The Power Rangers Are Back, and They're Trying Really Hard to Be Woke
Like the "explicitly gay moment" in "Beauty and the Beast," the gay Power Ranger follows a growing trend of masking marketing as progress.
At the coffee shop Joan's on Third in Studio City, California, the Mexican-American actress and singer Becky G sits behind a marble table. She wears a yellow jumper, yellow shoes, and yellow necklace—a tribute to Becky's role as Trini the Yellow Ranger in the new reboot Saban's Power Rangers. "I always wanted to be the yellow Power Ranger growing up," Becky says. But journalists have ignored her character's uniform color, instead focusing on her character's sexuality and dubbing her "the gay Power Ranger." The Power Rangers have gone to space and traveled through time. Now they're getting woke.
"It's establishing a new foundation for Power Rangers," Becky explains. "It's very now."
Her pivotal scene occurs midway through the movie, when the five Rangers gather around a campfire. One remarks that Trini's moody because she's experiencing "boyfriend problems." Trini then admits she's dealing with "girlfriend problems."
"It was a really honest and genuine moment," Becky says of the scene. "Zordon says in the movie, 'You must shed your mask to wear this armor.'" Becky, though, holds mixed feelings about her character's already infamous moment. "Diversity, unity, equality, are things I support as a human being," she says. "Another part of me is, like, what's the big deal? It's 2017."
Power Rangers does make a big deal out of addressing trendy political issues. At times the film feels like the action movie equivalent of Matt McGorry, hitting every base to score points with young audiences: Kimberly the Pink Ranger's subplot revolves around cyberbullying, and Billy the Blue Ranger has been rebooted as a black teen with autism. Unlike most of Hollywood, the film has aimed to cast a diverse group of actors—important progress—but the reboot falls in line with Riverdale and the "explicitly gay" scene in Beauty and the Beast remake, embracing young audiences' liberalism to sell a pop culture brand from the 1990s and/or 2000s. It's marketing masked as bravery.
Power Rangers's new consciousness juxtaposes the controversies that riddled the original series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, when young millennials watched it in the early- and mid-1990s. Haim Saban, owner and founder of Saban Entertainment, produced the show on the cheap. He casted young unknowns, including a black actor as the Black Ranger and an Asian actress as the Yellow one. After the first season, three actors quit over contract disputes.
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