7 Reasons Why Power Rangers is a Positive Superhero Franchise for Girls

24 Feb

I absolutely freaked out when I heard that BOOM! Studios was going to be publishing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink a comic book miniseries that focused around Kimberly, the original Pink Ranger.

For starters, I was excited that we were getting a spin-off from the phenomenal Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic series and that it wasn’t starring Tommy. But I was even more excited that they were choosing a female character to focus on for their first foray into a solo Power Rangers story.  And the more that I thought about it, the more it made sense—because the Pink Ranger is a powerful brand unto herself.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Pink #1

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink #1 Source: nerdist.com

It’s something I actually noticed last Halloween. I always get geeked out when I see little kids dressed up like Power Rangers and I realized that I was seeing more little girls dressed like the Pink Ranger than little boys dressed like any of the male Power Rangers.  That’s probably due to the fact that little boys have a wider variety of male superhero costumes available to them while little girls have fewer options. Fortunately, Power Rangers has always been one of those options for little girls who have an interest in superheroes.

In a time when parents are searching for positive female superheroes for their children, I think many fail to realize that Power Rangers has been pumping out these kinds of characters for over 20 years.  It may be a show targeted to a young male audience, but Power Rangers has always been about empowering females and promoting gender diversity whenever possible, for the benefit of both male and female viewers.

Here are just a few examples of why Power Rangers is the perfect franchise for young girls looking for positive female superheroes.

Power Rangers are non-sexualized

It’s no big secret that female superheroes are designed with the male gaze in mind. That makes it kind of hard for parents to find positive female superheroes that aren’t sticking their scantily clad asses in the air like porn stars all the time.

The female Power Rangers never have to deal with that crap. They basically wear the same thing that the male superheroes are wearing—with the occasional addition of a skirt. Which, admittedly, might seem weirdly sexist, but from what I hear the skirt actually serves to hide male stuntmen’s bulges when they portray female Power Rangers. So it’s more functional than fashionable.

The girls pose just like the guys do—they’re not doing weird sexy poses, they just look like Power Rangers. They don’t pose provocatively, they pose powerfully.

Gia from Power Rangers Super Megaforce ready to kick butt, not take it up the butt.

Gia from Power Rangers Super Megaforce ready to kick butt, not take it up the butt.

Best of all, the girl characters have their own sexual agency. They don’t exist simply to be objects of desire for male characters or to play the damsel in distress role. Romance is rarely ever on the table in Power Rangers and when it is, the female characters are treated as equal partners.

Sometimes they’re the first ones to initiate a romantic storyline— after all, it was Kimberly who first had feelings for Tommy, not the other way around. The romance that developed between Kimberly and Tommy was always presented from Kim’s point of view. The audience was made to root for Kim to get the guy, not Tommy to get the girl and when these two finally ended up together, our happiness was focused on Kimberly finally getting what she wanted.

Other times we’ll see romantic storylines initiated by the male characters. But in those instances, the female is given all the power to choose whether or not to reciprocate. They challenge their male suitors to be worthy of their attention—to approach them with respect, honesty and integrity.

The most recent episode of Power Rangers Dino Super Charge dealt with this very theme. Chase, the Black Ranger, goes out on a date with a girl named Kaylee, but he spends so much time trying to make himself look impressive hat he fails to learn anything about her or tend to her needs. Later he saves her from a monster attack as the Black Ranger and Kaylee is so enamored with his alter ego that she dumps the real Chase for his Ranger persona.

So Chase goes out on a date with Kaylee disguised as the Black Ranger and learns that she loves astronomy and has a dream of becoming an astronaut. It makes Chase realize he likes her even more than he did before, now that he sees her as a fully realized person with her own passions and interests.

Zordon would never have approved of this shit.

Black Ranger Chase takes Kaylee out on a date in Power Rangers Dino Supercharge. Zordon would never have approved of this shit.

Eventually Chase and Kaylee are able to patch things up and pursue a romantic relationship, but only after he’s able to demonstrate to Kaylee that he can provide the kind of emotional support she’s looking for—the kind he displayed when he was incognito as the Black Ranger. In the Power Rangers universe, female characters only want to pursue romantic relationships to men with substance and when their potential mates are found lacking, the male characters are expected to shape up or ship out.

Power Rangers are diverse

Female Power Rangers come in a variety of colors—both in and out of the suit. As Power Rangers we’ve had a plethora of Pink Rangers and Yellow Rangers, but also Blue Rangers and White Rangers, a Silver Ranger and recently a Purple Ranger. There have even been two female Red Rangers—of course, those were kind of special temporary deals and one of them turned out to be working for the bad guy— but they still count!

In Power Rangers terms, color is interchangeable and gender-fluid. During the series Power Rangers Super Megaforce the Rangers were given the power to transform into any Rangers from the past. In that season the female Rangers were not limited to transforming into only other female Rangers, they often used the powers of male Rangers—and vice versa.

In one season you might have a male Blue Ranger and a female Yellow Ranger, but then the next season could mix things up and make the Blue Ranger a girl and the Yellow Ranger a guy.  That’s one of the franchise’s biggest strengths—anybody can be under the helmet.

