The Power is Yours! Why it’s time for Captain Planet to make a return visit

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When you think back, it’s scary to consider how different the mid noughties child is to the child who grew up in the early nineties. See, back in the nineties, the internet was a foreign concept, meaning that knowledge could be accessed in one of three ways: school, the library or television. Of these three ways, television was the most accessible and creative. 

Television gave children the opportunity to absorb and experience knowledge in a manner which emphasized playfulness and imagination over dry text. It appeared to be a form of escapism but, in fact, it was an essential learning tool that packaged information in a language that children could understand and identify with. Many of the edutainment shows produced during this period still have a very special place in our hearts. Who doesn’t, for instance, still have some sort of affection for Sesame Street or Barney the Dinosaur? Luckily, despite the fact that these shows may now be considered relics, they are still broadcast in some form or another. However, at least until now, the best of these shows has remained in the archives of television history. The show in question is Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

Now here’s the deal with Captain Planet: with the exception of Widget The World Watcher, it was one of the few children’s shows that successfully merged its exploration of environmental issues with a genre and storytelling that was accessible to a generation of both young and older children. As much as shows like Sesame Street, to this day, preach about recycling and environmental hazards in a cute and funny way, there’s no escaping the fact that the environmental education they provide has been shaped and developed in a way which is aimed to primarily appeal to the under 5 set. For older children who catch an episode of Sesame Street, the environmental lessons the show provides come across as generic and simplistic. Captain Planet, however, understood the importance of capturing the attention of a wide-range of pre-tween and tween viewers. It did so by playing on a persona that appealed to both these age groups, namely that of the superhero and the notion that they too could be superheroes.

For those who don’t remember, the story of Captain Planet begins when an earth goddess named Gaia, dismayed by the pollution and destruction happening on the earth she holds so dear, enlists the help of five teenagers from different parts of the globe to help save the world. Each teen is given a ring to represent a particular power, be it fire, water, wind or (in, one strange case) heart. As with traditional superhero sagas such as X-Men, each teen utilizes their particular power as a form of combat against their various enemies. When the teens are in peril, they overcome their obstacles by bringing their rings together to form Captain Planet, an extremely blue superhero who comes to their aid. Of course, Captain Planet is a very thinly veiled symbol for the importance of teamwork. This makes the message at the heart of Captain Planet a double-layered one. On one hand, it imparts important lessons about the dangers of pollution and strategies one can utilize to help overcome this pollution. On the other, it emphasizes the necessity of friendship and the power of team work.

The genius of Captain Planet was that, though it was primarily an American show, it made a point to emphasize to children, through the different backgrounds of the planeteers, that environmental issues were global ones and that no issue existed in a vacuum from the other. This, of course, is one of the most important lessons for children to learn as they grow up and learn to shape their perceptions of the world. Furthermore, this emphasis also created a platform for children to question their own perceptions of the earth and how aiming to create a cleaner earth could make their interaction with it a more holistic one. The show also made use of a clever slogan which was voiced by Captain Planet, both in the show’s opening and closing credits. The slogan “The Power is Yours” worked as both a statement of self-worth and of responsibility. This was made clear during the closing credits when Captain Planet would explain to viewers how they could use their own real world powers to fight the battles the planeteers fought and won in each episode. When Captain Planet concluded with “The Power is Yours”, he broke through the fantastical realm experienced by the viewer during the show’s half-hour running time and transformed into a reality which the viewer could en-act in his or her own imaginative way.

Perhaps the only problem with Captain Planet is that, in today’s day and age, children would sadly view it with disinterest in comparison to the sassy, satirical cartoons churned out by the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Then, of course, the show’s hand-drawn 2D animation today comes with its own problems as it would struggle to come up against the high-tech glamour of computerized 3D animation. Sadly then, today’s children lack the advantage of learning about their potential as environmental heroes in a fun, engrossing and interactive visual way.

I was delighted, however, to see that (according to IMDB.com), Captain Planet will be making a return to earth sometime in 2014 as a live-action film. Most likely it won’t be the Captain Planet we all knew so very long ago. It will probably be spruced up in 3D and sarcasm, perfectly suited to the demands of the noughties child. Yet, despite this, at least Captain Planet’s return will hopefully inspire these children to step away from Twitter and their X-Boxes, armed with the knowledge that the power is, indeed, theirs.

 

Sources for info: IMDB.com and Box Seat

Originally published on poppiejunkie.wordpress.com

Comments

I grew up on Captain Planet TV myself and as an adult now I still find the programme more relevant than ever! it is educational, raises environmental awareness on pollution, deforestation, climate change and all these other things we teach Geography students about in university. Im glad to hear that it will be making a return in 2014, in 3D-animation how sick will it be?! In the 21st century where environmentalism and eco-consciousness permeates and sort of defines the lifestyles and curriculum of modern day people, men, women and children from all socio-cultural backgrounds, Captain Planet is also instrumental in raising awareness around social issues, breaking stereotypes about who people are and ho wdifferent but same we all are regardless of race, geography or even language. The Power is indeed ours, mine, and yours in our capacity, collectively. Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Heart are all elements that bring out the Captain and make him possible through these 5 different kids working together with Gaia: mother nature fighting against greed monsters (corporations and industry that doesnt care much about ground and street level consequences of their actions and mal practices). The series and soon to be movie is not merely about the environmental and psychological ills of our inherited Earth, which is the only thing humans have in common (share), it is also about the heart of this human society, breaking racial and class boundaries to usher in a new and very different world each time with each episode. It will be catchy, and i'm sure it will be using social networks because in all truth, Captian Planet has always been technologically advanced and it therefore educates the viewers and fanatics about the good and evil of technology, power and capital on the society (human world) that creates and produces it. I hope in 2014 it will break the mould and not be too "childish", its never been anyway. 

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