Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nostalgia and the Fanboy

I am a child of the 80's. I can't help it. From Cabbage Patch Dolls to Michael Jackson and parachute pants (thankfully I never owned those), from Bon Jovi and hair metal to Smurfs, it all resonates with me. Some is more dissonance, but I digress.

The marketers are smart. I have been amazed how so much from my childhood has been recycled now that *I* have kids. First it was the resurgence of Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising (I sound like the all-powerful Yogurt. Fear the Schwartz!!!). Now other childhood favorites are being brought back, first Transformers and soon G.I. Joe.

It has worked in many respects. I kept all my Joes and a few Star Wars items, and since I have 3 boys, it has been very easy to continue in that vein (my poor baby girl is already getting cast as Princess Leia). The boys think Star Wars is The Clone Wars, but I blame George Lucas for that. Overall, we have a very boyish household, with hordes of Clone Troopers and a veritable platoon of Joes.

Toys are one thing. The big screen debuts of these childhood icons is quite another. I know there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by rabid fanboys who were afraid their childhood would be ruined if Transformers or G.I. Joe is mishandled on celluloid.

I don't think I'm rabid (checks mirror, no foam, good sign...). I would love to see an epic production of these worlds. But I also look at things now from a Biblical worldview, and from someone who watches pop culture. I'm grown up (somewhat), so I do view these things differently.

I was massively disappointed in Transformers 1. The movie is marketed to kids, but it has some highly inappropriate content for the under 12 set, and the movie supposedly wasn't for its "target" audience, as it had a PG-13 label. Even on a technical, quality level it is a let down. The special effects are cool when visible, but so much of the action is rolling together, you can't tell which giant robot to root for.
After reading reviews for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, I didn't even bother seeing it. My understanding is that the director took the sexualization and inappropriate content to an even higher level, and that there is little plot. Now, you won't get Shakespeare with a yellow Camaro that turns into a robot, but it sounds like there wasn't much to recommend it. Again, it is so marketed to kids that I get really frustrated when the producers make it so unfriendly for kids. Of course, it is the blockbuster of the summer and I know kids who have seen it, so I am likely in the minority. As usual.

This makes me dread G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra coming out in August. There's been bad vibes for the movie all along, and in watching the trailers some aspects make me cring (accelerator suit - I'm lookin' at you). My concern is more in items that often go unnoticed - what's the prevailing worldview, what type of humor do they go for, language. As far as language and humor, I would be quite upset if they played like Transformers did, with a lot of coarse talk and jokes, since G.I. Joe is also being marketed to kids under 13 (so far there's no rating for it). I've heard that it wasn't made like that, but we'll see in a few weeks.

The worldview has already been challenged too. G.I. Joe is quintessentially American, but even though it was fairly multicultural even in the 80's, it didn't seem to stand the test of pluralism in the 21 century. Initially it was said that G.I. Joe was centered in Brussels, Belgium, which had the fanboys up in arms (apparantly this is gone). Some characters have been changed to different races. But how will the patriotic, positive vibe from G.I. Joe hold up in these times of America being less popular internationally, and our cynical post-modern viewpoints? How much do values of courage, honor, and self-sacrifice hold up? These are just some of the questions I will be asking when watching the movie.

I realize it is summer popcorn entertainment. A movie based off of 80's war toys isn't the best vehicle for philosophising, but worldview is everywhere. So maybe I rant a little here (maybe???), but I will not shut off my brain just because Snake Eyes is finally on the big screen (though he does look awesome!).

Yo Joe!

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