Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About Captain Planet

Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug is a cool guy who reviews bad comics. I really enjoy his video segment on That Guy With the Glasses, "Atop the Fourth Wall", and recommend y'all check him out.

Anyway, he reviewed a Captain Planet comic...

...which started me reflecting on the show it was based on. This post is adapted from my comment on his video.

I liked Captain Planet and the Planeteers when I was a kid, though I'm fully aware of its flaws now. I guess I just liked anything with action and superheroes, plus the lessons it delivered were in line with my family's values - we were and are a bunch of blue-collar New England Democrats, and respect for the environment is something I believe in.

But the problem, as many people have said, is that Captain Planet slams you over the head with its message, appealing to cheap emotional responses, while getting half of it wrong. I'm basically a socialist, but I'm mature enough to realize that capitalist CEOs aren't mustache-twirling villains - they're human beings just like me, and more often than not believe that they're doing right.

If you want to see what a good environmentalist story looks like, watch Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. The proto-capitalist "antagonist" has noble motives and actually helps people in her own way by giving them employment and shelter. The conflict between her and the nature-worshiping protagonists (who can be seen as eco-terrorists) is far from cut-and-dry. Even the nature spirits themselves are not "good" - they're dangerous, alien creatures who can be downright monstrous.

On a less serious note, I always felt sorry for Ma-Ti, the Planeteers' fifth wheel. Everyone always gets down on him for having a stupid ability. What kind of dumb power is Heart, anyway? But when I think about it, he'd potentially be the most powerful of all the Planeteers. I mean, his powers include clairvoyance, telepathy, and mind control. Just think what he could do if he had the imagination - and the ruthlessness - to use that power to its full potential!

If I were writing Captain Planet? I'd set it 15 years in the future, where Ma-Ti has gotten fed up with being the butt monkey of the team. He's become an extremist and used his ring to become a Communist dictator, controlling the hearts and minds of the masses. The other Planeteers struggle against their former friend, but they dare not summon Captain Planet, for without Heart to guide him, the planet's avatar has become a mindless force of destruction, nature's wrath incarnate.

That's what kind of dumb power Heart is!

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