So I was at Target the other day, browsing through the DVD section, when I came across this:
To say I had conflicting feelings is a bit of an understatement. Here it was, the show that had largely defined my childhood, finally getting a complete DVD release and sitting on a shelf in front of me with a very reasonable $15 price tag. Did I dare let nostalgia cloud my judgment and force me to buy it? Would the show be as good as I remembered it? Would it be worth it in the end?
The answers to those questions would be a guilty “yes,” a resounding “Hell no,” and a pleasantly surprised second “yes.”
For any kid who grew up in the 90’s, or any parents unlucky enough to have raised their kids while this show was on, I don’t have to remind you how this quirky little series took the country by storm. The faces of the six young stars were literally plastered everywhere, and action figures, costumes and video cassettes (remember those?) sold by the bucket loads.
Desperate parents literally trampled each other to get the toys their kids demanded, and the show proved to be one of (if not THE) most successful shows on the Fox Kids block. And looking at the show, it’s easy to see why. It combined colorful costumes, martial arts, giant robots and dinosaurs, all the ingredients necessary to get young children (particularly boys) eating out of the palm of your hand.
But like I said, the show does not hold up well at all unless you’re wearing nostalgia goggles. Watching it now as an adult, the show is cheesy beyond belief. For those not in the know, the show was created by taking footage from the Japanese show “Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger” and splicing in original footage of American actors. The footage of the Rangers were then dubbed over by the same actors, and while the illusion worked incredibly well when I was 5, it is painfully obvious now that I’m watching two different shows. The Japanese clips are more grainy than the American shots, and the dubbing for the villains (particularly Rita Repulsa) does not match up with the lip movements of the Japanese actors.
Moving on to other elements, the main characters are not well developed, at least at first. In fact, they all fall into certain High School stereotypes. Jason, the Red Ranger and leader, is the typical All-American jock hero, while Billy (Blue) is passed off as the awkward nerd (despite being built like a tank).
Kimberly, the Pink Ranger and the first childhood crush for most of the boys (and some girls) in the audience, starts out the as the typical, shallow valley girl. But perhaps most offensive of all were the characters of Zack and Trini. Yes, the Black Ranger was played by an African American actor, and the Yellow Ranger a Vietnamese American actress. What’s more, their entire characters were based around those racial stereotypes. Zack enjoyed dancing and Hip Hop, and Trini often imparted little pearls of Asian wisdom to her white friends on many occasions, mostly revolving around martial arts.
Now, the creators of the show later admitted that they made a mistake, and didn’t even notice it until after they filmed 10 episodes or so.
Let that number sink in a little bit. Geez, how oblivious were these people?
What’s more, the Rangers don’t seem to have any discernible flaws. When not saving the world, they perform charity events, preaching about the dangers of pollution, bullying, the importance of teamwork, and all that saccharine crap. The villains don’t have much motivation either besides being evil for the sake of it, though they are quirky enough to be entertaining anyway.
But all these flaws, while always present, started to lessen upon the arrival of Tommy, the Green Ranger, in a five episode arc. There’s no denying that Tommy was quite the badass to us kids back then, and I can’t deny that he still is now (in an extremely narmy way). Watching his episodes again, I found that he was much less insufferable here than I remember him being later on. Once he became the White Ranger, he became the focus of EVERYTHING, but here, the creators seem to be adhering the “less is more” rule of entertainment.
In addition, things began to click for the series, such as it was, once the Green Ranger showed up. The characters began to develop more out of the stereotypes they started as, and the plots became a bit less stupid. It was still dumb, but not quite as much as before.
Overall, the series does not hold up well at all by today’s standards, but I still can’t help but love it. I think a part of me always will, especially with the original group. The show doesn’t have any pretensions about what it is, and never takes itself too seriously. In that way, it kind of bypasses the whole “so bad, it’s good” mentality and just ends up in the “weird/dumb” category.
But for $15, this DVD set isn’t a bad bargain for a trip down memory lane. I imagine it’s especially fun to watch with friends who were also fans of the series, and just laugh at all the things we thought were cool back when we were kids. I may even spring for the second half of season 1 when it comes out, albeit after the price get’s reduced a bit.
Now if I could just find a drinking game to go along with this, I’d be golden.