By Benjamin Law

Because of my 12-year-old man-child proportions, it’s not often I get to buy clothes straight off the rack. So, when recently visiting my local vintage clothing shop, I was thrilled to find a bone-fide, authentic, mid-90s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers t-shirt — and in my size, no less! It was the real deal, not one of those purposely weathered Jay-Jay’s imitations that make my soul cry out in despair.

No, this was a genuinely weathered combination of cotton and polyester that yielded to the touch. It was incredibly soft, as though it had been beaten by rocks in a river of Pantene conditioner, or the tears of baby lambs. In short, it was perfect. The best thing was that it only contained the five original power rangers: black (mastadon); pink (pterodactyl); blue (triceratops), yellow (sabre-toothed tiger) and red (tyrannosaurus). All this perfection for only thirty dollars.

“Thirty dollars for this beat up piece of shit?” my boyfriend Scott said. “What are you, insane? It’s even got a stain on it.” This conversation went on for a few weeks, and even extended into a dinner party with friends. “And guess how much he paid?” Scott asked, swilling his wine around. “For this — the retro-ironic piece of shit he currently wears before you — Benjamin here paid fifty dollars!”

Like I said, it was actually thirty dollars — but whatever. It didn’t matter. Because that day, it was not simply a second-hand soiled garment for which I paid, but what it represented. It was a relic of when the Rangers concept was genius in its simplicity. It went like this: Rita Repulsa, a hideous space witch, is released after 10,000 years of lunar house-arrest, when bungling Earth astronauts inadvertently set her free. Alarmed, Zordon — a holographic shaman-thing that lives in a glass tube — sets out to find five “teenagers with attitude” to become the defenders of Earth, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Each episode, the five would do battle with a space monster that Rita had sent down. As the Rangers were nearing victory, Rita would inevitably shoot beams towards Earth, making her monster grow to skyscraper heights. At this point, zords were called upon — our heroes’ super-vehicles — which came in the shape of the respective Ranger’s totem. There would always be a terrible moment where it seemed the zords were losing, and dark victory was imminent. But then the zords would join up to create the amazing Megazord. It even had its own sword. There was something satisfying in have those five elements to form a unified whole. It spelled teamwork.

Of course, the concept was soon wrecked. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers morphed into the only series that changed its set-up on an annual basis. Hence the existence of Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, Power Rangers: Zeo and Power Rangers: Turbo franchises. The list goes on: Power Rangers: In Space, Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, S.P.D, Mystic Force and Operation Overdrive. It upset me immensely.

We can trace all this fucked-uppedness back to one episode, or at least a five-part special: “Green With Evil”. Admittedly, it was riveting programming at the time, and introduced a new (and, obviously, evil) Ranger, in the form of Green Ranger Tommy (played by chisel-jawed Canadian martial arts wünderkid Jason David Frank). After being brain-washed by Rita, the Green Ranger wreaked some serious damage, almost destroying the Power Rangers and their mentor Zordon. He even had his own zord — the spectacular, water-dwelling DragonZord, which emerged hypnotically from the sea with a drill-like tail.

Needless to say, Tommy became good, and joined the team. Which was all pleasant enough, but totally ruined coherency. Why did the Green Ranger have his own theme song? Why did he get to have lame, gold shoulder-pads, while the others didn’t? Why did the other Rangers bother with their own zords, when it was clear the DragonZord could destroy the villains all by itself? It was the beginning of a steep downhill slide.

They say children are adaptive creatures, and can cope with change remarkably well. But this doesn’t mean they should be subjected to epic and volatile change annually, just for the sake of it. Do you remember the dismay you felt when Pippa from Home & Away was replaced by another actor? Can you imagine riding that rollercoaster of emotions every year? What the fuck is Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue? Why does it exist and why does it suck? The answer is simple, and all kids — even the fat ones — are smart enough to know when things smell a little too merchandisey. Keep things simple, and the merchandise will age well. Just look at my shirt.

This article can be found snugly tucked away in issue 2.1.

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