The Secret History of G.I. Joe Barbie, Joe, Darth Vader, and Making War in Children’s Culture (Part 1)

Tom Engelhardt

Tomgram: Engelhardt, War Games
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: It’s August, a good time to relax and experiment a little. Some years ago, I wrote an idiosyncratic history of American triumphalism and the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. I filled it with the pop culture detritus of my own childhood from horror comics and nuclear-mutant movies to toy missiles and toy soldiers. While writing it, I became fascinated with the way in which an adult culture of war-making played itself out in children’s lives and also the ways in which the business of children’s culture sometimes anticipated developments in the adult world.

I’ve never posted any of the book at TomDispatch, so here’s part one of a two-parter from that book, focusing on G.I. Joe toys, the movie Star Wars, how war was stripped from children’s culture in the Vietnam era, and how it returned. Strangely, such subjects have not much interested historians. As a result, this material still seems remarkably fresh to me. My thanks go to Bruce Wilcox, who runs the University of Massachusetts Press and is the publisher of the book, for allowing me to post these excerpts (with a special bow to my superb UMass editor, Clark Dougan) — two classy guys!



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