The new Snake Eyes movie comes out today and people have been complaining about it ever since Henry Golding was announced to play the titular hero. As the resident GI-Joe fanatic and self-proclaimed expert (stay tuned for my upcoming article showing how Cobra was more American than the GI-Joe team!), I felt the need to address the controversy academically with carefully considered proof as to why it’s wrong to be upset by this development.
(My first thought was to point out that the only people upset by this casting are racist dickbags, which, while accurate, may not have been as effective in getting the point across.)
A few facts to ensure that everybody is on the same starting point:
“But wait!” I hear you say (which is really weird because my speakers are muted and this isn’t a live stream), “Snake Eyes still appears in GI-Joe comics every month!
You are correct — which is also part of why it’s wrong to be upset or unhappy about Henry Golding’s being cast in the role.
For the past six years, Snake Eyes has been someone else entirely - either Sean Collins, the son of Snake Eyes’ Vietnam platoon member Wade Collins, or Dawn Moreno, a young woman who had Snake Eyes’ mind imprinted onto her own by Cobra’s Brainwave Scanner.
Which brings us to the present. There are, technically, two Snake Eyes’ running around being badass and mysterious and slicing shit up with Arashikage steel.
Quite frankly, while I have loved Snake Eyes since I first discovered GI-Joe, it’s better this way. The original Snake Eyes was an Aryan poster boy - blond hair, blue eyes, strong, brave, volunteering for the Army to fight “The Commies” in Vietnam and serving in one of the most dangerous assignments around, Long Range Recon Patrol.
But while that all came about during the hyper-nationalistic 1980’s, the America that Snake Eyes represented was a lie. It’s fitting that the original Snake Eyes was hideously disfigured underneath his mask - that is the truest representation of America; a rough exterior that exudes cool but is twisted and irreparably broken underneath the thin veneer that we choose to let the world see. Snake Eyes even helped form Cobra (long story - go read Snake Eyes: Declassified, you’ll thank me for it), the very organization that he would literally spend the rest of his life fighting.
So here we are - a rebooting and reimagining of the character, brought into the modern day. From what I’ve been able to piece together from trailers and early reactions, this story is entirely detached from all known GI-Joe mythology in every way, save for the names of the characters and a few key details…and if you can accept that, then you have no excuse not to accept Henry Golding as Snake Eyes because Snake Eyes doesn’t belong to you. Like we learned from Into the Spider Verse, it can be anybody under the mask - and A Real American Hero only needs to be A Real American, which Henry Golding is (or at least playing, he is British in real life).
So you can cry and say “This isn’t my Snake Eyes” (spoiler alert: none of them are “yours”) but that’s just going to tell us all that you never really understood Snake Eyes in the first place, or even what it means to be A Real American. But even more than my own opinion, if anybody can be said to claim Snake Eyes as their own, it’s Larry Hama - creator of the GI-Joe characters and comics, and he’s on board with it.