If you caught the first episode of Stranger Things 2, you heard Mike lamenting to Mom that donating two boxes of toys to the Wheeler family yard sale would exact far too high an “emotional value.” Regular readers around these parts likely felt his pain, as did I, immediately and poignantly, like suddenly remembering old, lost friends.
Unlike Mike, I can only blame myself for my own pain, having given 5th grader Ricky Margolin my beloved giant box of G.I. Joe toys back in the day, just because I was going into middle school, and the cool kids convinced me that middle schoolers didn’t play with stupid toys.
Now, some 30 years later, I still feel stupid and completely bankrupt of emotional value for abandoning my true feelings for some the best friends I’d ever known. But thankfully, Robot Chicken’s liberal and hilarious use of classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys is helping me cope (it may also be making me really hate Ricky, though).
In fact, Robot Chicken – Adult Swim’s stop-motion, NSFW, sketch-black-comedy series – uses so many classic Joes, I almost wonder if maybe Seth Green and Matthew Senreich didn’t start the show just to get a production budget to pay for their toys.
Such glorious toys.
But it’s not just a walk down memory lane and a chance to see all your buddies, the show also gets G.I. Joe like only a true Joe could. Just like me, these guys obviously lived for the comics, for the afterschool cartoon, and especially for the toys. So you can see they love them, even as they expose every goofy, inane thing that went down in the G.I. Joe universe, all of which seems to have initially gone totally over my pre-adolescent, still-forming head.
Nine seasons in, Robot Chicken does similar service to Transformers, Star Wars, The Smurfs, Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, and many more. Which is not just a testament to that Green/Senreich toy-purchasing theory, but also to the show’s dynamite use of satire to skewer from whence we came and illuminate the absurdity of where we are now. And sometimes it really helps to laugh about things.