Flashback Fridays: Power Rangers

Before there were Michael Bay movies and edgy Zack Snyder comic book movies, there were the 90’s. The 90’s came pre-packaged with so much cheesy pop culture that it gave birth to more ridiculous cartoon themed music than the 80’s (a dangerous opinion, I know). But crowned king atop all the cheesy cartoons and Saturday morning kids shows was Power Rangers. It all began when that iconic guitar solo started blaring for the first time and the words “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” first graced the television screens all across America.

Haim Saban’s “Mighty Morphin” series debuted in 1993, but its legacy had begun far before that. In fact, the show had taken much of its footage from a Japanese genre of shows named Super Sentai. These shows tended to all be about a group of three or five do-gooders who would almost always be granted special powers that enabled them to use super strength, run at super speed, wield fake swords, and look a lot like...well, Power Rangers.

After Saban found success with the initial Power Rangers series, he adapted each subsequent Power Rangers show after different Super Sentai series; that’s why there are so many ridiculously named “Rangers” shows: “Wild Force," “Ninja Storm," and “Lost Galaxy” included.

Even when the first all-American Power Ranger was introduced in “Power Rangers: Lightspeed Force," he couldn’t be put to much use as he was limited by budget problems. The rest of the Rangers in that series were even more recycled Super Sentai characters, so it was hard for Ryan Mitchell, the American titanium-colored Ranger, to really do anything with the rest of his team. For the most part, though, the footage recycling was a recipe for success.

However, even though Saban got extremely lucky with his five “teenagers with attitude," that didn’t necessarily mean that the Power Rangers never had problems outside of Rita Repulsa’s constantly growing monsters.

Though it was extremely popular, it met the wrath of concerned parents around the country when the “Mighty Morphin” series first debuted. Many parents felt it was too heavy with violence and some even thought the second main villain, the fleshless Lord Zedd, was too mature for a children’s television program.

The cast wasn’t immune to unfortunate situations either. Actor David Yost, who portrayed the original Blue Ranger, soon left the series after the “Power Rangers Zeo” season, apparently due to insufficient pay. It wasn’t until years later in a 2010 interview with Rangers-centric news site No Pink Spandex that he revealed he had left the “Power Rangers” production because he had grown tired of the production crew harassing him for being gay. Yost admitted to having a nervous breakdown and even contemplating suicide.

Even today, the “Power Rangers” series continues to find trouble. When a short film named “Power/Rangers,” directed by Joseph Kahn found its way to the internet, controversy arose.

“Power/Rangers” is itself considered a “de-boot” by Kahn, a sort of parody of the hyper-violent reboot film adaptations in Hollywood as of late. The short film finds the original Rangers team, now more matured, R-rated version of their former selves in a dark, grim future where every Ranger is being hunted by the government.

In the short, the original Black Ranger infiltrates and murders North Korean forces. The original Red Ranger is revealed to have become evil, and most of the fun-loving “Mighty Morphin” team is dead. Needless to say, this was not the Power Rangers that people grew up with.

Kahn’s film brought forth judgement from Saban himself, who argued that the characters were used without his permission. Kahn, however, retaliated, tweeting that every image in the film was original footage and that he was making no money off of the film. He also argued that the film should be protected, because it was only a parody and not a legitimate adaptation of “Power Rangers." It all goes to show that the Rangers’ deadliest enemies aren’t quickly-growing monsters, but quickly-growing lawsuits.

“Power Rangers” remains kicking today, despite all the feuds, homophobia, and violence. Its twenty second season, “Power Rangers: Dino Charge," which debuted this February, looks just as ridiculous as ever as it promises intergalactic bounty hunters and dinosaur robots.

The brand’s survival proves it’s pretty difficult to take down a bunch of teenagers with attitude (and cosmic powers).