Hello, this is nyx. I am writing a contrarian position on Captain Planet that kagahame wrote so eloquently on.
I normally do not speak of mediocre comics or animations – they could fill a book, nay, many libraries. Some of the worst animations have been one of indoctrinations that advocate positions, a cause celeb for every 60s radical to poor unsuspecting minds. The best mediocre comic or animation I ever saw was on Bible channel with Adam and Eve completely naked pondering about existence – this series purported to teach creationism but ended up making its viewers think of something else (ahem). Yet it was enjoyable and somewhat funny- all things that Captain Planet in retrospect was not.
I do remember that unfortunate age when this terrible cartoon was thrust on me. I was about 9 when I learned about the evils of global warming and cosmetics. I do remember the five main good characters: Kwame, Gi, Wheeler, Linca and Mat-ti, a perfect match of ethnic characters (black, asian, white american, east european and american indian) who fight against evil characters which includes an industralist pig literally, European merchant of death, evil scientist who experiments on cosmetics, rat-like disgusting person etc. Can anyone imagine a more perfect ‘exponent of liberalism (not including classic liberals or libertarians) or environmentalism?
The philosophy of Captain Planet
“That low down dirty scum took my ring. He’s a cheat; he’s a liar; but worse than that, he’s a polluter.” (italics mine)
Wheeler could not have said it better. People who pollute the environment are depicted as nasty creatures who personally care about their own profit and their own selves rather than the environment. While this remains partially true, no group deserves a representive like skumm or hoggish greedy. There is no complexity, no troubled reasons for environmental destruction – all the villains are two dimensioned or evil. What’s interesting is that though the heroes are diverse, the villains are not – they are all singularly of european origin (except for some animal ancestry or mutation of hogish greedly or skumm). No villain is asian or black or god forbid, american indian. Even the complex and somewhat annoying character of Wheeler who doubts the environmental message is white – no other main character is allowed the luxury of doubting lest the viewers get new ideas. Perhaps it was not apparent in 1993, but some of the most polluted countries are part of the developing world -Sao Paulo, most chinese cities like Beijing and Indian cities like Delhi come immediately to mind. This lack of asian or black supervillains is paternalistic. It implies that asian or blacks are not in charge of their own destinities and that they have no agency and thus can commit no wrong. There are many reasons for deforestation and pollution – some of them as simple as the simple fact that there are more people than they are inhabitable land and the fact that people are still in want of food to ward off starvation in many countries and environmental concern is only a preoccupation of the rich (the poor care only about the food in their stomachs).
But what the main quandry that Wheeler so aptly described in his quote was that environmental concerns trump personal flaws. The worst thing you can be was a polluteer – it is so despicable than even being a liar or being of general low character is not considered an impediment. Though somewhat sophisticated, it never goes beyond a level of basic liberalism in the 1990s – if it wasn’t for those pesky polluters, all would be well. By the virtue of polluting, these characters are beyond conventional morality. And so on.
Worst still, all these would be excusable if Captain Planet wore pants. Through, I don’t want to be biased against green headed catchphrase expounding superheroes, but the personality of captain planet, similar to Clark Kent’s Uperman but with less sophistication, is one of the least complex characters in the series. Even as a child, I would find myself secretly routing for Captain pollution, who, may I add, had much better character design. Wheeler who must win the prize for the most annoying redheaded american in the history of animation has ironically, the most complexity in the entire show – no one else has been shown to scumble to temptation (except for one episode whose message was ‘stop being disunited’). The second would be Linca who shows personality in contrast to Gi and Kwame. Mat-ti is the the most endearing character in the show because he is not pigheaded nor completely silent.
But finally, Captain Planet, I am sorry to say, is an example of a series with a mediocre animation and more mediocre characters whose philosophy is a reincarnation of 80s-90s liberalism and environmentalism with all its faults.
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