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Queer Power Rangers

One of my favorite television shows when I was a child was Power Rangers.[1] Like many people my age, I grew up with it; it was one of the first stories I was a fan of, one of my first fandoms before I knew what fandom was. I watched three series of the show (the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Power Rangers Turbo, and Power Rangers in Space) as well as the two movies (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie). There was a regrettable gap in my devotion, as I skipped much of Power Rangers Zeo. From the beginning of the original series to the end of Power Rangers in Space was a period of about five years, during which I was five to ten years old, and I was a fan of the show after it was no longer considered cool among my classmates. Kimberly from the first series was my role model and (now that I look back on it) probably unknowingly my first childhood crush. I’ll even confess that when I was in tenth grade at the age of fifteen, I watched a Power Rangers marathon during spring break and enjoyed it. I think the episodes were from the Dino Thunder series. I remember that Tommy Oliver, one of my favorite characters from the older series and one of the longest-running characters on the show, was back as a teacher of the current Rangers. All of this is to say that Power Rangers was near and dear to my heart, and I still look back on it fondly. (The fact that the show is apparently still running, with new incarnations, puts a smile on my face.) They were superheroes who saved the world from evil, and I wanted to be like them.

My enjoyment of Power Rangers included an element of imagination, of course. I didn’t write fan fiction, back then, but I certainly made up stories in my own mind based on the world and characters, as fans of many stories do. Some of these stories included romance, specifically same-sex romance. There is nothing wrong with this, and I look back on it with the same nostalgia, humor, and thankfulness that I feel about many of my favorite childhood stories. Because of discrimination, however, it is not just a cute matter of a child enjoying making up stories, but a personal example related to the issue of representation in children’s media. Whenever there are discussions about representation, one of the most frequent arguments that people use to dismiss concerns about a lack of diversity (especially a lack of LGBTQIAP+/queer characters) is that it’s not appropriate in a children’s show. Some, seeking perhaps to be a bit more diplomatic, will say that while there’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQIAP+, children don’t care about these kinds of things or won’t really notice the sexual orientation or gender identity of the characters. I must disagree with this assertion.

I distinctly remember shipping the Power Rangers in same-sex relationships; I even had a piece of paper on which I wrote down the names of all the Power Rangers whose stories I’d watched and matched them with each other. I went looking around my room for this list a few years after writing it, and dearly wish I still had it as a keepsake. Though I matched all of the Rangers (even inventing, if I remember correctly, some original characters when the numbers came out uneven, not being familiar with polyamorous relationships at the time) there were two couples who were my favorites: Jason and Tommy from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Andros and Zhane from Power Rangers in Space. I also liked the relationships between Kimberly and Trini, and Billy and Zach from Mighty Morphin and Ashley and Cassie, and Carlos and TJ from Space. The first series was on when I was five to seven years old, and so my feelings about Jason and Tommy were inklings, little thoughts about their closeness and care for each other. By the time Power Rangers in Space was on, however, I was a few years older and there no question of my intention in my imaginings. I remember, around the age of ten, thinking of Andros and Zhane as a couple. I remember imagining romantic scenes between them, scenes which even included sexual content that was passionate (though very inaccurate, given my lack of knowledge on the subject at that age). Their relationship, though it was my own imagining, meant a lot to me, and I spent what I remember as quite a lot of time thinking about them. They were my Remus Lupin and Sirius Black before I read Harry Potter; they were my One True Pairing (OTP)[2] before I knew what an OTP was.

My goal in writing this is to emphasize that this interest in same-sex relationships was in my mind from a young age and even predated understanding of my own orientation. This isn’t some later invention, an adult’s interpretation upon looking back on favorite childhood stories, but something that I thought of at the time. I certainly have more knowledge and understanding with which to analyze stories than I did back then, and a larger vocabulary with which to express my thoughts; however, the feeling that same-sex relationships made sense and should be in the story were there from early on. When people say that children don’t think of sexual orientation or gender identity, they’re incorrect, often because they are basing the statement on their own experiences without considering that other people’s experiences growing up may have been different.

For some of us, the portrayal of characters in the canons of our favorite stories seemed to be incomplete, not reflecting the reality of what we felt about ourselves and the world. For some of us, the friendship between characters of the same sex developing into romance made just as much sense, if not more, than the friendship between one female and one male character developing into romance. For some of us, our own imaginings provided an alternate universe in which we could explore our own thoughts and feelings within the familiarity of a beloved story.

For some of us, the Power Rangers were queer.

[Originally Written: 18 January 2014]

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References

[1] “Power Rangers”. Wikipedia Entry. Retrieved on 18 January 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Rangers. cf. “Power Rangers (series)” entry at the Ranger Wiki, which can be found at http://powerrangers.wikia.com/wiki/Power_Rangers_(Series).

[2] “One True Pairing”. Fanlore. Retrieved on 18 January 2014 from http://fanlore.org/wiki/One_True_Pairing.

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