G.I. Joe PSAs: Part One

When I originally rented G.I. Joe: The Movie to review, I never thought I’d be getting a far greater kick out of the collection of public service announcements they included with the DVD. I felt the urge to go back and give them the full Mutant Viewing treatment. So cheesy it’s lactose-tolerant!

Before we begin, a brief word on cartoon PSAs for those of you interested or who need time to go pee. It’s okay. Go. We’ll be here when you get back. Just don’t forget to wash your hands.

Public service announcements were 30-second “stinger” spots tacked on to the end of cartoons like G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and The Real Ghostbusters as part of a transparent effort to make the show slightly educational. To be fair, these were pretty violent shows — for example, almost every other episode of Thundercats showed Lion-O decapitating someone. He just had no impulse control. So cartoon makers, under the threat of vague impending doom, used a tried-and-true tactic to ward off any criticism of “unwholesomeness:” they put a short and dumb PSA at the end of each show.

G.I. Joe’s PSAs were perhaps the most famous of them all, because of a particularly catchy phrase. Some kid would do something stupid — swim naked with sharks while shaving, for example — a Joe would rescue him and tell him that sharks enter into a blood frenzy when smelling even a drop of the red stuff. The shivering, traumatized kid would stutter out, “Now I know!” or something similar. And then the Joe, reading from his (or her) union card, would shout:

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE!”

The other half involves cake. Don’t ask us why.

#1: Learning To Swim

We begin this PSA with Dave standing on the razor edge of a cliff over the ocean. His back to the water, he witnesses his friend run off, probably to scoot on over to his very own PSA. We’ll catch back up with him later. Naturally, the second the friend leaves, the cliff crumbles and Dave falls into the water. Bummer.

Since Dave’s the sort of doofus who stands on the edges of cliffs, he panics and has no idea how to tread water. Fortuantely for him, he’s two feet away from Torpedo, a SCUBA Joe who is calmly bobbing around. This is a constant theme of these PSAs: G.I. Joe’s are always “coincidentally” in the neighborhood of near-fatal events. It makes you wonder: saviors or sickos? Firefighters or arsonists?

In any event, Torpedo seems to be in no hurry to rescue the drowning kid. I mean, right here’s a teaching opportunity, right? So, and I swear, he starts shouting advice how to tread water: “Keep cool! Use your head, don’t lose it! Open and close your leg like a scissor!” What a dork. If I were Dave — and I stand on fewer cliffs now than I used to — I’d be asking Torpedo why he’s bogarting all the SCUBA gear. But instead of jumping on Torpedo in a panic and drowning them both (man, that would be sweet), Dave instantly picks up treading, which is shown from underwater so that he looks like he’s trying out for the ballet.

Showing further Joe conspiracy, the second Torpedo and Dave get out of the water (Torpedo wanted to stay in and give Dave backstroke lessons, but Dave was getting all pruny) a Joe ambulance pulls up and an accomplice leaps out to wrap Dave in a blanket.

You’d think the lesson here would be something about treading water or how Dave’s friend is a two-timing goober, but Torpedo lectures the kid smilingly: “Never play around water alone!” Dave is shamed. Dave considers jumping off another, much higher, cliff. But that would probably net Dave another talking-to. “Now I know,” Dave mourns.

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#2: Getting Lost

We open at a fair. Maybe this will be the peaceful, non-scary PSA we’ve been praying for.

Tony is following his brother and friends, who urge him to “stay close, so you don’t get lost.” Seeing the title of this PSA, I’m guessing that’s not in Tony’s cards. Indeed, in between eye blinks, Tony sees something bright and shiny and runs toward it, loudly stating his intent to deviate from his brother’s commands. With only 30 seconds to cram in this story, these kids have to get a move on to put their lives in mortal peril.

In all fairness, Tony does see something cool: an air rifle range where people are pegging targets from two feet away while the carnie is standing directly in the line of fire. When are we going to get to the rifle safety PSA? Never, probably, as Tony quickly flips out when he discovers he’s “lost.” Technically, he’s not lost, as he just went ten feet and knows precisely where he is. He just lost his zookeepers.

