Originally posted at Just Add Color
If you told anyone that the movie that was going to shake up the superhero genre in the best way would be the film adaptation of Power Rangers, they would be shocked and probably, in some strange, elitist, I’m-too-old-for-Power Rangers way, appalled. But Power Rangers has come out of the blue as the film when it comes to portraying a diverse group of people in a way that is both organic and makes sense for today’s world and today’s multicultural and diverse audience.
The two characters that have set Power Rangers apart from other films are Trini (the Yellow Ranger), played by Empire star and pop singer Becky G., and Billy (the Blue Ranger), played by Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s RJ Cyler. Trini is the first LGBT character in the Power Rangers universe and her story includes her coming to terms with her sexuality and her “girlfriend problems.”
“For Trini, really she’s questioning a lot about who she is. She hasn’t fully figured it out yet,” said director Dean Israelite to The Hollywood Reporter. “I think what’s great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, ‘That’s OK.’ The movie is saying, ‘That’s OK,’ and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe.”
Cyler talked to ScreenRant about how he got into character as Billy and what he learned about respectfully playing a person on the autism spectrum.
“I wanted to show a different… viewpoint of people that are seen as being on the spectrum… Or people diagnosed with autism, ’cause it’s like I feel like us being outsiders looking in and I take that, I cast my own stone when I say that, ’cause there’s a lot that I didn’t know before,” he said.
“I actually sat down and shut my mouth and actually just listened and you know, accepted every bit of information with no judgement,” he said. “I know that it was my job to show, you know, that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people, literally just how we talk, how me and [Becky G] talk, they feel the same way, they have the same emotions, they wanna be loved… they want relationships; they want, you know, connections, and it’s just like I was really excited to be able to play that ’cause I know it means so much to so many people, ’cause all of us are affected by it… and it’s something I feel like we needed to have in this movie to be honest.”
If you’re an O.G. Power Rangers fan, then you know that the show has always included a diverse cast, which, in retrospect, might have been kinda daring for the time (despite the fact that the black and Asian cast members were the Black and Yellow Rangers…) I know for sure that, despite for the subject color naming, I was positively affected by Power Rangers, since I saw myself in both Zack Taylor (Walter Jones) and Trini Kwan (Thuy Trang, RIP), who was the only woman of color on the original season, I should add. It seems like we’re seeing another generation of action fans being positively influenced by Power Rangers again, if Twitter is anything to go by.
Yes, We are different and yet we are the same. Thank you for this eye opening character from the latest movie power rangers #Autism #Blue pic.twitter.com/D1PTI3xQLL
— Autism Trust (@AutismTF) March 25, 2017
Power Rangers gave use a gay Latina super hero, a poor Asian super hero and a black super hero with autism. Representation matters.
— Brian 🌺 (@RexTestarossa) March 25, 2017
They handled Billy's autism really well in Power Rangers as well, maybe the best representation of it I have seen on film?
— DP (@Dragonpiece) March 24, 2017
Praise the lord the new Power Rangers film has a ranger with autism, a gay ranger & a diverse cast of heroes. How can u say it isn't badass?
— Zaynah 🥭 (@Lazanyah) March 24, 2017
As someone with autism, I think it's so cool that the Blue Ranger in the upcoming #PowerRangers film will have a form of autism.
— Connor Behrens (@ConnorBehrens) March 20, 2017
Power Rangers 2017 defying my expectations:
-yellow ranger: gay
-blue ranger: has autism
— 🔞Sleep Easy My Dude💖 (@space_bupy) March 20, 2017
Saw Power Rangers tonight. It was pretty great to see a character with autism be a hero. Highly recommend this movie.
— Madisyn Bowen (@ThatMadisyn) March 26, 2017
In short, Power Rangers has shown all of these other blockbuster films how it’s done when it comes to representation. There’s no time to worry about box office returns or any other political machinations when it comes to showing people as they exist in the world. I’ll definitely have to check out Power Rangers for myself, because it might just help me with my own increasing knowledge about where I sit on the autism spectrum (since, from research I’ve done and from personal anecdotes I’ve heard about myself, I believe I’m a prime candidate to be diagnosed with ASD). Growing up during a time when your own vision of autism was Rain Man, it’ll be refreshing to see a different portrayal of a condition that affects all of those affected in many different ways.
What do you think about Power Rangers? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
5 thoughts on “Power Rangers Shows Superhero Genre How Representation is Done”
Monique, thanks a ton for your words on this movie. Seriously need to see it. Been a fan of the show for years and am really happy you called out the “elitist, I’m-too-cool-for-Power-Rangers” crowd. Thanks for sharing and I’m writing more PR stuff too. Great blog post!
Well darn it, I think I need to see this movie now!!
I watched Power Rangers with my little sisters as they grew up. They loved this show, and although the show was laughably bad, I did enjoy the funniness and characters. Im not snooty about it at all and think it’s a wonderful introduction for teens to diverse teenage superheroes, as most superheroes these days are pretty long in the tooth. I’m not surprised that it’s doing well at the box office. I’m intrigued by the trailers I’ve seen but I will have to rent it later. I’m happy for the film. (And if I hear the he term “forced diversity” one more time, I’m gonna scream directly in someone’s ear. It’s whiteness that has to be forced, not showing the world the way it actually is.)
This is a doozy of a reply.
As a long time Power Ranger and Super Sentai fan, let’s not forget something that hasn’t happened in the 30ish years Power Rangers has aired. There has yet to be an Asian or female actor cast as the red ranger, and that means there has yet be a leader of the team that fit these criteria.
That being said the Japanese show where the show borrows footage and costumes from hasn’t had a female leader either since its original broadcast in the 70s, except for one rare case during the 90s in Kakuranger where the female white ranger was the leader, but still not a red ranger. For a show that has aired for so long, red has been a shorthand for team leader. This show was also borrowed by Power Rangers in short-lived group called the alien rangers. So in this instance there was a female leader, but they appeared only in a couple of episodes of Might Morphin Power Rangers before leaving the show entirely. There was never an alien ranger show.
Since, the Power Rangers have always re-purposed Super Sentai footage and costumes, it can then be said its impossible to cast female leads into red rangers. As re-purposed footage can’t change male and female anatomy. However, the original yellow ranger from Might Morphin was a guy in the Japanese show, which in retrospect is very obvious because of well, anatomy, but also the fact that the yellow ranger has no skirt like the pink ranger. I mean if they can the gender of a power ranger once, what’s stopping them from doing that again. Additionally, the power ranger production team has a for a long time been making their own rangers. I believe in the show Jungle Fury they made like 5 additional rangers for the hell of it.
Let’s also not forget that when Saban re-bought the rights to Power Rangers a few years ago, they had a casting call for a white male red ranger. Lastly, Elizabeth Banks is no Rita Repulsa. Rita will always be Asian to me.
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