August 3, 2009, - 1:37 pm

False Patriotism: “G.I. Joe” Director Says Vietnam Vets are “Steroids” Users, Not “Elite”, not “the Best”; Removes America From Foreign Ads

By Debbie Schlussel

So far, Paramount–the studio behind “G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra“–hasn’t scheduled a critics’ screening in my area, a sure sign it’s a dud.  Another sign it stinks:  it’s being released in the movie graveyard of August.  The movie opens Friday.


“G.I. Joe” Director Stephen Sommers Disses Vietnam Vets

But the dim prospects of this movie haven’t prevented the likely lackluster movie’s director from dissing Vietnam veterans as steroid users who aren’t “elite” and aren’t “the best” and saying his military-themed movie isn’t for Republicans (it’s for Obama-niks).

When it comes to selling “G.I. Joe” outside the U.S., the message is “this is not a George Bush movie — it’s an Obama world,” director Stephen Sommers said. “Right from the writing stage we said to ourselves, this can’t be about beefy guys on steroids who all met each other in the Vietnam War, but an elite organization that’s made up of the best of the best from around the world.”

Yup, all Vietnam vets are steroid-using average guys who aren’t exactly the best or elite–that’s the view of those in Hollywood who got their baloney Vietnam war history from movies like “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Oh, and the studio deleted all references to American patriotism in the movie ads . . . you know, to please America-haters overseas.

Overseas, where big action films often earn 60% or more of their ticket sales, rah-rah American sentiment doesn’t play well. So those references have vanished from the advertising.

Um, just who do they think “G.I. Joe” is–a Muslim from Riyadh? I suppose Elvis’ real name is Ahmed Al-Presley, too.

And while dissing veterans who bravely fought–and many of whom gave their lives or limbs–and America itself, that doesn’t prevent the studio from hypocritically marketing the movie to  . . . the military.

Nearly 1,000 service members and their families at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland got to see something Friday night that very few people in Hollywood have seen — “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” the last big-budget action movie of the summer.

Paramount Pictures gave the movie its homeland premiere at the base for Air Force One, flying out its stars Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller and Marlon Wayans for a helicopter tour, meetings with the base commander and airmen, and a red carpet replete with paparazzi and billowing American flags.

Launching the film to a military audience is just one part of a highly atypical marketing and publicity campaign for “G.I. Joe,” which opens nationwide and in most foreign markets this Friday. Paramount is sidestepping the traditional Hollywood showcase and courting of the national print media in favor of taking the picture directly to America’s heartland.

“G.I. Joe” is embedded in the Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tour, advertised at the Country Music Television Awards and excerpted on giant video screens at Minnesota’s Mall of America. It is bombarding Kansas City, Charlotte, Columbus and Grand Rapids on new digital billboards.

The subtext is none too subtle: Critics are likely to roast the film, and fanboys of the original toy line and comic book may be indifferent, but if you’re a flag-waving, Nascar-loving American, it’s practically your patriotic duty to see this movie.

Paramount’s decision to focus so heavily on just one segment of the audience illustrates — in a market increasingly fragmented by demographics and swayed by word of mouth via Twitter, text messages and Facebook updates — the lengths to which studios will go to maximize early exposure among audiences most likely to embrace a film and minimize it for everyone else.

“Our starting point for this movie is not Hollywood and Manhattan but rather mid-America,” Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said. “There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority. But we’re making them a priority.”

Ah, diss the middle American military types who fought in Vietnam . . . and then market your fake patriotism to them. That’s the ticket.

I will be seeing G.I.Joe: Rise of the Cobra for review (even if the studio doesn’t pick up the tab). And I’ll keep all of this in mind when I review it.

Remember the saying, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”?  If the guy we’re talking about is director Stephen Sommers, that trite adage is the understatement of the year.

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21 Responses

I wasn’t aware Vietnam vets were on steroids. When did this come out?

John Hamer on August 3, 2009 at 2:00 pm

If I recall correctly, the whole point of G.I. Joe was that he was a “Real American Hero” “G.I.Joe is there…” I should know because my Barbie doll dated G.I. Joe. (On more than one occasion) You know, that Ken was just too milquetoast, too wimpy. I have a catchphrase for this movie:
“Just Say No to G.I. Joe”

RoadsScholar on August 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm

And the same can be said for me- I detested barbie, but Ken even more- when I was in grammar school we had a geeky kid named Desmond whose granola parents instilled in him the fear of anything pro-military. He got a GI Joe (AF Pilot no less) one Christmas and he was afraid he would rot in hell if he even touched it. I did the humanitarian thing, and saved his mortal soul by taking it off his hands. I had great imaginary fun with it (at age 9 or so) with GI Joe the Pilot beating the crap out of airliner hijacker Ken, and pushing him out the borading hatch at 40,000 feet. It’s Freudian maybe that I married an AF officer a dozen years later:D

Anyway, if they have changed the whole premise of GI Joe as an iconic American hero, they should rename the movie Jihadi Josef, give the main characters suicide belts and AK47’s and camels to ride- just call it like it is.

