Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Power Rangers Dino Charge Features the First African-American Pink Ranger

Power Rangers is undoubtedly one of the biggest children's television and merchandise institutions of all time. The original series, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers debuted on Fox Kids in August 1993 and since the, has entertained millions of children around the world with a mixture of fun, martial-arts and science fiction. Similar to the first incarnation of the show, the current series Power Rangers Dino Charge is based on dinosaurs. Dino Charge is significant, not only to Power Rangers itself, but also the superhero institution, due to its casting an African-American actress in the seminal pink ranger role.

You may be wondering why an African-American actress playing the pink ranger is so significant. Well, in the current season, the pink ranger is the only female ranger on the main team, Camille Hyde, the actress mentioned, is the first African-American female actress to have a power ranger role since Deborah Estelle Philips as Katy in the 2001 series Power Rangers Time Force.

Why has it taken so long for an African-American actress to be cast in the iconic pink ranger role? Even more shocking, why has there not been an African-American actress in the show since 2001? Some may argue "there were no African-American actresses who were suitable for the role until 2015...". And while the majority of the actresses who have portrayed characters in Power Rangers since 2001 have been great, there surely must have been one or two African-American actresses who could have also nailed the part.

The role of the Pink Ranger is more important than you may think. The pink ranger is often seen as the focal female ranger on the team, in the same way the Red Ranger is the most important male ranger. The colour pink is usually marketed towards girls, and judging by the Power Rangers merchandise over the years, the pink ranger's costume, weapons etc are usually favoured over the other female ranger's (which is usually yellow, and sometimes blue or white etc). Furthermore, the colour pink often creates connotations of "innocence" and "femininity" which are qualities which are, at times, used against black females in the media. 

Interestingly Dino Charge thanks to the 2013 incarnation of the Japanese series of which the entire franchise has been based upon, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, the pink ranger is the only female ranger on the main, five-man team. Whoever was to be cast in the role of Shelby, would be the main female role model in the show for the young female audience to look up to. The only main female ranger is a black woman. 

In Dino Charge's premiere episode "Powers from the Past", Shelby is the focal character and the audience is guided through the events of the episode through her perspective. Little girls of all races will look up to Shelby in a time where there is a  relative lack of African-American female superheroes.

Yes, we have Storm from The X-Men and Vixen from Justice League, but there should be more!

This leads to question of whether we will see more African-American female superheroes in the future. The truth is it seems quite unlikely, at least in the near future. There is already a lack of female superhero characters in the industry, with some of the most popular examples, like Black Widow in The Avengers having their merchandise shunned by retailers. If conditions for white actresses in superhero films are bad, the roles for Black women will be even worse.

Before I conclude this essay, I would like to make one thing clear; I am a strong believer that an actor should only be cast in a role if their talents and abilities are suitable for the character. That being said, televisions shows and films which are conveying such an ethnically and culturally diverse world should have their characters reflect this diversity. Power Rangers is a very important show for children. It always has some female representation and over the years, has delivered incredibly strong, and multi-layered characters. I am sure Camille Hyde was chosen to be the pink ranger due to her strong acting abilities, talent and wit which are evident in the show. Hopefully, we won't have to wait another 14 years to see another brilliant African-American female superhero for children to look up too.

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