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  • Writer's pictureIan Amane

G.I. JOEs and The Tales You Tell

When I was around 9 or 10 years old, back when there was no internet yet and a Nintendo was rarer than PS4s now, summer times were spent in our neighbor's backyard. They had a large backyard, probably around five hundred square meters, filled with trees and bushes, largely untamed and wild. We loved it. Mich was my age, Joey, a year older. Along with my younger brother, we made up the regular habitués of the jungle. We spent most of our time looking for insects, exploring and climbing trees. We would tell each other stories we played. We also were big fans of the GI Joe cartoon. We would tell each other about episodes we saw and later on took on characters of the show. We built our own base and arranged ourselves into a pseudo hierarchy of generals. Everyone wanted to be a general. And then we would go on missions. Naturally and without conscious thought, we assimilated what we perceived as the operational culture of the GI JOEs. And we only had the cartoons as a guide.

We never grew up to be GI Joes or anything close. We ended up living fairly normal lives but there was that summer, and maybe three more summers after, that we were GI Joes. We emulated them, we identified with them. And the cartoons we watched were largely responsible. The stories we told each other about them largely informed the activities our group would engage in. They would dictate how we would act to a certain point. It was unfortunate for our parents that GI Joes did not have parents and were not very obedient. Most of their better storylines actually revolved around some form of disobedience or other. Like the one with Falcon. So, as you may have guessed, we weren't very obedient, or safe or behaved. We spent our days riding around the neighborhood in bikes too big for us, responding to made up emergencies. We spent Sunday afternoons, dressed in our Sunday best, walking through rice paddies towards the horizon. There were horizons then.

The GI Joe cartoons taught us 3 main things that all of us carried into adulthood:

  1. Be loyal to your friends.

  2. Adventures are fun.

  3. Heroes are disobedient.

The last one got three of us in the group into great heaps of trouble in life later on. Especially in college. But we never stopped being loyal to each other and we never stopped having a little thirst for adventure. One of us picked up surfing along the way and got quite good at it before settling down. Another took a job requiring a lot of travel. I took to mountain climbing and trekking. We all see each other when we get the chance. And we are all still friends.

Storytelling changes people. As the great Stephen Sondheim said: "Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell."


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