Mistress_Dee on August 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    “An elite force form around the world”? Hello! Jihad doesn’t begin to cover it.Try one world government. Oh that’s right we get there thru the one world religion, Islam.
    BTW dee, love your sense of humor.

    MK750 on August 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

Way to take a quote out of context, Debbie. He said “This can’t be about beefy guys on steroids who all met each other in the Vietnam War”….

I’m pretty sure the implication is not that guys in ‘Nam were all on roids, but rather that this movie has to be about an elite team of super-military fighters, rather than people from a war just put on steroids… Since all the members of this elite group in the movie are on “steroids” to some extent. The steroids part was clearly in relation to the movie’s plotline, and not a reality of the Vietnam War.

It’s a subtle distinction though, I can see how you would miss it…

Although I will say that this movie still looks terrible.

JD: Ah, so I took “out of context” where he said that Vietnam Vets are not what he was looking for b/c he wants the “elite,” the “best”? Nice try, no cigar. DS

John Doe on August 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Now Debbie, you’re too smart to not know that “elite” in the context of this movie refers to superhuman… He said a few things all together and I can see why they could get mixed up, but I think it doesn’t take much thinking about the quote to get that the parallel for the line about “elite” was the line about “steroids”…. He wanted an elite group of fighters, not people on steroids. Vietnam War vets were just mentioned as an example of any military group.

    John Doe on August 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Sorry, Debbie. We are no longer allowed to say “No cigar” Tobacco reference. Uhmm, “No dice” is out, it implies Gambling. Let’s see,“No deal”? Nope, implies Capitalism. How about “Nice try, No energy”? Everyone loves energy.

RoadsScholar on August 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Typical0looks like crap anyway. If I want to see a movie about heroes, i’ll wait for Lone Survivor to come out as a movie, or I’ll watch saving private ryan or read Blackhawk Down or The Gift of Valor(which is about MOH recipient Jason Dunham from Scio NY)

mindy abraham on August 3, 2009 at 7:33 pm

So it will be just like the last (pc) Superman movie when Perry White said:

“Does he still stand for Truth, Justice and all that other stuff?”

ender on August 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Dude, this movie was craptastic the moment I saw the trailer. I’m sorry but it does not scream anything close to “GI Joe” at all.

Squirrel3D on August 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I’m not going to see that moving pile of unAmerican crap from Hollyweird.

Bobby'sBrain on August 3, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I am a Vietnam Era veteran. I was not stationed in Vietnam.

I never took steroids, nor do I know anyone at that time who did take steroids.

Perhaps Sommers took steroids and his brain has turned to mush.

Or his prejudice and animosity is showing.

William on August 4, 2009 at 2:41 am

Quoting mindy abraham, “Typical0looks like crap anyway. If I want to see a movie about heroes, i’ll wait for Lone Survivor to come out as a movie, or I’ll watch saving private ryan or read Blackhawk Down or The Gift of Valor(which is about MOH recipient Jason Dunham from Scio NY)

mindy abraham on August 3, 2009 at 7:33 pm”


What is “Lone Survivor?”

One avenue I have when I have a hankering to watch a “Hero” is I just watch “Enter the Dragon” starring Bruce Lee.

Bruce was born in the USA and is/was a US citizen. He moved back to Heong Gong (“Hong Kong” or “Fragrant Harbor”) area in China when US film makers ignored him due to his Chinese ethnicity, and put in sub par actors/martial artists in movies instead.

He takes on 94 opponents from the beginning of the movie till the end, including Jackie Chan when he was an extra-stunt man before he became famous. He uses his empty hands and feet, staff, Kali-Escrima sticks, Nunchaku, the works.

No wires. No CGI. All Bruce Lee, moving like lightning, with great technique, and putting a hurtin’ on the bad guys.

Some of the Chuck Norris flicks, like “Invasion USA” and “Delta Force” were okay when one has a hankerin’ for a good ‘ole US hero standing up to the bad guys.

Who can forget the “Rambo” series?

William on August 4, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Lone Survivor is th story of Four Navy SEALS trying to capture a Afghan warlord-they get spotted by a group of shepards, get ratted outt by them and have to fight for their lives-One of them, Michael Murphy is a fellow Long Islander who gets the MOH for bravery. All the others get Navy Crosses. Only one survives, by hiding in a remote village for a few days. NOT P.C. at all, just a good book about brave people

    mindy abraham on August 4, 2009 at 6:37 pm

“I suppose Elvis’ real name is Ahmed Al-Presley, too”

No, but Elvis WAS a two-bit thief who stole the great music of black artists and watered it down to make it safe for white kids to listen to.