Panicked, Tony runs smack-dab into a nearby Joe who must really, really like fairs. It’s Alpine, decked out in padded gear, safety glasses and a wicked moustache. Not a lot of mountains around this fair to ski down, so accosting kids is the next best thing. Alpine grabs him, intent on shaking Tony down for info. Tony blathers his secrets about getting lost, Alpine talks about “keeping your head” (it’s stock advice for them; I bet if the President accidentally fell into a vat of flesh-melting acid, the first Joe on the scene would advice him to “keep his head”). Before the Joe does anything useful, like adopting the kid as his noble squire, Tony’s brother returns. Brother rips into Tony, calling him “scared,” but Tony’s only got eyes for the Joe. “It’s not scary being lost, as long as you keep your head!” That’s the moral here. It’s fun being lost, kids! You’ll probably meet your heroes! “Now I know,” Tony smirks.

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#3: Fire In The Home

Okay, this is definitely one of my favorites for many reasons. First, it’s so incredibly action-packed for a mere 30 seconds. Second, it’s absurd in infinite portions.

We begin with Billy the lemming cooking on his stove. His brother, leaning up against the doorframe, asks if “Mom knows you’re cooking.” I’m guessing, no, because a uniformed G.I. Joe is literally hiding in the next room and no one is screaming. Yet.

Billy lights the stove, which is a horrible idea, because enormously long curtains are casually draped down right next to the burners. You’d think this would’ve resulted in a dozen house fires by now, but I’m betting that Mom is trying to kill her kids and collect the insurance money. In a half-second, the curtains, walls and ceiling are ablaze.

Whoops. Time to freak out and run. Right? Nah. Billy and brother argue about proper phone procedure while the toxic smoke fills the room. “Ah! Fire! Call the fire department!”

“NOT FROM IN THERE!” Bursting out from behind the couch or wherever he was hiding, Blowtorch comes dashing into the room from one room over. And his name is Blowtorch, yet nobody comes to the conclusion that he might be the arsonist? Well, anyway, thank goodness a Joe is there! These kids are safe!

You’d think, at least. Despite his hurried entry, Blowtorch stops and calmly lectures the kids about how they should be, right now, leaving the house and going over to a neighbor’s to use their phone. His soothing tones are undermined by the very visible smoke drifting over his head. Maybe he’s fireproof and just wants to watch children burn. Seriously, he blathers on for a good five seconds about escaping before anyone actually moves a foot.

They finally do egress, and before actually reaching any phones, a fire truck shows up. Wow, that was fast. Too, too fast.

“Your advice really hit home,” one kid says, as his “home” burns to the ground behind him. “Now I know!”

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#4: Dog Bite

With a title like “Dog Bite.” we’re being led to believe that someone — possibly young and foolish to the point of voting Libertarian — is going to be bitten by a dog. Silly watchers. That’s what you get for believing in titles.

Percy sees a dog strolling down the alley, and as all lemming children are wont to do, starts to approach it with a tenderized hand leading the way. “Nice doggy!”

Nice doggy indeed. The doggy looks nice, at first, but changes from cuddly to Cuji in a heartbeat. Growl! Percy scared! And… the trap is set. Mutt leaps out behind Percy and informs him that if he runs, the dog will chase Percy down and sever his tendons with his razor-sharp teeth. Other than that, Mutt’s a little out of advice for today. Perhaps if Mutt had his weapon on him, the dog could be reduced to an easily-washable blood splatter, but Joes putting kids lives in danger rarely bother with ammunition. There are more inventive ways to be cruel!

By the way, it’s downright amazing that they manage to find a Joe “themed” for each PSA. Torpedo and water safety, Blowtorch and fire safety, Alpine and… fair… safety (okay, moving on), and now a guy who’s thing is that he trains dogs. Did they start with the PSA idea and work back to find the appropriate Joe, or did they just pick a Joe and force a safety issue based on their main attribute?

In another aside, I really wish they had used Cobra for some of these PSAs. Make Destro lead the kids into or away from the bear trap — it would’ve been hilarious either way.

