Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Picture: "A Guy Named Joe"


Ezenwa said...

Pretty interesting video. Hopefully, it will calm the waters a bit in a sense. But, it wouldn't be you, Bob, if you didn't bring up another Expendables/Scott Pilgrim comparison. I think this might be your best comparison yet. But, that's just my opinion.

BTW, I got Scott Pilgrim on DVD for Christmas. WIN!

Happy new year!

P.S. Your thoughts on why cartoons these days aren't as solid as the ones from our youth? Could it be due to their lack of sustainability?

Ben said...

Let's hold on a second. Scott's battles in Scott Pilgrim aren't all lollipops and rainbows. Scott fighting Ramona's exes is a physical manifestation of the overwhelming self-consciousness some men feel when they are attracted to a girl, but they start to compare themselves to her previous loves. James Joyce has a story partly about this same concept. For most guys, this never becomes more than a little bit uncomfortable every once in a while; for some, it's a huge turn on; and for some others, it results in flat-out abusive or neglectful behavior. For Scott, it just happened to result in huge video game battles, because he's Scott Pilgrim and he lives in that world.

Men haven't just lost their way in terms of how they interact with themselves -- because that always depended on their interactions with women (You're strong and supportive and a provider because you have to support your wife), we're losing our way in that regard as well. Look at portrayals of women in male-oriented media. Look at recent trends in pornography. Look at all the slut-shaming that goes on, especially on the Internet. We're intimidated by the idea that women don't need us anymore, and we're frightened that if they don't need us anymore we will literally amount to nothing.

Scott Pilgrim isn't about how awesome it is that Scott's fighting these guys for Ramona's heart. It's ultimately about how childish that is. It's the story of Scott learning to respect himself. If we as men are going to find our way in the world, we need to learn collectively to, like Scott, not let that hinge on other people. Scott Pilgrim is a beautiful, important movie because it provides a socially acceptable model for that realization to happen. I just wish more people had seen it.

Q said...

Bob... that was heavy, man, heavy; you too Ben.

It's the next evolution of man, man!

untra said...

Next up, can you do a piece on why childrens networks have been abandoning cartoons from their programing in liu of awful childrens sitcoms?

Or a political piece? Will they let you do a political piece?

Every Second said...

That was actually a really good episode.

And spot on with the comments Ben, I thought the same thing! (Though not as detailed surely.)

Q said...


Isn't it just the norm that all generations believe that the children entertainment of the next generation stinks because we are nostalgically removed from it and that it highlights are own growing irrelevance in years to come.

But the best reason for why there are sitcoms on CN (Real) is because the most popular children show right now is no longer Spongebob but iCarly. Really look it up.

TheAlmightyNarf said...


Having Recently gotten all of Animaniacs and Pinky & The Brain on DVD (haven't found Freakazoid in my area yet), I'd have to say no.... children's animation today isn't nearly as good as it used to be.

Q said...


Here's a test. Ask your parents what they think or more importantly what they thought about those cartoons when you were a kid. The results will probably be heart-breaking (probably dismissive or condescendingly proving).

See, it's all about a point of reference. Cartoons nowadays don't hold up to Animaniacs just as Animaniacs don't hold up to the Loony Tunes.

Nostalgia be damned!

Dave Kraft said...

@Ben: I agree. I also think the analogy to Scott Pilgrim here is a bad one, as no matter how much more than it has to tell us about relationships than watching Julia Roberts eat pasta for 2 hours, it's still a formulaic piece of fiction with no relation to how real-life relationships work. Also, by no means was G.I. Joe's primary goal teaching about relationships and life lessons - those were shorts after the credits of each episode, and comparing them (which have no relation to the show's narrative) to an entire movie about relationships and life lessons doesn't make for a very strong argument.

@Q: You have no idea how much I agree with that Animaniacs statement! :D Excellent point!

@Bob: Didn't like this one, and I'm not digging "The Big Picture". ESPECIALLY after the LAST video on DC, in which more than half of what you brought to the table was horrifically inaccurate.

That being said, what made G.I. Joe and the other '80s toy toons very relevant is that they are all Cold War narratives, and therefore Cobra (as well as the Decepticons, etc.) shouldn't be dismissed as merely fictionalized villains for archetypal militaristic heroes to fight but instead allegories of the times in which they were created. The "good vs. evil" schtick the stories revolved around were not only reflective of McCarthyist attitudes toward Communism but its modern-day incarnation has been complicated to the point of no longer being totally black and white. That, and... well, as we all know, they were enduring and profitable franchises because the shows advertised the toy lines (capitalism right there). Also, ever wonder why Optimus Prime is colored red, white and blue, whilst Cobra Commander and Megatron - an former proletariat miner come revolutionary and then tyrant, and a Stalin-esque "man of steel" who rules the Decepticons with an iron fist... literally - wear Nazi-looking helmets? Not even mentioning the Islamic implications of Cobra Commander's OTHER bit of headwear.

In fact, I'd like to see you do a Big Picture episode on just this topic, and how it's a shame that the TF movies weren't more closely related to their G1 counterparts on the narrative level. I say this not out of some G1 fanboy rant, but because of the relevance the underlying Cold War narrative from G1 has in our world today - a society endures a proletariat revolution, a communist revolution, a civil war and an energy crisis, only to come to our world and find that we've been going through the same kind of crap. I mean, the entire damn show from as early as the first two episodes was about hoarding natural resources and escalation in weapons development because those who controlled the most resources and armaments controlled the battlefield.

