Power Rangers. Just Mindless Violence, or The Best Role Models Children Could Have?

Power Rangers. Just Mindless Violence, or The Best Role Models Children Could Have?

Power Rangers. Just Mindless Violence, or The Best Role Models Children Could Have?

A Thesis paper on The influence Power Rangers and Violent Tv has on our youth.

In the early 1990’s an American children’s televisions show was created using a Japanese show called Super Sentai, instead of dubbing over the Asian actors voices with American Actors 20th Century Fox decided instead to film American actors and cut in the Super Sentai footage. This is what is now known as The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

I could not resist reliving a piece of my childhood when this show popped up on my channel guide. I will admit that watching this show objectively was a difficult task considering the horribly written and delivered dialogue, poor fight choreography, and of course the cheap rubber and spandex costumes. I found myself cackling with laughter during the scenes where I was supposed to be invested in the characters motives. It did not take long to discover that the stylized violence was not made to mimic reality. The program is in no way educational in the public schools way of thinking. Still, underneath all the stylized violence and corny dialogue The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers provides a positive influence on children.

Twenty years of Power Rangers mythos all begins when two astronauts open up what appears to be a space dumpster inadvertently releasing our antagonist the evil empress Rita Repulsa and her gang of miscreants after ten thousand years of imprisonment. As any logical evil sorceress would do right after parole Rita’s plan is to, of course, take over the planet Earth. Now this cannot stand, back on Earth an Oz like floating head in a tube named Zordon and his overly hysterical robot companion Alpha-5 recruit five diverse, well mannered, and well groomed teenagers to become the title heroes the Power Rangers. Each of the five teenagers are given incredible powers including super strength, agility, martial arts prowess and of course individual costumes under the circumstances that they use their powers to protect the world not for personal gain or escalating the fight unless they are forced to do so. They are also given individual weapons and giant battling robots called Zords that if necessary can combine and create the MegaZord.

As far as each episode they were all pretty standard. The five protagonists usually would be doing something for the community or hanging out at the local juice bar when Rita would devise some sort of evil plan that is directly related to what the Rangers are doing in the civilian world. Her plan usually involved creating some kind of themed monster for the rangers to fight. The Power Rangers inevitably destroy the monster, or so they think, Rita uses some sorcery and the next thing you know there is a thousand foot monster destroying the city. Without hesitation our heroes call for their Zords and defeat Rita’s monster. At the end of the episode Rita’a plan is foiled and the Rangers have learned some valuable lesson in their normal lives.

Despite parents despise of the shows violent nature it became one of the most watched shows by children and put Fox on the map. Without hesitation Fox began marketing toys and other merchandise. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had now become a nationwide phenomenon. This would result in two full length motion pictures and nineteen televised seasons lasting all the way to present day.

There is no denying that the show contains violence, in fact when the show first came out a study was done for the Child Study Journal claiming over two hundred violent acts per episode. (Boyatzis, Matillo 1995) This does not mean that the show should not be watched by children. Violence is an everyday occurrence and the Power Rangers teach children how to deal with and stop violence.

A survey in 2009 stated that over 60 percent of children have been exposed to violence in that year. (Finkelhor, Hamby, Kracke, Ormrod, Turner. 2009) If that’s still the case four years later wouldn’t we want our children to be able to understand the difference between unnecessary and necessary violence? In MMPR (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) the heroes defend the city from evil. The rules of being a Ranger are laid out to never use power for personal gain or let the force escalate unless there is no other alternative. Being as unrealistic as the show is it still can teach our children when violence should be used and when it should not.

Like I said before each episode follows a pattern and for good reason too. Before any monster made completely out of eyeballs shows up to destroy the city Rita send down her grunts, a group of soldiers made completely made of clay, lazily called the Putties. These villainous yet malleable foot soldiers are easily defeated by our super powered teens without them using their actual super powers yet it would have been twice of easy for them to do so. Why not just transform into their alter egos and destroy the putties with one swift move? The simple answer is they were told by Zordon not to. True, but not quite what the creators of the show were trying to project onto our youth’s minds. The show is trying to teach us that power is to be used to defend and protect not to attack. Like Voltaire said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I remember when I was a child wonder why the Power Ranagers never just used the Zords to destroy the bad guys and not wait until the action escalates. The reason, which no one explained to me, was that you don’t use a nuclear weapon to dispatch a burglar. It never occurred to me that the show was trying to portray violence as being the last resort. Even during some of the battle scenes the heroes tried to talk down the monster as ridiculous as it sounds. It seems as the writters and producers of the show really thought about the children during the initial creation of the show.

