper out of his ‘trouble bubble’ at what appears to be a deadly altitude and, most importantly, no cutaway shot is added to show a parachute opening. Off screen but still. Leave it to the Ninja to get shit done, right?
Hmmm… one might almost think this was the writer’s last day on the job or something, like that giant penis snuck into the little mermaid cover.
In re-watching this episode I’m actually kinda surprised some pre-pmrc group of reagan-blowing housewives didn’t jump all over this at the time. They probably all had their hands full with AC/DC and Judas Priest.
By the end of this episode I was pretty done with my every-couple-year itch to dig up shows like this and test my memories. There are still a few episodes I’m curious about, but there’s only so much time in a day. And knowing that is half th- fuck it, that’s the low road here.
* For an 80’s cartoon anyway, before manga made it common for nine year old’s to read softcore porn.
** My next band’s name!!!