Most of us look back on the cartoons of our youth through the lens of nostalgia, but man, M.A.S.K. was horrible. I mean, just awful. It made G.I. Joe look smart, and it made He-Man look deep. And, as it turns out, it could be super, super racist, too.
We begin the episode “Sacred Rock” with an extra-stereotypical American couple taking pictures at Ayers Rock in Australia. The man tries to figure out his new, expensive camera, and what does he see but a group of Aborigines, worshipping the giant rock they call Uluru. Honestly, I am hardly up on the Aborigines' integration to modern society and what traditions, if any, they’ve kept, so I can’t say M.A.S.K. (especially in 1985) is presenting them inaccurately. I will say three things: 1) it feels weird, 2) they talk like cavemen or Native Americans from cartoons in the ‘50s, and 3) I’m pretty sure the Aborigine chief has a bunny painted on his tummy.
But no matter. The Aborigines are there specifically to worship Ayers Rock, and “ask for [its] wisdom,” which also seems suspect, because even if it’s a divine rock, it’s still a rock, and not a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul. But this is all prelude to the sudden appearance of five glowing, floating rocks, which the Aborgines start worshipping extra hard, and… uh… okay, I’m pretty sure this is racist. I have zero problem thinking Aborigines still pray to Ayers Rock, as as part of ancestral tradition or even as a current system of religion, but I seriously think the sudden appearance of five hovering rocks would be weird to them, and not be immediately attributed to a divine manifestation.
As it turns out, it’s not a god responsible for making the “dancing” rocks — it’s Miles Mayhem, leader of V.E.N.O.M., and his hologram projector. It’s part of his needlessly complicated plan, which he refuses to explain this early in the episode, which means that for all intents and purposes at the moment Miles Mayhem is simply fucking with the Australian Aborigines.
Meanwhile, Matt Trakker and his horrible son Scott have gone to Australia to pick up some pictures. You could assume that the Trakker family was taking an Australian vacation, but since this isn’t mentioned, it seems like Matt Trakker simply gets his film developed in Alice Springs for some reason. Anyways, the American tourist from the beginning of the episode is there, only to discover none of his pictures of the floating rocks have turned out; Matt, having decided “dancing rocks” is such a fascinating subject that he is completely justified in inserting himself into the conversation, listens as the completely white photo store owner tells him that the Aborigines believe the dancing rocks are “Mimi,” the god who lives in Ayers Rock (which, of course, is an impressively inaccurate and oversimplified version of the actual legend of the Mimi — there’s more than one — but whatever).
Trakker, who makes a stunning deduction that “dancing” Aboriginal rocks must be part of some V.E.N.O.M. scheme, grabs the pictures and takes them back to M.A.S.K. HQ to be re-developed with whatever M.A.S.K. tech handles film negatives, meaning it’s even more ridiculous Matt got his film developed in a store. Maybe M.A.S.K. has a firm policy about not using company resources for personal use.
While Matt, Scott, the wretched robot T-Bob and Bruce “Magic” Sato head to Ayres Rock, Brad “Chopper” Turner wanders into an Aborigine village and — I am not making this up — tries to investigate by asking hem about Mimi in English, immediately causing all of the Aborigines to cry and whimper. So Brad has to soothe these poor, uncivilized bastards by playing them his guitar. This works, because it is the ‘80s and he is a white person.
At Ayers Rock, the Aborigines are chanting in a way that also seems super-racist, but I don't have enough knowledge to prove definitively. However, I'm pretty confident about this part: Scott says it looks like they’re doing a “water dance,” even though they’re lying prostrate on the ground, because Scott is horrible. So horrible, in fact, he decides to climb Ayers Rock with T-Bob to get a better look.
This goes as well as you would think, which is to say not at all, and Scott and T-Bob end up falling down Ayers Rock and somehow 1) landing on the tent that makes up VENOM’s base of operations for this completely ludicrous endeavor (and breaking the hologram generator) but also landing in front of the Aborigines, who declare Scott — the 10-year-old white boy — to be their Sky God.
THIS IS RACIST AS SHIT. I can’t know for sure how Aborigines feel about Ayers Rock, or how they might react to seeing “dancing rocks” at their holy site. I do know, however, that in 1985 they’ve seen white boys before, and they know white boys are not gods, even if they fall off Ayers fucking Rock. At least the Aborigines have enough sense to know T-Bob isn’t a god, despite being a sentient robot shaped like an egg with legs.
Anyways, you’d think that losing the hologram projector would be problematic for Mayhem and VENOM, but not so! Miles is in the neighborhood when the Aborigines proclaim Scott Trakker their Sky God, and mention they’re going to take him to their temple. Which, of course, is what this is all about; the Aborigines have a secret temple hidden in Ayers Rock, full of gold and jewels and other treasure which would only make sense if Aborigines were pirates. Miles is after the treasure, and somehow decided that a elaborate scheme with fake holographic rocks was a better idea that just using his heavily armed helicopter that transforms into a jet to scare the shit of them.
The Aborigines take Scott and T-Bob to their temple and lock them in, inadvertently doing the rest of humanity an immense favor, while V.E.N.O.M. regroups to attack Ayers Rock, which they think will somehow expose the temple and not bury it beneath tons of rubble, because the members of V.E.N.O.M. are imbeciles.
But M.A.S.K. has the solution, and that solution is to have Brad’s helmet, which can project holographic images without any limitations on size, distance or quality, apparently, and make it look like Ayres Rock has transformed into a rock giant — the Aborigines’ Mimi, come to take vengeance on V.E.N.O.M. This works completely, even though all of V.E.N.O.M.’s weapons pass harmlessly through the image, and even though V.E.N.O.M. used hologram technology earlier in the episode, and in fact their whole goddamn plan was based on holograms. The idea that this rock giant might not be real never crosses any of their minds (see aforementioned note about V.E.N.O.M. being staffed entirely by imbeciles).
Scott has Brad make the giant tell the Aborigines to free their 10-year-old Sky God, and the horror of Scott Trakker and T-Bob is loosed again upon the Earth. And supposedly this is a happy ending, somehow.
What Did We Learn?
• A lot of inaccurate shit about the Australian Aborgines.
• The Aborigines have tons of money, but they’re saving it all for their sky-god, so really, their abject poverty is a personal decision on their part.
• White boys are easily mistaken for divine beings.
• Aborigines have one of two reactions to floating, glowing rocks: abject worship or fearful tears.
• Aborigines can be soothed with guitar music, much like savage beasts.
• One of VENOM’s henchman, Dagger, assumes there’s no real temple because he only sees the cave entrance to it, and without concrete visual proof of the temple's existence, assumes it doesn’t. This is like an ostrich who stick its head in the ground, assuming that if they can’t see you, you can’t see it. My point is that the members of VENOM are seriously dumb as shit.
• I will fully admit to laughing out loud at one thing T-Bob said. When Scott and T-Bob exit the temple, Scott yells “Dad! We’re okay!” Which T-Bob continues, “And in a new tax income bracket!” It’s funny, because kids have no fucking clue what tax income brackets are.