POWER RANGERS Features Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Superhero
This is great news! Though I must confess: I’m as sick of writing slightly modified versions of this exact article as you probably are of reading them. That seems to suggest two important things: one, the fact that this is still newsworthy shows how far we have to go, and two, the increase is in the number of these stories is a positive sign. The next mainstream studio venture attempting to be more inclusive? Saban’s Power Rangers.
Minor spoilers to follow.
In the film, Trini – the Yellow Ranger, played by Latina actress Becky G – seems to find herself questioning her sexuality, which causes a slight rift between her and her family. I can’t really comment on the approach not having seen the film myself; Dave Schilling’s review suggests it’s more than a throwaway or a winking reference, while others seem to indicate any and all implications are, well, largely implicit. Some are even calling it a stretch. So, how "open" this comes off in the text may depend one's perspective, experience, or personal threshold for such things. If the upside to stories like this being part of the news cycle is getting people excited, the downside appears to be a lack of clarity until the film is in theatres.
Director Dean Israelite had this to say:
"For Trini, really she's questioning a lot about who she is," Israelite tells The Hollywood Reporter. "She hasn't fully figured it out yet. I think what's great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, 'That's OK.' The movie is saying, 'That's OK,' and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe."
Between this and finding out the Pink Ranger is part Indian, I may finally be interested!
We should have this conversation down like clockwork by now. First gay hero? Or first “openly” gay hero? According to whose cultural canon? Are they “explicitly” gay? Textually? Subtextually? Metatextually? There’s a million ways to categorize a supposed landmark like this (we’ll likely need to until it’s commonplace), including along the lines of that last one. Star Trek Beyond revealed Sulu had a husband in tribute to original actor George Takei (that came with its own set of complications), and in memory of Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast featured a more explicitly queer LeFou, though one might attribute its perceived explicitly to word-of-God given the subtext of the original. As if following suit, this new Power Rangers film feels inadvertently like cosmic justice, given that OG Blue Ranger Billy Yost had to leave the original American series after homophobic harassment.
Yost himself weighed in on the decision:
“They really stepped up to the plate,” says Yost. “I think so many people in the LGBTQI community are going to be excited to see that representation.”
Whether groundbreaking, patronizing, or some bizarre mix of the two, we’re going to be hearing about a lot of these “firsts” for a while, at least until big guns like Marvel, DC, Star Wars and Pixar are discernibly rainbow-coloured. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be, but the road to inclusivity is going to be suitably bumpy so long as there’s pushback. While I’m sure Disney’s $170 million domestic opening didn’t take too much of a hit when a solitary Alabama drive-in refused to screen Beauty and the Beast, what of entire countries refusing to screen films unless queer content is censored, or refusing to screen them at all?
As much as it’s an issue of revenue for the studios, it’s also important to recognize that demanding an all-or-nothing approach in terms of diversity might mean queer folks in these countries may be left with nothing regardless. It’s hard to measure movement like this, but studios taking their time and pushing the limits of “acceptability” at a snail’s pace, while far from ideal, may very well be for the best from a global perspective.
Thankfully with each iteration in the American mainstream, things seem to be improving. Star Trek Beyond and Independence Day: Resurgence’s blink-and-you-might-miss-them gay couples showed up merely a year ago (ID4 2’s wasn’t so much blink-and-miss as it was think-heteronormatively-and-miss, but you get the idea), and while Disney’s chosen approach to revealing LeFou’s sexuality beforehand seems to have muddied the waters and confused people about its significance, it’s nice to have what sounds like a slightly more clear-cut lesbian storyline in a big action movie that a lot of kids are going to watch.
Saban’s Power Rangers arrives March 24th.