Cue opening of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Ah, yes. It was a nice June afternoon in 1995. 1995, what a great year; when technology was rising with Windows 95 and there was a big push for diversity as well.
OK, so maybe the producers were hoping we didn’t notice this right off the bat, but… did they just make the only black guy the Black Ranger? OK, maybe it’s a coincidence, carry on.
Enter Yellow Power Ranger who is… OK, yeah, not a coincidence. She’s actually Asian. Oh…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have diverse people being shown as superheroes. However, the push for diversity fell short in its “one of each” mentality. It wasn’t a terrible idea and it did have good intentions. It was just a little cheesy. Also, there was still so much to be desired in achieving a level of diversity that would actually represent real characters.
So, 2017 had a chance to correct 1995’s mistakes, and honestly, I think they did it beautifully.
I could tell from the preview that they were already working on upgrading diversity. RJ Cyler plays the Blue Ranger. I got a kick out of the producers not automatically casting him as the Black Ranger. The movie even pokes a bit of fun at this. In one preview, when the rangers are floating in the water, there are beams of color surrounding them showing which ranger they are. Zack proclaims, “I’m black!” to which Billy responds, “No you’re not!” All of us 90’s kids got a chuckle out of that.
I can appreciate that this movie discusses diversity that isn’t always seen by the naked eye. Billy is an example of this.
Billy has a line where he tells Jason that he is “on the spectrum”. For those of you who don’t know, he was letting Jason know he is autistic. I like this scene because Jason seems to truly accept Billy for who he is. In a way, it’s a call to the audience saying that, yes, people are autistic and they don’t need to change. They can be anything a neurotypical person can be – even a superhero.
Much like Billy, the original Blue Power Ranger dealt with his fair share of bullying. In fact, the bullying got so bad that he walked off set one day. David Yost, the original Blue Power Ranger, was constantly harassed in real life for being gay. “It’s not that people can’t talk about me and have their opinion about me,” David says. “But continuing to work in an environment like that is really difficult, and I myself was struggling with who I was or what I was, and to be… made fun of on some level or to be stereotyped or put into a category in sort of saying ‘you’re not’ — basically, I just felt like I was continually being told that I’m not worthy of where I am because I’m a gay person and I’m not supposed to be an actor and you can’t be a superhero.”
This makes Trini’s reevaluation even more important. Another scene shows Trini and reveals that she is…something other than hetero. She reveals a struggle not only in figuring out her sexual identity, but also in revealing this to her parents.
Of course, David Yost was overjoyed to hear about Power Rangers including a gay ranger. “I think this is awesome for all the LGBTQI fans out there of ‘Power Rangers.’ I know that they’re very excited and I think it’s a great choice to have Becky G, she’s really out in the forefront in the Latin community… I think it’s totally a great choice and I think the fans are going to be really excited.”
In my opinion, I could see where the film made an effort to make diversity a priority. I appreciated how they attempted to shed a whole new light on diversity and inner struggles. On the other hand, I’m interested to see how diversity would evolve in another 25 years from now. And if Power Rangers is still around, I think it would be interesting to see what they would do. All things considered, I believe it can only get better from here.
So what do you guys think? Do you think Power Rangers has come a long way since 1995? Did you like how they portrayed diversity in the film, or do you feel it fell short? Sound off in the comments below!