The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Not as insensitive as you might think.
So…when you look at “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” it appears to be color coded by both race and gender. The Black Power Ranger is African American, the Yellow Ranger is Asian American. The Pink Ranger is a white girl, and later, even though the Caucasian Rangers get a choice of color, the second the White Ranger appears, he’s in charge.
Said that way, it seems just plain AWFUL.
This is not exactly true, or on point. To prove this point, we need to go to primary sources…the actors who played the Rangers themselves. Apparently, from the source, the colors were coincidental.
Most of the footage from the first couple seasons of MMPR came from stock footage from the original Japanese show on which Power Rangers was based, Super Sentai. The original show dated from the 1970s and boasted over 30 seasons; the 16th season of Super Sentai is what inspired the first couple seasons of Power Rangers. We are talking about the action footage here, people. Anyway, it proved a genius idea. Bring a low-budget (but super successful) Japanese ninja show to the U.S. and just reshoot half the episodes with young American actors. The show was an instant hit and the five young actors who played the Rangers became 1990s pop culture icons.
You just needed to cast American actors for the non-masked sequences. That’s where the whole casting issue comes in.
The original Yellow Ranger was a Hispanic-American actress named Audri Dubois who quit after shooting the original pilot when producers said she was asking for too much money. Thuy Trang was brought in to replace her. That triggered some racial accusations, according to Walter Jones who played the Black Ranger. It is important to note is that there haven’t been any Asian American Yellow Rangers since Trini, as it was considered racist as Asian people are derogatorily referred to as “yellow” (this correlation was noted by the segment on Power Rangers in VH1’s “I Love the ’90s”).
“Nobody really talked about me playing the Black Ranger at first,” Walter said. “But after Trang was hired everyone was like ‘Wait a minute! The Yellow Ranger is Asian and you’re the Black Ranger and you’re a Black guy.’ They were going to replace Audri Dubois with another girl either way, but she just happened to be Asian.”
The auditions prioritized physicality over acting ability. “The producers came up with Hip Hop Kido, but I was already trained in martial arts and I learned gymnastics in the streets of Detroit,” says Jones. Most of the actors’ martial arts moves were only used when the characters were in normal teenage outfits. “We didn’t do a lot of the stunts you saw in the suits because we could’ve been hurt and couldn’t go to work the next day,” says Jones. “We started shooting our own stunts later on.”
So basically, whenever you saw the Rangers in full gear, it was most likely a stunt double or old Japanese footage. That’s why in the first seasons, the Yellow Ranger is strangely androgynous…the original Japanese footage had a very slender male actor in the full body suit.
So…maybe Power Rangers was strangely transgender friendly, ahead of its time. Take a lesson, writers of the current “Batgirl of Burnside”!
Jones also remembers his Power Ranger days fondly. “Power Rangers were really cool. Not many people get to be a superhero or a role model, and that’s what was so cool about being a Power Ranger,” he said. “Every episode had a message about friendship or bullying or cleaning up the environment.”
Maybe the Red Ranger from a later series, Power Rangers Wild Force, doesn’t feel that way. Let’s look at the hastily drawn bonus art…
So…from the news media, TODAY:
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said Ricardo Medina Jr.,(Red Lion Wild Force Ranger) 36, was being held on $1 million bail late Sunday in connection with the stabbing death of Joshua Sutter, also 36, at the apartment they shared in Palmdale, Calif.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said that Medina and Sutter got into an argument that escalated into a fight shortly before 4 p.m. local time Saturday. Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez said that Medina went into his bedroom with his girlfriend and locked the door.
However, Navarro-Suarez said that Sutter forced the bedroom door open. That’s when Medina allegedly picked up the sword that he kept next to the bedroom door and stabbed Sutter once in the abdomen. Investigators said Medina called 911 himself and waited for first responders to arrive. He is due in court in Lancaster, California on Tuesday.
Looks like things aren’t so great for the Red Ranger either.
Next Issue: Norm Breyfogle needs our help!