As we all know, there is one show that always gets children’s attention and invokes their passion for becoming one of the members: Power Rangers. This was originally the Super Sentai series in Japan and the series was exported to the United States. And now, it is a worldwide phenomenon.
For me, Super Sentai (Later I’ll go by its American franchise’s name Power Ranger) was always a thing. For example, I started watching the show when I was so young — probably since I was born, and I’m still looking forward to watching a new episode every week.
All the Power Rangers shows displayed me how teamwork and the squad’s bond would defeat the villains, and also how someone — even a girl like I was — could become a Ranger and be powerful.
Becoming a female Power Ranger meant supporting the men
I grew up and was still a Power Rangers fan, and I found a really “interesting” circle (society in UK universities) in my university; that is an extracurricular club for performing club-original Power Rangers plays (we called it “Hero show”) to welfare facilities, nurseries and elementary schools as its volunteer service.
Yes, of course, I jumped into the circle.
The activity was full of fun for a Power Rangers nerd; because I could play one of the Rangers myself and write a script and make my best imagination come to life.
As a female-bodied person, I mainly got to play roles of MC (which is typically a female part for official shows), Pink and Yellow Ranger.
And basically, all of them didn’t take the lead role in the story; MC supports the Rangers by helping them gain the power powered by children(audience)’s cheer, Pink and Yellow Rangers always support the male Ranger – especially Red Ranger who is supposed to be the leader of the squad.
Changing the narrative
As a playwright, I first started revising the stereotypical depictions of Pink and Yellow Rangers. Usually, they got fewer lines than male characters, so I made sure they got an equal amount of lines in the scripts I wrote. Also, Pink Ranger had spoken in a stereotypically feminine manner in a way that no women talk in the present days, which featured ~~wa, ~~yo (~~da is a masculine form). (e.g., Ikuwayo! I’ll go!) I changed how she spoke by adopting more realistic language that every woman would use nowadays.
Aside from Yellow, a tomboyish character in the squad, Pink Ranger had kept the feminine, supportive, and soft character traditionally. I also decided to write a story featuring her as the lead role. In the story, she finds herself as a strong Ranger that can help her friends under a spell by the villains on her own.
Moreover, I also started making a new Ranger by writing a story and designing the entire outfit. The Ranger that I created was a female-bodied, non-binary character for the first time in the circle’s history. The show featured them as the lead role was performed in the university’s school festival, and lots of children and even adult audiences loved the play and the character.
I enjoyed these experiences of making a change in the small community and how we showed children the power the female Rangers have.
But this story doesn’t end with a happy ending — especially for women
When I was in my third year of university, I became one of the vice presidents in the club. (the executive roles there were the president, two vice presidents and treasurer), and a former executive member of the club, who was also a woman, talked to me on the first day of my job: “You need to support the president. This is your job.” She didn’t say the same thing to another vice president who was a male.
There was also another fact — that I suffered from continuous sexual harassment (both verbally and physically) in the community. “We can sexually abuse female university students as much as we want” — the word was said by a former club president with a laugh. He was a 20-year-old university student at that time.
Recently I had a conversation with a fellow club member about the stories and characters that I wrote and created, and what he said is still echoing in me:
“I’m sure that you wanted to make everyone, especially girl Rangers stand out and not
conform to the normative concept of how women should act…but we were making shows for children.
Wouldn’t it be easier for them to understand when the roles assigned to the girl Rangers are simple?”
This “simplicity” of women’s roles he mentioned that was preferred by the club members felt like it explained everything that I went through throughout the four years.
Fighting the oppression narrative
To conclude, my journey as a Power Ranger and working at the Power Rangers base taught me a lot. I don’t regret participating in the club and becoming the vice president, an actor, and a playwright. I gained so much knowledge and experience that I couldn’t have gotten if I had continued to be an audience.
But the four years of service made me realise that we were also the ones who tried to reproduce the oppression to 3-10-year-old girls that they could only be the “supportive” role.
Also, we were the ones who didn’t believe in women’s power, rights, and equality in the club.
I finished my undergraduate degree in 2020 and graduated from my former university, and am no longer a Ranger anymore, but I still keep fighting with the oppression that I had felt for the past 4 years.
If your daughter (or yourself!) likes a Power Ranger show, teach her that she has the power to beat the villains and she is as strong as every Power Ranger.
Whilst she is playing a Power Ranger role-play with her friends, we adults defeat the bias inside us.
Haruna Kono is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, doing a postgraduate degree in MA Gender Studies. Their interests include sexual violence issues, reproductive health rights, queer in Asia, and massive love for anime, manga and idols.