Good intentions gone wrong: 1990s Power Rangers

As a kid the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” was my favorite show to watch. I would race home after school, get my mom to turn on Fox Kids and enjoy the next 30 minutes of karate chopping, sword wielding, back flipping, teenagers fighting against the forces of evil. The show premiered on August 28, 1993 and was the first entry to the Power Rangers franchise in the US. The series was popular enough to get a feature film Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, released by 20th Century Fox on June 30, 1995.

The cast was pretty cool. Outside of the karate chopping and back flipping, each Power Ranger came from a various, ethnically different, backgrounds. There was an Asian Power Ranger, an African American Power Ranger and even a Native American Power Ranger! Fox obviously went out of their way to make sure every demographic was covered and that anyone could be a power ranger! The only issue with their attempt at diversity was the assigned suits for each ranger.

Image result for 1993 power rangersThe Native American ranger was the Red Power Ranger.

The Asian ranger was the Yellow Power Ranger.

The pink power ranger had a skirt whereas the yellow ranger didn’t.

The African American ranger was the Black Power Ranger.

Hold up, what?!

If you’re unfamiliar with racial slurs, let me enlighten you. A slur for a Native American would be to call them “redskin.” A slur for a person of Asian decent would be to call them “Yellow.” I don’t think I have to explain the African American slurs, but why couldn’t the only African American man on the show be the blue ranger? Or literally any other color besides the “black” power ranger. Oh Fox…you tried to be inclusive.

As a kid, I didn’t notice these subliminal racial messages but as an adult and a cosplayer I noticed them greatly. Before anyone argues that I’m just looking for “race issues” in our favorite childhood memories, even Hollywood knew the original power rangers show was wrong for their racial casting. In the newest movie that came out in 2017, the cast was completely overhauled and way more racially “woke.”

Image result for 2017 power rangersThe Red Power ranger is Australian.

The Yellow Power ranger is Hispanic.

The Pink Power ranger is Indian-British.

The Blue Power ranger is African American.

The Black Power ranger is Chinese-Canadian. So. Much. Better.

Image result for black power ranger battle axeSo why am I digging up our (let’s assume we’re the same age) childhood and tearing it apart? Because the Power Rangers was a great attempt at having a diverse cast and seeing that on screen was amazing. But it’s ruined by low-key racial terms that, if don’t know are racial slurs, then you won’t think twice about why an Asian person is upset over always being the “Yellow Ranger.” The fact that Hollywood went out of their way to keep a diverse cast but made sure that none of the colors for each ranger could be implied in some sneaky racial insult shows that the original power rangers had issues. Hell, the 90s power rangers gave the black ranger a gun. Yes, the called it a “battle ax that can turn into a cannon” but we all knew what it really was. It was a gun.

Racial undertones are important to point out in our media and in our cosplay community. As we continue to grow as a community we need to realize some of our favorite childhood shows – even with good intentions – had issues and as adult cosplayers we need to make sure our current media doesn’t repeat itself.

What are your thoughts about the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”? Are you a die hard fan? Did I miss any important notes? Feel free to drop a comment!

 

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