The long, illustrious, and slightly confusing history of Hasbro's G.I. Joe began in 1964, after the toy company decided to cash in on the phenomenal success of Barbie by creating a doll for boys. "Rocky" (the Marine), "Skip" (the sailor) and "Ace" (the pilot) could have squired Barbie to the prom, because at 12" tall each would have been a manlier escort than Ken the clotheshorse. The timing could have been better, though: The first incarnation of "Joe" started strong but was no match for the anti-war and anti-warrior sentiment of the late '60s.
In its next decade, Joe became an "adventure team" dedicated to rescue missions and fighting evil in the form of a terrorist organization called COBRA. Other changes and manifestations followed, but through size reductions and personnel additions, kung-fu grips and cutting-edge weapons, comic books and animated TV series-G.I. Joe maintained the identity of "Real American Hero."
Until now. Looking for another toy-based project to build on the success of last year's Transformers movie, Paramount Pictures has tapped Joe. Sort of. Sensing that the international market for a "real American hero" isn't too hot right now, Paramount announced that the title character of the proposed film will be something called Global-Integrated Joint Operating Entity. Besides an awkward acronym, the personal appeal of an "entity" seems minimal, no matter how special the effects. To add insult to injury, the proposed team may be based in Brussels, that bloated, blathering capital of another entity called the European Union.
The movie is still in the planning stages, with countless "concept" adjustments ahead. But young boys looking for action figures would do better to read up on some real American heroes.
There are plenty to choose from, such as Army Sergeant Alvin York, who single-handedly captured an entire German battalion in the Argonne Forest. Or Mitchell Paige, the last Marine standing on a hill on Guadalcanal, who held off two regiments of Japanese infantry (and whose face, incidentally, was the model for the first G.I. Joe Marine doll). Or Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, recent Medal of Honor recipient, who walked into Taliban fire to find a cell-phone signal so he could call for help for his team.
Countless other examples prove what every military commander knows: Men will sacrifice themselves for their own, not for the globe. Heroism, like politics, is local.