In that regard, the series has always had a diverse cast from the very start and female Power Rangers are often portrayed by women of color. The creators have been good about listening to the fans when it comes to the diversity of female Rangers.  For example, the fandom was outraged when it was discovered that an African-American actress had been cut from the running for Pink Ranger in Power Rangers Megaforce because the producers wanted an Asian actress instead.

So Saban responded by giving us our first African-American Pink Ranger in the next series, Power Rangers Dino Charge. The character, Shelby Watkins, is arguably one of the central characters on Power Rangers Dino Charge with some of the best character development and plot focus. Shelby is a waitress at a dinosaur museum who dreams of becoming a paleontologist, despite her father wanting her to follow in his footsteps and lead the family’s ice cream business. She’s passionate about her dream, but she faces many obstacles and overcomes each one with clever determination.

Shelby Watkins Power Rangers Dino Supercharge

Shelby Watkins, the first African-American Pink Ranger.

Power Rangers celebrates femininity

The diversity in Power Rangers extends beyond ethnicity.  Since the show has been on for so long, each season has been able to offer us different types of women. We’ve seen Power Rangers who are scientists, teachers, race car drivers and musicians. There’s no limit to what a female Power Ranger can be.

As a franchise, Power Rangers treats all forms of femininity with equal respect.  It recognizes that some women express very feminine traits and that some women express more masculine traits and that both are valid. But it never treats femininity as something that’s gross or weak or boring in a way that other TV shows for little boys might do. Instead it celebrates female Power Rangers for their inner strength, no matter if they’re tomboys or girly-girls or somewhere in between.

Femininity isn’t compromised to fit with the male-centric audience. The girls aren’t expected to be “tough” or “strong” to be more palatable for young boys. They’re free to be fully developed individual characters that embrace their feminine traits while still being portrayed as competent superheroes.

Girl power is fully celebrated in the Power Rangers universe and when a character doesn’t agree with that mentality, they’re punished for it. For example, Sky Tate, the Blue Ranger from Power Rangers SPD, is denied the leadership Red Ranger position by their mentor because he admits that he wouldn’t follow Pink Ranger, Sydney Drew, if she were named leader instead.

Syd is portrayed as a kind of a prissy, rich princess-type who has been everything from a supermodel to an actress and became a Power Ranger because she saw it as just another challenge to tackle. Later on when Sky and Syd are on a mission together, he learns that she’s more than just the ultra-femme traits that she expresses. Sydney is only able to accomplish these amazing things in her life because she puts her all into everything she does and has a die-hard determination that Sky comes to admire.

power-rangers-spd-sydney-drew

“Okay, I’m filthy, cranky and my new shoes are trashed— do you really want to mess with me?” – Sydney Drew, Power Rangers SPD

But Sydney is never expected to change to meet Sky’s expectations. She’s allowed to continue being her authentic diva self while still receiving the respect she deserves as a Power Ranger.  The same question is posed to Sky again at the end of the series, to which he responds that he’d definitely follow Sydney into battle. But it’s made clear that Sky was the one who needed to change his opinion. Sydney already had those leadership qualities to begin with and it was up to Sky to leave his preconceived notions about gender in the garbage and see her for who she truly is.

Power Ranger females are equals

I think one of the reasons why I like Power Rangers so much is due to the unique team dynamic. It’s a different kind of dynamic than other superhero teams because the point of Power Rangers is that they always have to work together. Sure there are standouts like the Red Ranger or Green Ranger, but they can’t defeat the monster until everybody joins their attacks together.

This is symbolized in the Megazord itself, which is a combination of all the Rangers Zords and has to be piloted by all the Rangers at once. Everybody is given equal footing in the team and the boys simply can’t save the day unless the girls are there to help too. Teamwork is a theme that is so ingrained into the franchise’s DNA that I hardly have to pull out an example to demonstrate what I’m talking about because it’s literally every episode.

In that regard, female Power Rangers are always treated with the same level of respect as their male teammates. The show recognizes that everybody has their own strengths to bring to the team and the female characters are always given their role to play.

There are always going to be episodes where the girls are the ones to figure out the secret to defeating a monster or have just the right skills to save the day. This is because Power Rangers doles out equal shares of the storytelling to each of the characters. Every Ranger is guaranteed to have some focus at some point.

Teamwork, ya'll

Teamwork, ya’ll

Because of this approach to the superhero dynamic, the male and female characters all blend together to create something bigger than the individual. The female characters stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male teammates in equality.

Female characters are more than just Rangers

In the Power Rangers universe, female characters play a wide variety of roles—they’re not always just Power Rangers. We’ve had female mentors, friends and allies too. They’ve been everything from scientists and teachers to bullies and pizza fangirls, but there’s always been a conscious push to add female characters to a variety of roles whenever possible.

One of the best examples of this is in Power Rangers Mystic Force where the team is mentored by Udonna a powerful sorceress, occasional Power Ranger, mother, wife and warrior all rolled into one. Udonna is training her niece Clare, a bumbling novice witch who starts out as comic relief and then realizes her true potential as “The Gatekeeper”, a magical ally to the Power Rangers.