Anyway, Percy is just dandy, as the dog wanders away. Percy is enlightened about killing all strays on sight, and Mutt mutters, “AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#5: Smoke Under The Door

“Smoke Under The Door” is the sequel to “Fire In The Home,” except that here the two brothers aren’t directly responsible for setting the blaze this time. Also this time we learn that Joes don’t just hide out in the next room but sometimes in your bushes!

The brothers wake up to “SMOKE!” I’m not sure how they woke up to this, since no smoke detector is going off and the window is wide open. Quick as a flash, they’re on their way running toward the danger! But what is this devilry? The door handle is 500 degrees and searing flesh as soon as contact is made? “Ow!” one kid shrieks. Get used to the burn ward, dude.

“Don’t go out that door, kids!” A head pops in through the window — not just a head, but a scary masked figure that looks like Darth Vader’s second cousin Louie Vader. Why, it’s Barbeque, back from his speaking tour on the virtues of A-1 sauce! Seeing as how the fire is blocking one of their exits and a Joe the other, the kids freeze into a lecture listening stance. It’s a bit hard to hear with all this thick smoke in the air, though.

Don’t go out the door in a fire, but jump out a window, blah blah blah. Of course, if you live on the sixth story of anything, that’s not going to be a good day. Barbeque continues his fire safety speech as real firefighters are doing actual work of saving the home. “Remembah, test the doah first!” Smiling as their home and family roast behind them, the kids walk away to their new lives. “Now we know!”

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#6: Lightning In The Water

The Joe in this, Deep Six, makes the most sinister of all the cameos in these PSAs. As two kids are innocently splashing in a pond, this Joe — in a special deep diving suit — is looking up at them from the bottom of the six-foot deep swimming hole. What are his thoughts, his motivations for doing so? Perhaps they’re best left unsaid.

As a storm closes and lighting crashes within two seconds, one of the kids freaks out and leaves the water. The other, a brave and hearty type, boasts he’s “not scared by lighting!”

Joes hate to hear when kids aren’t scared, so Deep Six does his best to put frighten this twerp into eternal submission. Slowly rising out of the water from behind the kid like Jaws (the cone-shaped helmet helps with this comparison), the kid turns around and has a heart attack. “Deep Si-URK!” he screams.

“Get out of the water, you moron,” Deep Six intones. He doesn’t like his “viewing material” dead, I suppose. Really, I’m kinda creeped out by this Joe here. What reason, at all, would someone wear a huge metal diving suit to go into a kids’ swimming hole and stay down there until just the right and opportune moment? How did he hear them from down below? And why is it so much safer for a guy wearing a giant lightning conductor to be in the water when it’s so dangerous for a kid to be?

So many questions left unanswered.

“Thanks,” says one of the rightly-frightened children. “Your advice is…” [cue lightning hitting water] “…electrifying!” Wah-wahhh. Now you guys know never to go swimming where Peeping Tom Joes walk under the water!

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#7: Electrical Wire In The Road

Remember the two kids from “Fire In The House”? Well they’re back in this action-packed sequel! Same hat and clothing and everything! They’re biking down a hill and spot a fallen wire sparking on the road.

“Hey, let’s jump our bikes over it!” one exclaims.

“COOL!” we impressionable teens replied.

Before this stunt could become reality, a burly Joe pulls up in a jeep (they don’t say his name, I don’t remember it, and I’m not going to spend fifteen minutes looking it up). It’s not just any jeep, oh no, it’s the Official “G.I. Joe Power and Light Co.” jeep! You probably can’t read the wording in the picture there, but trust me, that’s what it says. So G.I. Joe, an organization devoted to fighting worldwide terrorism… has a power and light subsidiary? Why? Did they need the funds? Was this a government grant?

It really makes you wonder if the Joes branched out into other areas of the public service sector: G.I. Joe Waste Management, G.I. Joe Landscaping, G.I. Joe Correctional Facilities, etc. It opens so many doors.

