Over two and a half decades ago, a television producer named Haim Saban had the idea of adapting a popular, long-running, live-action Japanese superhero show called “Super Sentai” for a western audience. Although the plot and characters of the show changed annually, there was a premise that continued through its many incarnations: A group of characters that could transform into spandex-clad, helmeted heroes. Saban noticed that since the helmets covered the actor’s faces – it could have been anyone inside the suit.
Although several fruitless attempts had been made in years past to adapt a sentai show, one of which by Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee, Saban finally found success with the 16th Sentai season, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (alternate spelling Jurenja, translated as “Dinosaur Squadron Beast Ranger”). As part of the adaptation, American actors were cast to film new scenes for the civilian characters, and the same cast provided ADR for the recycled Sentai action footage. The adapted show was rebranded as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” and the rest is Saturday morning history.
One thing that was crucial to Saban was for “Power Rangers” to have an ethnically diverse cast, and over the decades the show has very prominently featured actors of many ethnicities. They hailed from Australia and New Zealand, to Scottland and Vietnam, and literally every place in between. This bold move was one of many that helped make the “Power Rangers” brand as hearty and long-lived as it has been. Fans around the world had someone on TV to relate to and see that they too could be a hero.
It was more about how the character was portrayed, rather than who it was portraying it. Any given character on the show could be played by an actor of any ethnicity. The casting sheets described the characters for the actors auditioning for the roles did not even mention ethnicity nor race. The fan community has accepted this diversity and embraced it with a dynamic fervor. Twenty-five years after the “Power Rangers” phenomenon debuted, it continues to expand in progressive ways. The 2017 feature film had the first openly LGBTQ Ranger as well as the first Ranger on the autism spectrum.
Saban’s decision all those years ago showed us that anyone could be in the myriad rainbow colors of spandex and that, in turn, has united a global fandom under the rainbow of human diversity.