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I'm Shreya. I have opinions on television. If they're wrong I'm sure you'll tell me in the comments. 

unapologetically feminist, working on being a better ally

Saturday Morning Cartoons : Captain Planet and the Planeteers

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Happy Saturday to all! In the spirit of the glory that was Saturday morning cartoons, we are starting a new feature here on the blog. Now, am I going to over-analyze every cartoon within an inch of its life? You’re damn right I am. I’m like the overeager therapist that’s going to tell you exactly what the weird dream you had meant – whether you wanted me to or not. The show I've chosen to kick this off is Captain Planet and the Planeteers in all its preachy liberal glory.

Characters – Gaia is the embodiment of Mother Nature. She lives on an undisclosed island named Hope Island and, after seeing all the damage to the environment that humanity was conducting, decided to hand out her five rings of power to five humans and give them the task of helping to clean the earth and take pollution down to zero. And yes, that’s a line from the theme song. This Youtube clip will give you the intro and closing theme.

This show is going to leave nothing to the imagination. How many Planeteers are there? How many races and continents are there? THAT IS HOW MANY DAMN PLANETEERS THERE ARE. It is cliché to call the group a Colors of Benetton advertisement? Yes?  Well I’m just going to call the reference retro then. Kwame is the leader and hails from Africa (Power of Earth); Gi has the Power of Water and is from China; Linka is almost comically Russian and is from the Soviet Union. In later episodes, after the collapse of the USSR, it’s called Eastern Europe… Way to go America, first you pollute the planet and then you make the creators change their intro because of your Cold War? Sheesh. Ma-Ti is from the rainforests of Brazil and has the Power of Heart. In case you’re wondering, the power of Heart can instill empathy in other people and let you communicate with animals telepathically. Ma-Ti is basically a mash-up of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Aquaman if you remove the lightsaber and replace it with and anthropomorphized monkey named Suchi who I can only imagine hangs out with Abu from Aladdin constantly. Wheeler is from America, has the Power of Fire, and is the hothead of the group (Get it, because he’s a redhead!). He is also the quintessential American… selfish, angry, dismissive, kind of an asshole. If he was your favorite Planeteer, you’re doing it wrong. Also, the forced romantic connection was hilarious and just one more aspect of social engineering on the show's part. Why can't your two countries get along !?

When these Planeteers put their power rings together, they summon Captain Planet – über-powered, green-mulleted (yes, his hair was green and was cut in a mullet) super being that could be counted on to get the gang out of almost any jam and clean up insurmountable amounts of pollution. He is basically Superman crossed with Storm from the X-Men. He can fly, has super strength, and manipulate everything that the rings could do in the first place – earth, wind, water and fire.

Plot – The story of almost every episode follows this arc. Gaia alerts the Planeteers that a random bad guy (or girl) that they are already aware of is committing some heinous act of pollution. The Planeteers then take one of several eco-friendly vehicles to go investigate said act of pollution. They see that it is in fact pollution and then they call on Captain Planet. He makes quick work of everyone unless it was one of the particularly stressful episodes where the baddie throws toxic sludge or some other sort of pollution on Captain Planet – acting as his Kryptonite. Fun fact – pollution can be entirely cleaned by splashing it with water, which is always how the gang fixes this plot device. Could this all be expedited if Gaia, who clearly already has a connection to Captain Planet, just called on him in the first place and took the kids out of the equation? I imagine so, but then it would be a ten minute show.

Stars – If you were even a marginal star in the 90’s, you had a voiceover job on this show. Gaia herself was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Levar Burton, quickly becoming a formative part of my childhood, was the voice of Kwame. Captain Planet, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation? I feel very much like Troy from Community (YOU CAN’T DISAPPOINT A PICTURE!). In terms of the eco-villains, ALL of them were voiced by stars: Dr. Blight and her partner/friend/evil supercomputer/lover(?) MAL were voiced by Meg Ryan and Tim Curry respectively; Ed Asner was Hoggish Greedly, some sort of pig creature obsessed with offshore drilling (I assume that he’s currently running BP); Jeff Goldblum was Verminous Skumm; Martin Sheen (President Bartlet!) voiced Sly Sludge; and Sting voiced Zarm, some sort of alien, super-intelligent creature who always had some sort of alternate universe to throw at the Planeteers.

Big Picture – Captain Planet, is incredibly, incredibly cheesy. Like, what you would imagine Fox News saying liberals are trying to brainwash kids with cheesy. I find it really interesting that media magnate and billionaire Ted Turner would – have this idea, fund it being made, stick every star imaginable in it, and keep it around for years. It’s liberal Hollywood at its best. At the end of every episode, Planet and the Planeteers would come out and tell you (the viewer) a quick way that you can fight pollution and save the planet. You can be a Planeteer too!

In a world today where the majority of children’s programming is mindless colors and sounds meant only to placate kids and entice them to want EVERY product released associated with the show, Captain Planet seems even more groundbreaking. Was the dialog outright horrible and extremely preachy? You’re damn right it was… but it hearkens back to the boogeyman that the Right wing is so afraid of and rails against – liberal Hollywood preaching to the rest of the nation their left wing ideals. If their ideals are fighting pollution and keeping the environment sustainable for our children, then it should be anything but controversial. With the Obama Administration seemingly hell-bent on constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline, we could use Captain Planet educating future Planeteers today more than ever. Seriously, watch a couple episodes again and hope that this movie that’s been rumored for over a decade will finally be made.

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