PSF: Are you suggesting the Black artists he stole from aren’t American? If not, your point doesn’t contradict a thing I said. DS

Proud Slayer Fan on August 4, 2009 at 9:21 am

Look at the bright side. This is another in a long line of money losers that drains cash from those oversized children in liberal hollywood. Imagine how bad it would be if they could actually make money and not steal it from liberal investors and studios.

Ray on August 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

It’s a pity that I’ll likely have to go see this one because I’m a big fan of the original series. If you want to see some real hard-core GI Joe, check out the recent Cartoon Network GI Joe animated movie. It’s a self-contained unit (though you have to know the mythology of the show to know the characters) and it’s seriously military. It’s the movie they should have made.

It’s doubly a pity because ‘Cobra’ and ‘Cobra Commander’ could make such a wonderful villain. He is faceless so there are no color or race issues, and all of his power is in ideology and the foolishness of his followers.

luagha on August 4, 2009 at 1:42 pm

So all of professional baseball is Vietnam Vets? Steroids are bad.

FeFe on August 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

With the internet, all the knowledge of the world is at one’s finger tips. So it’s not that hard to fact check. But apparently it was for this blog.

The infamous quote: “This can’t be about beefy guys on steroids who all met each other in the Vietnam War, but an elite organization that’s made up of the best of the best from around the world.”

Fact: The quote has nothing to do with real world vets. Duh. It’s spoken in context to the IN-FICTION mythos of G.I. Joe; in which many of them were pretty buff (“steroids” used as sarcasm in reference to the huge muscles men have in comic books), and most of the core team were combat vets who served in the Vietnam War and were recruited into the G.I. Joe team in 1982. That’s what Sommers was referring to. He wasn’t insulting our vets, he was talking about the fictional history of the G.I. Joe team members.

Now, if you weren’t a fan of G.I. Joe, then you may not know the intricate mythology or origins. That’s understandable. But before one bashes a director for being un-American, one can at least spend 15 minutes researching the material before posting it. There are plenty of interviews online with Larry Hama; the man who wrote almost all of the G.I. Joe mythology, so there is no excuse for this blatantly misleading and knee-jerk blog except for laziness or a slanted op-ed.

W: Nice try, but you didn’t answer the part where Sommers says that he was looking for an “elite” unit, “the best,” which was clearly juxtaposed against the Vietnam Vets. There’s no getting around that. That’s what he said, and that’s what he meant. You sound like Bill Clinton trying to redefine the words “is” and “sex.” And, oh yeah, I did fact check. Everything I posted was a direct quote, and I linked to the original article. The “misleading” “knee jerk[ing]” here is yours. And BTW, interesting how you don’t have an explanation for the removal of “rah-rah America” stuff from the movie’s foreign ads, b/c you know there isn’t one . . . other than whoring to America haters for money, as I noted in this entry. Again, nice try, no cigar. DS

Werecat on August 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I also think Debbie took the quote out of context, in that Sommers was referring to the Marvel GI Joe series, in which most of the older male Joes were Vietnam vets.

That said, while I’ll go see this to let my inner child out for a little bit, Sommers really did the fans like myself a huge disservice. Larry Hama’s emphasis that Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Stalker were all decorated Vietnam vets was something for a time when the typical stereotypical Vietnam vet was Rambo or some drugged-out nutcase loser (if I’m not repeating myself). Hama treated the Vietnam veteran with a great deal of respect–at one point, one of Stalker’s fellow LRRP veterans, who spent years in a POW camp, is shown being spit on by a hippie when he gets home. Disillusioned with America, he joins Cobra–though he later finds some closure and peace in a rather moving story, for what was essentially a comic aimed at teenaged boys with money on their hands.

Given Sommers’ desire to make GI Joe more “palatable” for foreign audiences, I imagine he won’t mention Hama’s reason for Snake-Eyes’ hideous facial burns and his inability to speak: he was badly injured in a helicopter accident based directly on the Eagle Claw disaster at Desert One in 1978. Must’nt offend the Iranians, doncha know. (I am looking forward to seeing Ray Park in action, though.)

Sommers’ comments about this being an “Obama world” I find rather ironic. In the comics, Cobra Commander started his organization because he hated big business, and was essentially a community organizer who wanted to change America from within by any means possible. That sounds rather familiar.

Pikachu on August 12, 2009 at 5:14 am

The living model for the original G.I.Joe action figure was a WWII MOH winner, a Marine Named Mitchell Paige. He was the son of Serbian immigrants. The parents had “Americanised” their name from Pajaic to Paige.

I believe Mitchell was born in the Pittsburgh.Pa. area.

I had the honor of meeeting the hero back in the early 1990’s at a patriotic event in California.

Sewsalot on May 31, 2010 at 12:32 pm

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