The Power Rangers also have a friend in Leelee Pimvare, who at first just seems like this weird background character who has an obsession with Nick, the Red Ranger. But we soon find out her true identity as a spy and saboteur for her mother, the villainous Necrolai. Leelee later has a change of heart becomes the Rangers’ ally and helps to free her mother Necrolai from evil by the end of the series.

power-rangers-mystic-force-clare-leelee-phineas-udonna

Leelee, Phineas and Clare team-up to save Udonna in Power Rangers Mystic Force. Who says minor characters can’t have their own adventures?

Right there we have four separate female characters with their own storylines and character arcs and we haven’t even mentioned the two female Power Rangers for that season.

It’s not enough to just fill out a cast with female characters if those female characters are just standing around doing nothing. Thankfully Power Rangers is good about developing and growing its female characters, even the minor ones.

There are plenty of female villains too

Look.

I can’t just keep going on and on about how much I love Rita Repulsa (yes I can), but I do have to say this—Power Rangers started out with a main female villain during a time when female villains on boys shows were typically regulated to minor roles, working for their male superiors. Of course the first series kind of had to have a female villain because they were working with recycled footage from the Japanese series Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, but the franchise has still made use of female villains in a variety of roles, even when they don’t need to.

Every season of Power Rangers has had a female villain in some capacity. Sometimes they’re generals, sometimes they’re lackeys, sometimes they’re the ones in charge of things. But if Power Rangers gives the female Rangers equal footing with their male compatriots, then the same can often be said for the villains.  Female villains are given their own agency. Some are just nasty for the sake of being nasty while others have tragic backstories to explain why they turned to darkness.

We’ve even had female villains reform and join the side of good. Astronema, the main villain from Power Rangers in Space was discovered to be Red Ranger Andros’ long lost sister Karone, who had been kidnapped as a child and turned into an agent of darkness. Karone was able to remember her former life and fight against her programming, eventually filling in as the Pink Ranger in the next season, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, after the original Pink Ranger, Kendrix, sacrifices herself to save her teammates.

Awkward

The most awkward way to remind the audience that Karone used to be Astronema from Power Rangers Super Megaforce

 

Power Rangers actually changes male characters into females for more diversity

If you’ve ever wondered why only Kimberly had a skirt on Ranger uniform and not Trini, it’s because in the original Japanese series  Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger the Yellow Ranger was actually a male character. To add more gender diversity to the cast, the Yellow Ranger was changed into a female for the Power Rangers.

It’s not the last time that it’s happened either. There have been several cases where Japanese male Yellow Rangers were turned into female characters for Power Rangers. The illusion works, for the most part, because female Power Rangers aren’t sexualized or set apart from their male teammates to begin with. The only difference is the occasional skirt.

Of course, there have been a few seasons when the Japanese Sentai footage made it impossible for there to be male Rangers that could be changed into female characters for Power Rangers. In those cases the creators seem to balance things out a bit by adding females to other roles whenever possible.

Hilariously enough, Trini's male counterpart in Zyuranger was literally named Boi.

Hilariously enough, Trini’s male counterpart in Zyuranger was literally named Boi.

An example of this is the currently running Power Rangers Dino Super Charge which uses footage from the Japanese Sentai series Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger.  The Japanese series featured ten suited Ranger character, but only two of them were female and only one of them was part of the core team.

To make up for this, Power Rangers Dino Super Charge created the character of Kendell Morgan, who is the team’s advisor and boss at work. She takes the place of a second female character until the point in the series when she’s able to bond with the Purple Energem and become the Purple Ranger.

However—there’s not much footage of a female Purple Ranger to work with from the Japanese series. So to work around this, the American creators have used original footage to boost her role. Meanwhile, whenever Kendell can’t be a part of the action because the budget doesn’t allow for it, she still maintains her role as the team’s advisor, gadget-maker, boss and friend.

There are probably a dozen more reasons and examples as to why Power Rangers is a positive superhero franchise for girls but I think I’ve made my case.  If you’ve got a little girl who’s interested in superheroes and you can stand a heaping helping of Japanese tokusatsu cheesy goodness, give Power Rangers a shot. Every single season is on Netflix and since they’re all pretty self-contained you can just jump right into whatever season seems to strike your fancy without worrying about missing out on anything.

Now I want to hear from you! Are there any ladies out there that grew up on Power Rangers that can vouch for me? Do you think that the Pink Ranger is a viable franchise for girl superheroes?

Leave a comment below or hit me up on Facebook!

 

 

 

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One Response to “7 Reasons Why Power Rangers is a Positive Superhero Franchise for Girls”

  1. Jeremy Logsdon February 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    I loved everything about this. I’m a guy, but I have always been a fan of the Power Rangers, in large part for the great role women play on the team. I had not even noticed until you mentioned it, but you are right – female Power Rangers aren’t sexualized and female superheroes are in virtually every other medium. And everybody knows that Kimberly can save the day, by herself, because she has, on multiple occasions.

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