Power Rangers: Racial and Ethnicity Critique

Power Rangers

Image via Wikipedia

Whether we want to admit or not, racial and ethnic identity play a huge role in our everyday lives, even in pop culture. What my intent for this part is to analyze how much race and ethnicity plays a role in Power Rangers. Prepare for a little “soapboxing” from me and a lot of words. For reference, here’s a link to pictures of every Power Rangers Cast so you can see for yourselves and form your own ideas: http://powerrangerstropes.tumblr.com/post/4392782707/5-4-1-eighteen-seasons-worth-of-power.

Let’s get the big thing out-of-the-way first. Yes, they did put a black guy in the black costume( twice actually, once in Might Morphin’ and again in Operation Overdrive) and they put an Asian in the yellow suit in Might Morphin’. While this is unfortunate, I honestly don’t believe it’s racist. The real problem is that since they’re the only characters of their respective race on the team, it looks much more obvious than say if there was another Asian girl on the team as the pink ranger or another Black guy on the team playing the blue ranger. This actually brings me to my point of why there always is a white guy and white girl on every team, with the possible exception of Mystic Force and RPM, but we never get that same combination from any other race and ethnicity. If you look at every Power Rangers Team, there is usually always a white female and a white male. One exception to the rule is Mystic Force where the pink and blue ranger sisters appear to be Latinas if once looks at their actresses’ last names. Another exception is RPM in which we have the twins, Gem and Gemma, both Asian on the team though they are not there the whole series and since they are siblings, they don’t quite break the mold if they had been completely unrelated. One reason for this could be that if a Power Rangers team didn’t feature any non-Latino whites in their show, their won’t be an audience. While I think this is crap, this same reasoning has been applied to many a television show or movie, where casts that are mostly Blacks, Asians, or Latinos marketed as such. Unfair, yes, but hopefully that can change. Now you’re probably wondering “What about Ashley from Turbo and In Space? Her actress is Hispanic, I mean look at her name!” and while this is true, in show she’s written as a white female hence the last name of Hammond or she, and this is common, portrayed ambiguously on what her ethnicity is, but never outright stating if she is a Latina or not. In fact, it seems like with a lot of characters they tend to play up the ambiguity of their ethnicity, and while I agree the show shouldn’t harp on these facts, I do wish they could at least make mention of it, maybe throw in any cultural differences the character could have.

The next big topic is the race of the Red Ranger a.k.a the leader and or main character. Looking over all the red rangers, of those that are not non-Latino white, we have had one Mexican,three black rangers, and one Samoan and the Mexican, Rocky, was never the leader while black red rangers T.J. and Jack eventually step down for someone else. Not looking too good, huh? While I understand the story telling elements for those two, as a Black person I feel a little disappointed that this is never reversed that often where a White male steps down to let another minority into the leader position, the only example being Tommy stepping down for T.J. Once again, this isn’t racist by itself, but when you don’t do the reverse as often, it begins to become Unfortunate Implications for all whose watching. Also, I find it odd that for a series adapted from Japan that there hasn’t been an Asian red ranger, or even as a leader in general. This could come from the old mind-set that Asian males are not as strong and masculine as Westerners, a mind-set that needs to die a quick death. Maybe in the newer seasons this can change, maybe take a break from having White males be the leader all the time. I say all this because, as the United States’ minority population grows, kids watching these shows need heroes that look like them. I’m not suggesting eradicating White male heroes forever, just cut down on some of them. Speaking of certain races not getting to play certain ranger colors, am I the only one to notice that there has never been a Black female pink ranger? This could be that not many Black women audition for the show, but that is all speculation as I don’t have the casting call sheets in front of me to see if they specify a race nor do I have a list of those who auditioned, so I’m going off what I learned in my Race and Identity in the Media class and my own casual observations. Never having a Black female in these roles tends to send a message, unintentional or not, that Black women are not feminine of to inhabit the ranger color guaranteed as the most feminine and to always have a female play the role. I mean, out of the three Black female characters, only one, Tanya the yellow Zeo and Turbo ranger, played a ranger that was female in both costume and in the Sentai series it was based on. This becomes especially obvious when you realize that every other race and ethnicity has played the pink ranger except those of African descent. Unintentional or not, this is something that can be addressed in the next cast change, maybe encouraging Black females to audition. I don’t have all the answers, just a willingness to look for one.

Getting off of my little soap box, in summary, Power Rangers is not the most racist show, and while it needs a little help in those departments, it tends to a  better job than most shows. The next part in the series will be on gender and sexuality in Power Rangers where I’ll delve more into the red ranger and pink ranger always being male and female respectively and how LGBTQ fits into Power Rangers. If you have any thoughts, questions, think I screwed up, add a comment, I’m willing to learn and will most likely respond back promptly.


6 thoughts on “Power Rangers: Racial and Ethnicity Critique

      • Lisa says:

        Think about South Asian kids who watch this show. I’m sure they want to see an Indian, Pakistani, etc. power rangers. I know there have been mixed people like Trent from Dino Thunder, for example. I know I used to watch this show when I was young but I am quite disturbed about the lack of South Asian power rangers and foreign ones who speak other languages than English.

      • J.Lee says:

        I agree. I think part of it comes from seeing Asian people as perpetual foreigners despite being born here and Power Rangers is an American series their logic is you need someone who will “look American”. Obviously, that needs to change and I hope in their future series if there are more that they have a red ranger who is South Asian.

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