GI Joe Public Service Announcements

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In 1970 the Federal Communications Commission, acting under the direction of Congress, adopted new regulations regarding children’s programming. This was primarily done in reaction to Mattel’s “Hot Wheels” cartoon of 1969, which was met with stern opposition by various parental busybody organizations. These regulations effectively had three goals (1) Remove death and violence from all cartoons, (2) Cartoons can not be used as long-form commercials for toys, and (3) any cartoons produced after 1970 had to include educational content. These rules remained in force until the mid-1990s, when they were they were struck down by the Clinton administration as part of their ongoing war on the family*.

The clear intent of Rule Three was to work educational stuff into the episodes as part of the story, making it into “Edutainment.” In actual practice, however, this was really hard and apart from “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” no Saturday Morning Cartoon ever even bothered with it. The minimum requirement under the FCC regs was one minute of educational content, so the studios and producers produced one-minute short films which were generally tacked on to the ends of episodes, after the story ended, and before the credits rolled. These generally were low quality, with dodgy animation, and since you can’t really teach anything in a minute, they were generally more like public service announcements than actual education.

The general format, regardless of the show, was more-or-less the same: Some kids are doing something stupid, or about to do something stupid, and then a character from the cartoon shows up (“Hey! It’s Batman!”) and tells them to knock it off. Said cartoon character then explains tersely why it’s a bad idea to eat nothing but candy, or go swimming right after eating a pound of candy, or why you shouldn’t stuff your cat in the oven, or whatever. Chastened, but enlightened by the experience, the kids make some kind of tacit acknowledgement that the message is received, and then we fade to black and roll credits. There were exceptions, of course, but that was generally how it went for most series for about fifteen years. Lousy Mattel, screwing up a good thing for everyone…

The GI Joe series (1983-1986) made use of this exact same format, where members of the Joe Team (And less frequently, Cobras) would give safety advice to stupid kids. These would always end with the kid or kids saying “Now I know,” and the Joe character saying “And knowing is half the battle!” This was immediately followed by male vocals singing “Geeee Eye Joeeeee” and then fade to black.

Here’s an example:

Years later, in order to increase available time for commercials in each episode, these PSAs were removed, and are mostly forgotten. Some of them only aired one or two times. The following is a transcript of one of the more obscure GI Joe Public Service Announcements. It first aired along with the episode “Haul Down The Heavens” (Season 1, episode 15) on October 4th, 1985:

CHILD NUMBER ONE: “Hey, look, dad left out his revolver!”

CHILD NUMBER TWO: “Let’s play with it!”

COBRA COMMANDER: “Yesss, children, playyyy with it!”

CHILDREN [Excitedly, in unison]: “Cobra Commander!”

COBRA COMMANDER: “Yessss, playyyy with the gun. Your Parentsssss won’t mind. Look how ssssshiny and chrome plated it isssss! Don’t you want to lick it?”

CHILD NUMBER ONE: “You’re kind of a freakshow, aren’t you, sir?”

COBRA COMMANDER: “Shutup!”

CHILD NUMBER TWO: “Yeah, and what are you even doing here, didn’t you turn into a snake?”

COBRA COMMANDER: “No, well, yes, but I got better. That’sssss not important: Play with the gun, children, play with the gun!”

CHILD NUMBER ONE: “Haven’t you got like six eyes or something? But there’s no eye-holes in your mask, how can you even see?”

COBRA COMMANDER: “This whole mask is like mirrored sunglasses. Sweet, huh? It’s ground to my prescription, too, so it’s a lot more convenient than fiddling around with three sets of contact lenses, I can tell you! Doctor Mindbender whipped this thing together for me.”

CHILD NUMBER TWO: “Mindbender? I thought he was your evil implausible technologies guy…”

CHILD NUMBER ONE: “I thought he was a psychotic dentist…”

COBRA COMMANDER: “You’re both right, but he’s also Cobra’s opthomologist. That way he gets two paychecks.”

CHILD NUMBER TWO: “Shouldn’t that be three paychecks?”

COBRA COMMANDER: “We don’t trust him to work on our teeth for obvious reasons. Anyway, Mindbender’s great at the eye thing, much better than the previous Cobra Ophthalmologist, Snake Eyes.”

CHILD NUMBER ONE: “Wait, Snake Eyes the ninja? He used to be in Cobra?”

COBRA COMMANDER: “No, no, different guy, same name. We had to kill him. Anyway, play with the gun already!”

CHILD NUMBER TWO [Shrugs]: “Ok. EAT LEAD, YOU REDS!”

[BANG!]

CHILD NUMBER TWO: “Oh, God, Timmy!”

COBRA COMMANDER: “Exxxxxelent!”

CHILD NUMBER TWO [Sad voice]: “Now I know.”

COBRA COMMANDER: “And knowing is half the battle!”

[Cue Music]: “Geeeeee Eyeeeee Joeeeee!”

[Fade to Black]

 

 

*- I’m mostly joking here: The 1970 regulations are entirely real, but the second rule was removed during the Reagan administration, and the third rule faded out sometime between the 80s and 90s. The first rule was removed during the Clinton administration, but remains informally in place as a general guideline.

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