The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a Sociological Study The Trenchcoat Mafia’s Project on Cartoons And Social Theory

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show was one of the most popular children’s television shows during the 90’s. From a sociological perspective, the show’s settting, its characters, and their interactions are the epitome of the society that Goffman refers to in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.  The Power Rangers themselves embody what Goffman refers to as a “team” in which the members are defined as “being in the know” and together work to  put on a front or performance for their audiences. For example, the rangers (along wth Zordon and Alpha 5) are the only individuals in the town of Angel Grove who know the identity of the Power Rangers. When crisis situations arrive and the town is in danger, the team members must put on the performance that they are ignorant to the identity and wherabouts of the Power Rangers. When the members of the team are outside the earshot or visibility of an audience, or in the “backstage” region, they use the time to either contact Zordon for orders, discuss Power Ranger matters (staging issues), or morph into the Power Rangers (showtime!).

From a different sociological perspective, this video parody from Collegehumor.com raises a major concern in regards to the portrayal of the original group of individuals chosen to be the Power Rangers. Zach, the “black” ranger, is African American, Trini the “yellow” ranger is Asian, and Jason the “red” ranger is actually part Native American. While this sort of racial categorization may not have been the intention of the creators, it was still easy to point out and critique by many people, which should be enough cause for concern.

Furthermore, the video addresses the underlying themes of racism and sexism present in the show based upon the roles and gender of the team members. Kimberly the pink ranger is often portrayed as the naive and melodramatic “barbie” type whose best asset appears to be her looks. Moreover, her role amongst the group is essentially the cheerleader who always offers moral support. On the other hand, Tommy the “white” ranger is the team leader; an innuendo (unintended or not) that speaks for itself. In essence, this would imply not only that whites are at the top of the spectrum, but that women must be in the subservient position to men; for although Kimberly is Caucasian like Tommy, it would not be fitting for her to be in a leadership position because of her inability to keep her emotions in check.

Fortunately, as the seasons progressed in the Power Rangers series, the creators were careful to never place individuals of certain ethnicities as the ranger of the color that “defines” their race. In addition, the solidarity of the rangers only increases in each new season, and each member is represented as using his or her own unique or special talent(s) to add to the strength of the team.

The mistake in the portrayal of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers raises an important sociological question: In the media, if an unintentional racist, sexist, or otherwise controversial theme is discovered AND corrected, does that make everything OK? Or does it only show a sign of ignorance?

In regards to the concepts of Goffman, how often do we and our “teammates” hold secrets that are the key to our whole performance with audiences? If the secret were to be discovered, can it be played off as a humorous exaggeration or white lie? Or would it undermine our whole integrity as a performer?

 

 

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One thought on “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a Sociological Study The Trenchcoat Mafia’s Project on Cartoons And Social Theory

  1. Pingback: The Trenchcoat Mafia presents: Cartoons and Social Theory | Contemporary Sociological Theory

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