As police academy cadet Jack Landors once said, “Heroes come in all colors”.
Landors was, of course, both a man of color and a hero himself – an African American and the Red S.P.D. Power Ranger in 2005. While Landors was certainly right that heroes come in all colors, what he failed to mention was that heroes also come in all genders, orientations, disabilities, and sizes too.
And when it comes to representing all walks of life in a superhero franchise, Power Rangers redefined what it meant to illustrate diversity among superheroes in 2017.
For starters, Power Rangers brought the first LGBT superhero to the big screen when Saban’s Power Rangers movie hit theaters in March. Trini the Yellow Ranger, portrayed by actress Becky G., transformed from a 90’s chick questioning her fear of heights to a modern-day representation of what so many people across the world are experiencing: a fear of coming out for who they truly are. Trini not only proved that it’s acceptable to be LGBT, but that people of any sexual orientation can be a superhero. The first big-screen LGBT superhero caused a media frenzy that swept the nation, and it’s both tremendous and gratifying that a franchise like Power Rangers was the first to take the plunge.
Saban’s Power Rangers movie also introduced a superhero with disabilities, as Billy the Blue Ranger, portrayed by actor RJ Cyler, was revealed to be coping with autism. A spectrum disorder that surveyed parents suggest is diagnosed among 1 in every 45 children, autism didn’t stop Billy from proving that those with the disorder are no different from anyone else, and capable of saving the world. Billy not only held his own as part of the team, he arguably stole the movie as the film’s on-screen MVP.
Outside the motion picture indsutry, Power Rangers made major strides to defy common tropes that have plagued the franchise since the 1990’s. For decades, fans have assimilated the Pink Ranger with being “the hot girl” on the team. But in 2017, the Pink Ranger became a dude, as comic book publisher BOOM! Studios delivered to fans the first male Pink Ranger. Daniel O’Halloran, a muscular political activist from the year 1969, became the first guy to don the illustrious pink spandex, proving that there is no mandated correlation between Ranger color and gender.
To sweeten the deal, BOOM! Studios also made history with the first ever female Black Ranger.
Power Rangers HyperForce, the first official licensed property to live-stream a table-top role playing game on Twitch, brought fans the first Asian Red Ranger, a plea which fans have echoed over social media for the better part of the last decade. Peter Sudarso, who portrays Marv the Red Ranger, officially entered the books as the first team leader to be of Asian descent. While the move will hardly stop fans from continuing to clamor for an Asian Red Ranger on the franchise’s iconic TV show, Marv still marks a considerable step forward towards the idea of an oriental team leader of the Power Rangers.
The table-top role playing game also introduced the first plus-sized Power Ranger, as actor Paulie Schrier made his first return to the franchise since portraying the beloved Bulk on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to become Jack the Yellow Ranger on Power Rangers HyperForce. Jack proved that heroes come in all sizes, and based on his character’s strength, sometimes bigger is better. For fans looking for a plus-sized Power Ranger to appear on the TV show, the end of their wait may be in sight as Japan’s Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger, the heavyweight favorite to become a Power Rangers season in 2019, features a plus-sized Black Ranger with a background in wrestling.
With the first LGBT Ranger, Autistic Ranger, male Pink Ranger, Asian Red Ranger, and plus-sized Ranger, Power Rangers achieved a number of noteworthy accomplishments in 2017 and destroyed a number of outdated cultural barriers along the way.
For 24 years, Power Rangers has managed to prove that it’s more than a Saturday morning kids’ TV show. It’s more than a well drawn comic book line, and it’s more than a series of plastic toys driving people mad over paint controversies. Power Rangers is, and has always been, a pioneer in representing diversity, proving that regardless of one’s ethnicity, gender, orientation, or beyond, anyone can be a hero.
Yet make no mistake, while Power Rangers in 2017 dared to charter into territories that both the franchise, and superhero genre as a whole, have never entered before, there still exists many barriers to be conquered in today’s world. Perhaps Power Rangers will continue to knock those down in 2018, and perhaps other super hero franchises will join our spandex-clad superheroes in ensuring equal representation across all walks of life.
For now, we salute Saban Brands, Lionsgate, BOOM! Studios, Hyper RPG, and all parties who made these teenagers with attitude a leader in diversity in 2017.
Thank you, Power Rangers.
Jack Landors was right. Heroes do come in all colors.
But they also come in all sizes, genders, orientations, and disabilities too.