The Joe lectures the kids about what complete morons they are: “There’s enough electricity to fry an elephant!” Wow. Could we, like, see that? I’d watch that PSA over and over. They could call it “Elephants and Electricity Are Not Friends”. In any case, the Joe dispatches the wire with long tongs, and life is good again.

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#8: Thin Ice

Whenever I hear the words “thin ice,” an instant connection is made back to the many times I’d be “pushing it” (whatever “it” was) and my mother would say, “Mister, you’re on thin ice!” While I liked being deemed a Mister and all the respect that entailed, I never really understood what ice had to do with the conversation.

Anyway, we open this PSA on a frozen lake, mulling in its evil ways how to kill all of the innocent children playing about. No need to really do anything, Mr. Lake, because here comes Davey, dashing willingly to his death! Showing off for his friends, Davey does an impressive run-and-slide across the lake. His friends, running as dramatic as all get out, are worried. They saw a G.I. Joe about, and they know that means trouble: “Look out! The ice could break!”

Davey needs to reassert his cool control over the situation. His witty comeback: “Haha, you’re BREAKING my heart!” I think I’m in love with Davey. He’s dreamy.

Davey finally messes up and falls down, cracking the ice. His friends start to form a two-person human chain to reach him, which shows a level of smartness not often seen in these PSAs. Will that be good enough for the Joe? Heck no! These kids need to be taught a lesson, somehow!

So in swoops a white-clad G.I. Joe skiing down what had to be, at most, a five foot hill. Guess the mountain powder is a bit low this time of year. “SNOWJOB!” the kids exclaim, forgetting their dying pal. I don’t know why they’re this excited, because anyone with the dubious name of “Snowjob” has to be a fourth-tier Joe.

So. Snowjob instructs the kids to use a branch to save Davey, who dies of hypothermia anyway. Or so I imagine.

“AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE! G.I. JOE!”

#9: Nosebleeds

Yes, nosebleeds. Possibly one of the greatest dangers that face our youth today — far outstripping drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and stranger danger in terms of pure lethality. Good thing the Joes are on the case, conveniently lurking in the shadows near where any young people play without adult supervision!

Our day begins as young Charles makes a spectacular football catch. His glee turns to sorrow, as two hideously blue-eyed tacklers take him down from behind. Although the attention will soon turn to his injury, all of the football fans in the viewing audience take note that Chuck has fumbled the ball from the tackle, and thus merits no forgiveness. Should’ve never signed him on in the draft to a three-year contract.

Charles goes down gently, on the soft dew grass, which naturally causes his nose to gush forth a gyser of life’s blood. Or, in the case of the bloodless G.I. Joe world, it looks like he’s dribbling chocolate snot. Charles contemplates fainting at what is surely a massive brain tumor stealing his young life away, and only his faithful friends are there to provide sound advice: “Put your head back!”

Of course, it’s another common running theme in the Joe PSAs that good-meaning friends offer advice straight from the maws of Satan himself, which is the cue for our hero to step in the scene, his shadow draping over them all. “That’s the WRONG PLAY!” he shouts. Football pun, yes. We got it.

“FOOTLOOSE!” the kids yell in happiness, forgetting that Charles is drowning in his own blood. Also, “Footloose?” Is it just me, or is that a name that should’ve been quickly retired after Kevin Bacon starting joy-dancing all over the Midwest?

Facing the pressures of having to deal with such a complicated medical situation in the five seconds of remaining time, Footloose speedily rambles through a whole series of procedures that sounds like the bottom of a drug commercial. I think he mentions that pinching your nose closed might result in an abundance of hot flashes and early menopause, but I couldn’t be sure. He’s got the whole crowd of kids in rapture, though, hanging off his every word.

Charles pinches his nose and is amazed at the results. “The bleeding’s stopped!” At this point, I swear, all five of the kids open their mouths in a silent, awed “O” like they just saw Footloose walk on water and conjure up pizza from a talking wart on his elbow. Kids across the world throw their toys in the air in jubulous rapture — they are finally free to live full, normal lives without the fear of slightly leaking a tiny bit of blood!

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