Remember, science fiction can best be defined as a "significant distortion of the present," to quote famed sci-fi and comics writer Samuel R. Delaney (author of Nova (no relation to the Marvel character)), and I think this video should've taken that into account more with regard to the particular present in which the G.I. Joe cartoon was made.

Dave Kraft said...

Recent stories from the comics have shown Cobra and the Decepticons as not being as unilaterally evil as perhaps their '80s cartoon counterparts were portrayed. To paraphrase Todd McFarlane, within every good, there is a touch of evil, and within every evil there is a sprinkling of good. In the cases of Cobra and the Decepticons, perhaps this is a reflection of writers recognizing how young people are increasingly embracing and accepting socialism, and thus have been showing these two factions in a more positive and intricate light.

I think that, given all that's going on in our world today, this would've been a far more meaningful narrative for audiences than the bullshit romance story between Sam and Mikaela, and overall would make a better and more pertinent Big Picture argument than in your last few vids.

Oh, and if anyone wants to challenge me on that whole Cold War narrative thing, look at these and then go back and watch the first few episodes of G1:



Just try and tell me the first pic doesn't scream "communist propaganda".

I think if these Big Picture vids only scratch the surface of a facet of a fragment of a larger issue (or bigger picture, no pun intended) taken out of their proper context, then they aren't really covering the big picture, are they? The moment you address the historical context and reveal how a) figures like Optimus Prime and Duke ARE perhaps the same American military role models - albeit stylized for the sake of indoctrinating younger audiences, b) that the narratives of G.I. Joe, Transformers and other '80s toy toons are very relevant to their respective wars, even if on a purely allegorical level, and c) even if children don't realize this, the exposure to the American "good guys" and non-American "bad guys" may have an effect on coloring their perception of the world around them as they grow into adulthood.....

Well, take all that into consideration and the argument in this video falls flat on its face. I really do think you could've covered all this information in the video and had time to spare. Frankly I miss the insightful quality of your older stuff, both from MovieBob and TGO, before FanboyBob got in the way.

Q said...


I think we all kind of get the Cold War narrative but it's kind of not entirely relevant to what Bob is saying though there is some weight to it. Bob was talking about role models and how as a kid, and only as a kid, the reality that you could never be Prime or one of the Joe's does have effect on males' self-esteem growing up.

Once again not saying that what you say doesn't have some weight to it but it's far left field from the topic of Bob's video.

REPTILE 0009 said...

Remember when in Full Metal Jacket, everyone had a hard time dealing with that sniper at the end? Well at least my generation will know how to deal with snipers. :)

Dave Kraft said...

@Q: I'm saying that major components of his supporting argument fall flat on its face the moment you take into consideration that the fictional wars weren't so divorced from the times in which the shows take place. Bob did make it seem like they were. By looking at that small-yet-significant point of mine and validating it, the rest of the video's points falls apart. Also, I was expressing my dissatisfaction with the Big Picture segments.

I'd also heavily disagree with that statement; plenty of men and women were inspired by their '80s cartoon heroes to become soldiers and/or make something great of themselves. I know because I'm engaged to one such individuals. Plus, did you hear the real-life story about the marine who had his name legally changed to Optimus Prime? I'd say he's rather proud of his role model there, and doesn't have self-esteem issues.

Many kids have fictional idols growing up, and many kids outgrow them as they GROW UP and deal with the real world. I draw gorgeous women and Herculean, muscle-bound men for a living as an artist. I loved comics growing up. Did my admiration for Batman and Superman have an effect on my self-esteem? No, no they didn't. Social pressures and societal perception of me as nerd? Well, that's something entirely different.

Regardless, I feel like the bare minimum was placed on the subject of these figures as role models and the bulk of the video's content was instead about the role models and their relation to a real-world context (or lack thereof) with which to build realistic expectations of one's self.

In that respect, no, I don't think I was far left field from the topic. I think I was right on the money there.

But whatever, I guess we perceived it in two very different ways and so I'll agree to disagree with you on that one.

@Reptile0009: ROFLMAO! XD

MatthewMk2 said...

For the first few minutes i was like wow, really interesting, then you bring up Scott Pilgrim and I was like FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU I HATE SCOTT PILGRIM!!!!!!

vlademir1 said...

I kinda think Dave Kraft has the right of it here. By not, at least, discussing the symbolic elements of GI Joe: A Real American Hero that relate to the Cold War, Bob has unfortunately, at least partially, undermined his argument in this video.

Popcorn Dave said...

Yeah, I agree with Dave Kraft as well. The 80s GI Joe cartoon might have been a bit more outlandish than the 60s dolls, but it was still the same all-American macho role model stuff, and it still made boys aspire to be soldiers. They still wore fatigues, they still used tanks and contemporary-looking machinery, they still waved American flags and they were definitely still fighting the bogeyman of the era. It's easy to sit in 2011 and say that communism was never really a danger to the West, but it sure didn't feel like that at the time. GI Joe wasn't fighting a real war, but it was fighting a war people were afraid of, and Cobra have elements of both secretive terrorist cells and the seemingly endless grey armies of the USSR - they were Reagan-era villains par excellence.

The lack of a "proper" role for men in modern society is a very important topic and definitely worthy of a video or three, but I think your main example was a bit off. Besides, we've ALWAYS had heroes that we could never realistically be - superheroes, sci-fi heroes, fairytale characters - "realistic" role models have always been the minority. Your little conclusion at the end that heroes don't have to be real to be inspiring was a bit of a "no duh" moment for me; most heroes were never real or realistic at all.