First I want to say that going to swap-o-rama for me was like giving a bottle of Jack Daniels to a recovering alcoholic. I spent a good 6 hours on Sunday running around like a kid in a candy store. I told my wife that from now on all parties and social gather will be held at swap-o-rama. She’s not happy with my newfound hang out. So, to Randel and Scott I say thank you, but my wife has couple of choice words for the both of you.
For my assignment I gave in to nostalgia and collected an assortment of my favorite childhood toy “GI JOE”. There was a mother and child selling a massive amount of GI JOE action figures. I found myself at the booth a couple of times trying to give myself a reason why I should not buy all of my assignment from one booth. But, I just couldn’t help myself. As I rummaged through the bin of smelly JOEs, I began to reminisce on specific characters that I collected as a child. I decided within the barrel to purchase the hand full of African-American/Caribbean characters. There weren’t many. I remembered my parents going out of their way to find action figures and toys that reflected my race. My father was very conscience of what toys, music, and media where brought into the house and the social implications attached.
I remember wanting to join GI JOE, get my cool Snake Eyes outfit, and kick some COBRA(bad guys) ass. GI JOE were “Real American Heroes tm”. They sacrificed their lives for their country every weekday at 3pm. (Even though Duke was the only one that ever got severely injured). It wasn’t until the late nineties that I realized that the show and its merchandising were all propaganda to make youth want to enlist.
Whereas they used to remind me of my childhood now they make me think of working in the Chicago Public Schools and the types of disadvantaged youth that are targeted to enlist.
I also began think about the 80’s and some of the negative images of black males that where pushed by the media. For me, my interaction with these black characters as a child was very one-dimensional. I had no knowledge of their history…I knew them as soldiers. I was curious as to how they were envisioned by their creators. So I decided to go online and look up some the stories behind the characters I collected and play around with how I presented their characters on the blog.
So, to summarize, this collection represents a couple of things. One was my need to access positive images of myself in the things that I interacted with as a child. Also that most of the characters in GI JOE seemed one dimensional at a glance, but each had a back-story created by the creators that was rarely highlighted. Those back stories juxtaposed to the one-dimensional imagery of black males in the 80’s makes me conflicted. Even though I realize that the characters where created as propaganda to help enlist masses of youth, for the most parts these characters where represent an array of positive role models…………..(with guns). I am quite conflicted.
Now You know, and knowing is half the battle.