The comic series did an even better job than the cartoon. In a 1986 interview Larry Hama had this to say on the female following of his G.I.Joe comic series - "Most of the girls that write in say that the reason they like the comic is that the women characters are simply part of the team. They’re not treated as any different from the other team members. They don’t go around with their palms nailed to their foreheads. They’re competent, straight forward, and they go ahead and get the job done. They also participate emotionally. They have their likes and dislikes. They’re not ill-treated and they’re not running around being worrywarts." I couldn't find the exact quote but I seem to remember somewhere him saying that he just writes female characters the same way he writes the male characters, and he couldn't understand why that was so revolutionary.
Back to the films, I didn't complain too much on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra about the portrayal of women even though it did have issues. Scarlet was adequately done, but didn't totally make up for the fact that the first film completely undercut the Baroness, changing her from a competent, self-driven villain into a brainwashed damsel in distress. Though, seriously, having only two female characters of note is also a mighty large black mark against it.
Then G.I. Joe: Retaliation comes along and again only has two female characters, one a collection of tropes and the other a pointless ninja.
Starting with the second, they seemed to have included Jinx because they needed to have more than one woman in the movie but they didn't really have a place for her. She doesn't actually contribute to the plot in any way and could have been completely left out without any changes being necessary. And I don't know if the demure acting was from the actress or due to direction, but it flies in the face of the fiery attitude shown in the original character portrayals of the comics and cartoon.
While Jinx seemed to be an afterthought, Lady Jaye is an example of overcompensation due to a lack of understanding. She's an expert sniper, whiz at computers and communication equipment, and can go undercover and manipulate bad guys with “the power of her hotness.” This wouldn't seem so out of place in G.I. Joe, an organization full cross-functional experts, except for the fact that her male counterpart teammate, Flint, doesn't do much of anything except contribute the single most offensive moment in the film. To add depth to Lady Jaye's character they gave her a backstory where her dad wanted a boy so she was driven to prove him wrong by getting promoted past him, but was denied this closure by his premature death. Can you hear my eyes rolling? Daddy issues? Evidently it never occurred to them that a woman could be successful and driven on her own merits, and need not prove herself to and require the approval of men.
Speaking of the men, there's a scene where Flint uses the reflection in some surface (don't remember exactly what it was) to watch Lady Jaye strip out of her hot red dress of infiltration without her know it. So was he caught and clocked in the face for his transgression? No, no he wasn't it. Despite the fact that Lady Jaye knocking the arrogant Flint down a peg or two was a part of the character dynamic in the comics and cartoons, the incident instead goes undiscovered and we are shown that it's ok to be a voyeur. What? Seriously? Yes, seriously, because obviously the prurient needs of men is more important than showing respect to women. This is why we can't have nice things.
Look, I didn't expect much out of the movie, I just wanted to see Dwayne Johnson in a fun action role and that's what we got. (And he was, as always, a lot of fun to watch.) We got a typical action movie, and as such it carries all the problems, cliches, and tropes that they entail. Like the Michael Bay Transformers movies, the G.I. Joe films only have a surface understanding of the property and completely miss many of the deeper qualities that have made it endure for decades.