Why Representation Matters in the New Power Rangers Movie

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When we think about representation in superhero fiction, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But even in the ’90s, the producers of the original Power Rangers series featured an ethnically diverse cast, and that’s a tradition that has continued through the show’s subsequent incarnations in later seasons. The problem is that the original Power Rangers were pretty boring characters when they weren’t in costume. They each had superficial characteristics, but they were largely undefined and one-dimensional. And these were supposed to be the “teenagers with attitude” that Zordon requested?

This week, the Power Rangers are getting a major reboot in a new movie.  One of the things that director Dean Israelite and the film’s creative team have focused on was giving the new Rangers more believable and relatable personalities in their latest iterations. They have also taken that idea a step further by making two key changes. In this version, Becky G’s Trini is a lesbian, while RJ Cyler’s Billy, “is on the Autism Spectrum.” That may not seem like much on the surface, but it’s a big moment for the genre.

Both Marvel and DC have featured LGTBQ characters and heroes of both genders, but not on the big screen. DC recently revealed that Wonder Woman is bisexual, but that depiction has yet to be shown in Gal Gadot’s current Amazon heroine. Likewise, Marvel has outed Iceman as a gay man, but he was previously portrayed as straight in the X-Men films. Trini gets to be the trailblazer. The Yellow Ranger will be the first openly gay superheroine in a big budget superhero movie. Trini doesn’t just have a token part, she is one of the five leading characters. More impressively, her sexuality doesn’t appear to be a gimmick for the film. It’s simply a part of who she is.

It has to be noted that the original Blue Ranger was played by actor David Yost, who is openly gay. According to Yost, he was treated badly on the set of the original show because of his sexuality; which led to his decision to leave the series behind. That’s a shameful moment in the history of the franchise, and it would have been a worthy tribute to Yost if Billy had turned out to be gay in the movie. However, we fully expect that Becky G will make the most of the opportunity to give Trini added dimensions.

As for Billy, he will also be a forerunner. There are very few superheroes who are depicted as neuro-atypical, if any, in the Marvel and DC’s comic book universes. There have been Autistic characters, but they’ve been supporting players at best. The new Blue Ranger has the chance to prove that he can be more than just a background player. He can be a hero in his own right. Autism doesn’t have to be his defining characteristic. Billy’s strength has always been his mind, and we believe that to be true in this movie as well.

Why does it all matter? Because representation is extremely valuable for people who have been historically marginalized or cast aside. It’s something that can be easily overlooked by people who don’t have to deal with that in their daily lives. But there really is something cathartic about seeing someone like yourself onscreen as they overcome their personal problems and save the day. Superhero stories are often escapist tales or power fantasies. Power Rangers has the potential to show LGTBQ and Autistic fans that they aren’t going to be excluded from this fantasy. Instead, they’re going to be a part of it, as equals. And that makes all of the difference in the world.

Are you excited to see Power Rangers break new ground with its heroes? Let us know in the comment section below!

Image Credits: Lionsgate

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