Updated: Jun 23, 2019
(I wrote a bunch of articles a few years ago for a website that was destroyed in a fire or something, so I'm re-posting some of them. Here's one about the important topic of Captain Planet. -Rob)
Regardless of how many people it consistently kills with natural disasters, people are still fans of the environment, relying on it heavily for important things like rocks, sticks and being able to live.
To help kids understand the importance of this abusive relationship and why we need to protect something that has killed in the past and will definitely kill again, there was Captain Planet.
Created in 1990 by American media tycoon Ted Turner, Captain Planet followed the adventures of 5 special young people summoned by the Earth’s spirit Gaia to protect the environment from destructive human behaviour. Notably, Gaia never really asks the youths whether they want to help, instead just magically teleporting them to her lair, highlighting how perceptions can differ depending on whether kids are teleported somewhere or are lured into a van with the same result.
To aid in their environmental mission, Gaia entrusts the abducted youths with 5 magic rings, each with a different power. Kwame has the power to control earth, Linka wind, Gi water and Wheeler with the power of fire. The remaining Planeteer, Ma-Ti, has the power of heart, enabling him to communicate with animals and to feel stuff deeply, most notably ridicule from fans and fellow Planeteers. It even feels like the show’s writers are mocking him at times, as seen here:
Yet even with Ma-Ti’s ability to feel really sad, the Planeteers often needed help to defeat evil. Fortunately when each of the five heroes combined their powers, they could summon Earth’s greatest champion Captain Planet.
Captain Planet would often be called upon to help thwart evil schemes perpetrated by the show’s villains including Dr. Blight, Verminous Skumm, Hoggish Greedly, Looten Plunder and Sly Sludge, all of whom are a reminder that parents can really narrow their children’s career options when they name them.
Most storylines involved the villains causing some kind of environmental damage for financial gain. Topics such as logging, over-fishing, mining, air pollution, water contamination and toxic waste were all typical subject matter, with other controversial subjects also occasionally dealt with. In one such episode Verminous Skumm creates a drug called ‘Bliss’ causing much of the town to become violently addicted including Linka. Here she is in her role as a strung-out smackhead:
In a surprisingly confronting finale, her uncle Boris dies from an overdose, reminding kids about the dangers of drugs, or possibly traumatising them in a way that increased the likelihood of future use.
There was also a memorable episode called ‘A Formula For Hate’ that dealt with AIDS. Again starring Verminous Skumm, the episode involved a high school student contracting HIV as a result of a contaminated blood transfusion. Skumm then uses the situation to spread lies about the disease in order to panic the townspeople. Here’s Skumm with some of his controversial pro-AIDS thoughts:
eventually Captain Planet and the boy’s basketball coach convince the townspeople that the boy is not to be feared, proving once again that trusting a mutant rat named Verminous Skumm isn't as safe as it might first seem.
The original series ran from 1990-1993, then changing its name to ‘The New Adventures Of Captain Planet’ introducing some of the show’s most notorious episodes including the infamous ‘A Good Bomb Is Hard To Find’. In this episode Dr. Blight builds a time machine, going back in time to World War 2 in order to auction a futuristic bomb to warlords that include a certain German dictator. The character is never specifically named and though it could be any German World War 2 dictator with a distinctive moustache who everyone refers to as “Führer”, there are those who suspect the character may be a stylized version of Hitler. Here he is delivering one of the show’s greatest lines:
Luckily Captain Planet shows up to dispose of the bomb, explaining that “…prejudice and hate are as toxic as any pollutant.” He doesn't appear to do anything to prevent the holocaust but it was still bold for a children’s cartoon to suggest Hitler and wars are not good things.
Every episode ended with a ‘Planeteer Alert’ summarising the message of the episode or teaching viewers a lesson on topics such as pollution, gun violence, religious persecution and racism. (Without wanting to spoil the episodes, the show is against all of those things.)
The show was a worldwide success, famous for its celebrity voice actors including Whoopi Goldberg, Meg Ryan, Sting, Tim Curry, Elizabeth Taylor, Neil Patrick Harris and Jeff Goldblum. Keen-eyed viewers have also noted what appears to be a cameo by Shaggy and Velma from Scooby Doo for some reason.
Successfully solving all of the world’s problems without exception, Captain Planet was commendable for teaching kids ecological lessons, tolerance and the pertinent message that bullying is wrong even when certain people seem to leave few other viable options.