While the action and high flying choreography is the rope that pull the audience in it’s the antagonists lives outside the costume that really creates solid role models and teaches real life values. Each of the five teens work in the local juice bar either teaching some form of martial art, gymnastics or dance which creates interaction with younger people and lets them get involved in community activities. Don’t children today need these kinds of role models? I remember looking up to athletes when I was a kid. Now I don’t think a year goes by without hearing about some professional athlete going to prison on charges like murder or rape yet we let our children watch football. However active protests against shows like Power Rangers go on unnoticed when in reality this show is the one that has moral values.

Earlier I said that each character teaches their class to the youth. Karate is the foremost skill being exercised. One would argue that to be a violent sport based on fighting and violent acts. In the MMPR the martial arts are presented not as a means to create violence, but instead as a means to learn self-respect, confidence and control. In fact parents today are turning to martial arts dojos for their children instead of the usual sports like soccer or softball. The children seem to gravitate towards the sport for reasons not associated with violence. Self-gratification, for instance, is an aspects that parents are realizing goes hand in hand with the teaching of Karate. Children receive colored belts that represent their level of expertise in their class. (Greenberg 2000) Also a study by Bob Schleser, a sports psychologist at the Illinois Institute of Technology, recently found that children between 7 and 18 who took karate dramatically increased their "perceived competence" in areas ranging from social and cognitive skills to maternal acceptance. "Karate gives a general sense of confidence and personal control; says Schleser. (Greenberg, 2000)

So what is it about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that drives parents to despise it so much? Well, in the years 1996 and 2009 a famous study was conducted by The National Institute on Media and the Family called Barney vs. Power Rangers in which a group of children are shown an episode of Barney and Friends then observed with hidden cameras. The following day those same children were shown an episode of MMPR then observed again and the results were then compares. Now of course the children reacted differently to each show. With Barney the children danced around and sang songs together. With MMPR the children reenacted the karate move as best they could with each other also known as play fighting. Parents were astonished at the results for some reason.

Children will always try to act out what they see. In a different circumstance what if those same children were sat down and asked what they learned from each show? I’m sure there would be a positive reaction to Barney that goes without saying. What about MMPR? Do you think maybe they learned something from the show? If they did not why do you think that is. My thoughts, maybe the parents should be talking to them about what they watch on TV. Despite what parents tell us the TV is an educational mean, children learn more from the TV than we want to believe. So why don’t we explain to them that the violence in the show isn’t the message the show is trying to convey? The answer is simple, television is an escape not for the children but for the parents from their kids. Parents let their children watch TV and when all the parents get together they complain about what they watch. Now they can regulate what they watch, but still don’t actually watch the shows and decide what to block and allow. Shows like SpongeBob Squareparnts are allowed when there are studies that suggest the show actually lowers intelligence. In the editorial Is SpongeBob Making your Kids Dumber? Author Jonathon M. Seidl talks about the study done by the University of Virginia show substantial that children that watch Spongebob have a negative effect on children cognitive abilities. Yet parents don’t see the harm in the show, at least it’s not violent right?

I am 26 years old and I watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when it came out in the early 90’s. I don’t have a violent criminal record, but I am an Eagle Scout. I can’t say MMPR was the cause of that, however I can say that the show did not cause me to go on a violent rampage using fake karate to beat up the neighborhood bullies sceaming “Hi YA!”

Take a good long look at what your children are watching on the boob tube you may be surprised that the shows you let them watch are more mindless than the ones that feature stylized violence. Some of them might even be better influences on our children than studies suggest. The future of our children is in our hands for a short time, maybe we should expose them to a little bit of violence in order for them to learn a greater lesson than fear violence and revert to mindless forms of entertainment. The choice is yours.
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