Twenty-five years ago on a cool September day, my favorite journalism-related madman, Ted Turner, created a little show known as Captain Planet and The Planeteers.
This show was a product of the 90s: five teenagers from around the world saving the earth from pollution, a time when the millennium was coming to an end and a majority of people were finally growing a conscience about how the Earth should be treated.
We start off with Gaea, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, handing out five magical rings of earth, fire, wind, water and heart to five youths from Africa, North America, the Soviet Union, Asia and South America respectively. You can’t see such a diverse group often anywhere on TV, let alone on children’s cartoons. And when their powers combined, just as if our nations combined, they formed Captain Planet, a Superman-esque hero who commands the elements of the rings and whose only weakness is pollution.
Although I actually loved this show, it was pretty dumb. I mean, is it just me or did Ma-Ti, the Brazilian boy with the ring of heart, get the worst power? Kwame can control the earth, Wheeler shoots fire, Linka calls forth winds and Gi commands the water. What does Ma-Ti do? He can appeal to the good in people’s hearts and talk with animals. Thanks a lot, Gaea.
The villains are either polluters or greedy capitalists, and a lot of them are designed after filthy animals like pigs and rats. Not only are they called the Eco-Villains, but they also created their own rings to form Captain Pollution. He’s like Captain Planet, but an asshole.
The episodes all had the same story structure: location gets polluted, the heroes find that the villains are polluting and when their rings aren’t enough to save the environment, Kwame shouts, “Let our powers combine!” And as you can figure, Captain Planet saves the day.
Other than the predictable stories, what I liked about this show were the little things that came here and there. I liked that Wheeler, a New Yorker, and Linka, the Planeteer from the USSR, had a romance brewing despite the Cold War drama, and how there were two random episodes that didn’t deal with pollution but rather gang violence and the AIDS panic.
The thing is, this show really did want to educate its audience, which is completely evident in their ending messages, The Planeteer Alerts, where the characters would discuss the severity of that episode’s problem and offer the viewer a way to help save their environment.
Captain Planet might be the reason why so many kids became environmentalists and took action to stop pollution. And remember the ending song?! Of course you do.
Unfortunately, like everything else that tries to get kids to actively improve their planet, the show was scrapped in six years. But we don’t need Ted Turner to tell us how to save our world because, you knew this was coming, “The power is yours!”