Did anyone expect the new Power Rangers movie to be woke AF? The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers may have presented a world where teens from multiple cultures could perform karate and drive robots together, but the social commentary in the new Power Rangers film is something fierce. If a movie directed at children and older millennials who love karate robots is going to send out a positive message about everything from autism to gender norms then it should be celebrated.
Power Rangers manages to reimagine and translate the corny comedy and color coordination of the original series into a coming of age story that touches on everything mental disabilities to the presentation of female sexuality on screen. You’re not wrong if you stop paying attention to the film and start counting all the times the Power Rangers were woke AF. Power Rangers may not be the best movie ever made, but kids who see this movie in the theater are going to leave with some woke ideas. Keep reading to discover all of the political commentary in Power Rangers.
**Warning: Spoilers ahead**
Did anyone else have a mild panic attack over stereotyping the moment they heard that Billy was going to be autistic in the Power Rangers movie? While Billy may not have the most woke introduction - he's straightening pencils because of course he is - Billy's difference is what makes him such a great character. Beyond the pencil scene literally every choice that director Dean Israelite makes with Billy is a hard left from how the character would be handled by most filmmakers. The character isn't some lone weirdo who has been ostracized because he has trouble making eye contact and understanding sarcasm, he has friends (that aren't forced upon him by a giant head living in a space ship), he overcomes fears, and he doesn't let his disability define him in any way other than by saying, "this is a thing I have, get over it."
Elizabeth Banks is essentially a strutting, snarling embodiment of the "Formation" video throughout her woefully short amount of screen time and it's the best thing you'll ever see in theaters. Rita Repulsa is a woman/space witch who owns who she is. At no point does she ever feel shame for wanting to get what's hers and take out anyone that's in her way. Does this make her a sympathetic character? No. But she's a villain and we shouldn't have to sympathize with everyone on screen.
Seriously, Rita kills multiple Power Rangers, eats gold, blows up a city, and basically just wrecks sh*t - all without ever using her sexuality to make boys swoon. At one point early in the film, the writers could have had her seduce a cop whom she's facing down, that would make sense for a character in a superhero movie - it literally happens in every Marvel movie. Instead of licking her lips, or winking with both eyes, or however you flirt with a person, Rita just blows up the jewelry store where she's working because f*ck it.
In the early '90s Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was sort of multi-cultural in as much as there were literally two people of color in the town of Angel Grove. Well times have changed baby, and now there are at least 10 minorities in the town of Angel Grove.
But let's focus on the Rangers themselves. In the original series you had a "rainbow" of characters that was actually just three white kids and their two friends - which is great, but it's not super diverse. The casting of the modern Power Rangers is important because there's really only one white person in the group (Naomi Scott, who plays Kimberly, is of English and Ugandan descent) and while that was probably done because this movie needs to make money in foreign markets, it's important children who see this movie recognize that race isn't something that matters when you're fighting a bunch of robots or putting together a friend group. It's social construct that's meant to keep people from coming together to battle whatever metaphorical robots stand in our way.
And there were so many moments where people could have told Kimberly and Trini that they can't do karate. There isn't even a scene where Trini and Kimberly do karate where Zack is like, "I didn't expect you to karate so well." In fact, the audience is introduced to Trini while she's standing on top of a live mine and looking triumphant AF. In terms of semiotics, the audience is being told that she's literally better than everyone else at physical activities because she's so high up so don't worry about her karate skills.