GI Joe, children’s toys of the 80s and 90s and the powerful nostalgia of childhood | Arts & Culture | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest
IIn case you missed the big newsthe GI Joe cartoon recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and to celebrate, Hasbro released a 24/7 live stream of remastered episodes on its YouTube channel.
As a 90s girl with no interest in GI Joe back then, watching the flat 2D antics of all the goofy-named characters – Roadblock, Dusty, Shipwreck, Sgt. The slaughter and even the barbecue, to name a few, were surprisingly entertaining and oddly calming. Everyone’s plot G.I. Joe the episode is pure silliness, with just enough absurdity to make adults laugh. (Sometimes you really wonder what the writers wanted.)
Will, my partner who just turned 40, grew up with cartoons. One evening, after catching a few episodes after dinner, we fell down the rabbit hole of the internet, finding catalogs of old GI Joe action figures he and his brothers once had.
While Will’s GI Joe action figures are long gone (as well as most of my own childhood toys except for a few Barbies and Pound Puppies), memories of them live on in the realm of nostalgia for adults.
Companies like Hasbro and others are taking full advantage of this fact, producing a ridiculous number of special collector’s edition reissues of the original toy models. The real deal of the time is the hot items on eBay and in local antique stores.
On a recent visit to the Pine Street Market mall in the Spokane Valley, I saw original GI Joe action figures — still sealed in plastic — with price tags of $200 and up. Others we had played with in the past, even sporting a few battle scars in the backyard to show it, were just as much.
Even though we adults don’t orchestrate big showdowns between the evil Cobra and the heroic Joes, many still long to put them on a shelf to collect dust, if only to take a look and relive this gloriously golden and carefree past.
As they say, nostalgia is a hellish drug, and the feelings evoked by the defining toys of our youth might be one of its most potent forms. Among the many other toys I saw that day scattered around the mall, waiting to be rediscovered, were Beanie Babies, Matchbox cars, Star Wars action figures, Barbies and more.
Toys like these and old-school GI Joes define the generation. And as we age, their former central place in our lives fades to an almost dreamlike state.
“I think we got this guy?” Will told me as we were scrolling through this site listing all the mid 80s GI Joe toys.
Even his own memory of something once loved had faded. ♦