5 Reasons You Should Be Rooting For Cobra

By  · Published on March 29th, 2013

Let’s face it, bad guys get a bad rap. While people are pinning medals on the heroes just before the credits roll, somewhere across the galaxy, someone is writing hundreds of thousands of condolence notices on Death Star letterhead. Nobody ever tries to look at things from the villain’s perspective. That’s what was so great about Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, it recast bad guys in a pragmatic light. That and of course the renewed interest in Q*Bert that it engendered.

Sometimes assignment to either side of the blurry line between good and evil becomes little more than a question of employment. This week, a certain blockbuster film hit theaters…and it hit with an agenda. Sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation continues the slander campaign begun by its 2009 predecessor against the hardworking men and women of Cobra.

As much as this propaganda-filled action diatribe was aimed at painting Cobra as the most evil organization on the planet, the faulty execution of G.I. Joe Retaliation’s narrative inadvertently offers several compelling reasons why we should be swearing our allegiance to this supposed confederacy of megalomaniac scum. Here’s why you should be rooting for Cobra, and not G.I. Joe. Fair warning, there will be Retaliation spoilers ahead.

1. Superior Tech and Intel

No organization makes dubious its own mantra as does G.I. Joe. Based on what we see in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, if knowing is half the battle then the other half must be forgetting the first half. Let’s just say that when it comes to gathering intelligence, they lack one of the inherent requirements. Cobra is able to determine the location of America’s most clandestine prison and execute an elaborate escape that involves assumed identities, exceedingly advanced nanotechnology, and disintegrating exploding motorcycles. Meanwhile, the Joes are camped out in the middle of the desert with not so much as a single installation built as a contingency for, I don’t know, surprise air raids perhaps?

Compared to Cobra, the Joes might as well sit around twiddling their thumbs. Oh wait, that actually amounts to the single greatest piece of intel these “heroes” facilely procure in the film. They figure out that Cobra has installed an imposter president by…noticing he now says “kinda” instead of “umm” and favors a different thumb when his hands are clasped than he did a few months prior.

That’s when they finally decide to get a DNA sample and verify the president’s identity. The orientation of thumb placement? That’s your proof? That evidence couldn’t be thinner if it ran over a shaman’s wife in a Stephen King novel. What’s next? Pointing out the fact that all the secret service guys are openly sporting Cobra lapel pins even during press conferences? No wait, that’s way more conclusive. Why didn’t they notice that?


2. Cobra Understands Investment Portfolios

Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a moment, and no, I’m not referring to the Sega Dreamcast game that allows you to play as Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, or a velociraptor. Were Cobra to be in charge of this country, could they really screw up the economy any worse than it already is? It’s not like Cobra employed operatives named Lehman Boa, or Freddie Moccasin, or any other Wall Street asp-hole. In fact, I would submit that Cobra’s understanding of the importance of long-term investing is both paramount to their success and far exceeds the financial prowess of their enemies.

Take for example, this maneuver. Zartan kills the sensai of two small children, both of whom are training in martial arts, and makes sure one is framed for the murder. He disguises himself as a kindly old man who then takes the ostracized tyke under his wing and raises him to eventually become Storm Shadow. That’s an obscenely intricate, long-term plan to recruit an operative, and yet Cobra has the foresight to know the potential benefits of investing in this human resource. At the very least, it’s a moving testament to their adherence to the No Ninja Child Left Behind initiative.

Now let’s consider the other side of the adversarial fence here. Consider once more the aforementioned prison Cobra was able to infiltrate. The United States government had to have spent billions of dollars on this massive, subterrean prison located in Germany. It is built so deep into the Earth that massive nuclear reactors needed to be installed to keep the temperature regulated. Sure, that sounds safe.

So how many inmates does this leviathan structure hold? Three. Three goddamned cryostasis tubes. All that tax-payer money expended on a highly inefficient, unstable, low-capacity penitentiary that isn’t even on sovereign US soil? While we’re being cost-effective, instead of bullets, why not have the G.I. Joes fire mint, in-the-box G.I. Joe action figures. Oh, and let them replace their hand grenades with Faberge eggs loaded with diamond shrapnel…also their uniforms are made of saffron.

3. Cobra’s Progressive Nuclear Disarmament Plan

It may seem to the untrained (or open) eye that Cobra is out to nuke the entire world and bask in the chaos. In fact, if you examine their overall scheme more closely, they are actually looking to end the nuclear arms race entirely. When they invade the summit of the global nuclear superpowers, the first thing they do is force all attending countries to fire, and then immediately destroy their own ICBMs. Sure, Cobra has Project: Zeus, an orbiting WMD delivery system, but they understand that when it comes to nuclear weapons, the world must be united under one banner in order to maintain peace. No borders, no separate nations, no conflict. War would forever be abolished. Cobra Commander is basically one hacky sack and a tie-dye cape away from being re-dubbed Hippie Honcho.

4. G.I. Joe Allowed London To Be Destroyed

One could make the argument that Cobra’s assault on the city of London, vis a vis bombing the ever-living shit out of it and leaving it a smoldering cinder, negates their progressive views on eliminating nuclear war. I grant you that; everybody gets one. But ask yourself if the destruction of London could have been avoided. When Cobra Commander initiates the release of that missile from the Zeus satellite, the Joes actually have undercover operatives in the room. We know this, because seconds after London is leveled, they spring their surprise ambush.

Hey, geniuses, I’m sure the people of what used to be London would’ve really appreciated you removing your thumbs (whichever ones are dominant) from your asses a few seconds sooner. And once Cobra is defeated by film’s end, not a single word of condolence is offered re: the loss of one of the planet’s most prominent cities. Are we still holding a grudge from The Revolutionary War? Does Roadblock just fervently hate Downton Abbey?

5. Cobra is Far Less Fascist

You have been lead to believe that Cobra is some horrible totalitarian organization whose ultimate goal is the complete subjugation of the human race. This is, to quote medical text, a giant load. Cobra is an international corporation that creates thousands upon thousands of jobs every year in both manual labor and scientific and engineering fields. They are independently financed, and therefore free of government control, and yet they take it upon themselves to provide health care to their employees that includes worker’s compensation. Just look at the state-of-the-art facility to which they sent Storm Shadow when he was injured on the job.

We’ve been trained throughout our history to abhor the idea of fascism, it is engrained in us from birth as citizens of this great nation. And rightfully so. But ask yourself this question, of the two warring entities in this film, who is truly the more fascist?

G.I. Joes take their name from one former leader. A leader, mind you, who has long-since retired and can’t be bothered to look interested in his work at any point that he is on screen. A leader who demeans females under his command by barking at them, “shut your mouth, Brenda” even if that is not their name. Cobra Commander on the other hand, takes his name directly from his organization. He understands the importance of the group over the individual. You could maybe more aptly accuse Cobra of being socialist, but then again, that word has become a catchall criticism in American politics. It is therefore a word that has lost all meaning, like “jiggy” or “Grammy.”


Half The Battle

So there you have it, a look over the fence at our supposed enemies. It is high time the clinical definitions of good and evil be discarded. The Joes themselves represent a massive contradiction of the current standardized classifications. Were we to judge them strictly down the lines of good and evil paradigm, would the purported “good” ninja dress in black while his sinister counterpart wore white? The black-hat/white-hat alignments go back to the days of the American western. Not only that, but many of Cobra’s vehicles and operatives are assigned serpentine labels; an effort to further demonize these beautiful invertebrates. In spite of this, the black-clad benevolent ninja working for the Joes is called…Snake Eyes?

Now you know.

Editor’s Note: I’ve added this without Brian knowing:

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.