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An Interpretation of the Symbolic Features of the GI Joe Action Figure

Twelve years ago the generation of today’s young adults were enthralled with the endless hours of fun they got from their GI Joe action figures. Wild scenes, battles, and situations they created ran their day and formed their thoughts of the ideal man. GI Joe’s physical build was looked upon as the perfect male body, with a muscular, suave look and a brave and violent temperament. This stereotypical property is a downside to the figure since it molds the views of young children in this negative way. The GI Joe was a very important piece in many young boys’ lives.

It was an outlet for a child’s creativity and imagination, which is one of the most important factors that mold a child into a grown adult. GI Joes’s symbolized the general census of the public that men should be physically strong and brave in physical encounters. Young boys saw the muscular build of the action figures and related that to the optimal shape that a man’s body should be. GI Joe’s are similar to Barbie dolls in many ways. Although GI Joe’s did not come under as much criticism as the Barbie doll, the two important characteristics of the figures are the same.

Both figures promote the stereotypical image of the male/female body and both figures characteristics promote the stereotypical actions of how one should act as a member of that gender. Each day of his life a young boy is learning and forming the ideals he will follow later in life. The appearance of a tall, perfectly proportional, and muscular figure molds a young boy’s belief of what the perfect man should look like. The same characteristic is true about the actions that GI Joe’s were expected to carry out.

GI Joe’s were fearless, brave men whose mission in life was violence. When young boys played with these figures, this was usually the common role their concocted scenes would fall under. Violence and death, sounds like a pretty bad principle to instill in the minds of young boys. If one thinks about the general stereotype of the census we see that men have always been forced into these enduring roles. Even today the two characteristics demonstrated by GI Joe are prevalent. As each day progresses these characteristics are being challenged.

Now more than ever the age-old beliefs of what is expected of man and woman are being redefined for a new world. What is strange is that children’s toys have not changed that much in the years that have passed. Do the toys children play with really affect the views of our nation when children mature? Everything affects a person, especially a young child, in some way. Some things may go unnoticed and affect a child very little. Others can change the path of life in a split second. As children grow up they look to role models, parents and adults more than action figures.

Toys may be biased and ethically incorrect sometimes, but they do not lead the life of a child in most cases. The ideals portrayed by GI Joe and other action figures are mainly based on human nature. They could be transformed into a more realistic and morally pleasing symbol, but would be missing a key element that children need: imagination. The imagination of a child is endless, and only grows with the use of figures and toys. Wild scenes concocted by five-year-olds for their GI Joe’s are many times more original than scenes adults could come up with.

It is therefore a downside that this outlet for a child’s imagination and creativity must be hindered by the stereotypical problems facing GI Joe. As children’s time is now being consumed by more constructive activities, our society is technologically increasing. Today computer software for children as small as two years is being created to give kids an ‘early start ‘ in the fast-paced world of today. Children are being intellectually challenged like never before. While this may prove beneficial in the future, only time will tell.

Sophisticated devices preparing children for their future have replaced the simple instruments of the eighties. A child’s opportunity to express his/her imagination is being compromised for an early chance at teaching skills needed for the future. While this adds a very important concept to a children’s maturity, it also takes some away. GI Joe’s were an important part in the creative learning and imagination of children, but did promote stereotypical appearances and actions that the human race has created.

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