Should parents pull the plug, too?

October 28, 1994|By Tim Warren

MY KIDS don't watch "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" anymore. When it was on TV at 7:30 in the morning, they would tune in during breakfast maybe a couple times a week, when they weren't watching "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Now the "Power Rangers" show comes on at 4:30 p.m., when they are in day care. So, except when they occasionally watch one of the five Power Rangers videos we own, the five karate-kicking teens are out of their lives. But Matty, who is 7, and Nicky, who is 4, had already lost interest in the show.

I was thinking about this last week when the debate over the violence in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" was renewed after the beating death of a 5-year-old Norwegian girl by three young neighbors. Norwegians, naturally, were horrified by the incident, and such American-produced action shows as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Power Rangers" were blamed for creating an atmosphere in which such an unthinkable murder could take place. "Power Rangers" was pulled off Norwegian television, a move that was praised in some quarters in this country as well.

I know parents who won't let their kids watch "Power Rangers" because they are afraid that little Kevin or Marsha (a lot of young girls watch the show because it has two female Rangers) might degenerate into miniature Ninjas. The show has given me problems, too -- but not because of the question of violence.

Rather, it's because "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" is the dumbest television show I've seen in nearly four decades of TV-watching. The show's creators have all but boasted that they want it to seem like a cheesy '50s Japanese science-fiction movie. But they've failed. It's much worse.

It's so bad that my wife and I looked at each other in disbelief when we sat down with the kids to watch an episode. The premise sounded mildly promising: five teen-agers using their martial arts prowess to fight bad guys. It doesn't sound intellectually challenging, we conceded. But neither were "Sky King" and "Fury," and, as kids, my wife and I never missed an episode of either.

What we saw on "Power Rangers," though, were five lightweight teen-agers who recited their dialogue in exactly the same manner no matter what the scenario. True, their lines were so inane that I left the room after five minutes -- but not before the chief villain, a screechy hag named Rita Repulsa, had given me a massive headache.

Even within the generous boundaries of children's television, in which most transgressions are forgiven, "Power Rangers" was an egregious offender. My wife and I decided we could never watch it with the kids again. But should we let them watch it?

After some discussion, we concluded that making it off-limits because of the quality wasn't fair. For one thing, adult tastes in TV shows are bound to differ from a child's. So let them have their fun. There's nothing wrong with children having their own shows -- it's healthy, actually, as long as they are not excessively disturbing.

As for the violence question, I didn't understand it -- and still don't. A report issued in March by two researchers at California State University-Fullerton found that after studying children in day care groups, kids who watched "Power Rangers" were much more aggressive than those who didn't.

If children watched the show, the report said, they were more apt to torment their classmates with assorted karate kicks and chops learned by observing the five young rangers.

Well, as any parent can tell you, kids will often imitate what they see on TV and the movies. When Matty and Nicky went to see "Free Willy," they rushed home and pretended to be orca whales for an hour.

So, sure, they might cartwheel around the TV room after watching "Power Rangers" or "Ninja Turtles." But they're good kids who don't beat up on one another or on friends.

They also seemed to sense from the beginning that "Power Rangers" was so blatantly cartoonish that it couldn't be taken seriously.

So we let them watch the show, thankful at least that it wasn't as truly violent as much of evening television (which we still monitor carefully).

All along, I hoped that they could decide for themselves that "Power Rangers" was a stupid show and not worth their time. If they could reach that conclusion themselves, we'd have no silly little battles of will. Besides, it was good training for me for the times when they will bring home girlfriends I won't like.

Neither boy announced he didn't care for "Power Rangers" any more. They simply stopped watching the show, stopped making references to the characters and stopped asking for "Power Rangers" paraphernalia. At this point, the show seems to have dropped into the category of Flavor of the Month.

I asked the older boy the other day if he still liked "Power Rangers." He said he did, in a rather perfunctory way, but couldn't remember what time it was on TV. But, he cautioned: It had better not be on at the same time as "Scooby Dooby Doo!", his new favorite show.

I started to say "Scooby Dooby Doo!" was a particularly silly cartoon. Then I stopped.

It might work again.

Tim Warren is a features editor with The Sun.

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