I saw something today that took me back:
... a Captain Planet magazine.
'Captain Planet and the Planeteers', a TV show airing in the early 1990s on American and Australian television, should probably have been renamed 'Captain Sanctimony and the Gormless Gits'. Plot-wise, the show was about five 'special young people' who were out to save the world from environmental catastrophe, with the help of a magical blue guy in superhero underwear (Captain Planet). The young people were said to be 'from all continents of the world', though in fact the Australian continent was somehow missed out. As for the 'special young people', they were actually generic ethnic stereotypes - the pragmatic blonde Eastern European girl (Linka), the fast-talking American lad (Wheeler), the fun-loving Asian girl (Gi), the shy but gentle young native South American (Kwami) and the boisterous African (Ma-Ti). Gi was kind of hot, but she had the disadvantage of being named after a type of Indian butter. The Earth was personified by a bland brown lady in wafty pink gowns called Gaia who was always moaning about some environmental disaster or other, and the environmental disasters were always caused by one of several standard villains with names like 'Looten Plunder'. And of course there was Captain Planet. I'm still not sure where he fitted in, except that he was always the guy that saved the day.
So basically, it was environmental propaganda. The 'evil' of environmental destruction and the 'goodness' of saving the planet were explained simplistically by the help of an over-obvious plot and representative caricatures. The whole idea - which was probably contrived in a North American or Canadian studio as a means of conveying 'environmental awareness' to children - started to come apart at the seams when the 'how' was explained. For instance, 'how' was Captain Planet always there to save the world? Apparently, it was because of the 'five special rings' given to 'five special young people' representing the 'powers of the earth', or something. These rings were able to zap people with colourful beams of light, and stuff, and also do really awesome things like make waves or tornados; so I guess they were kind of magic rings. And the beams could occasionally combine, at which point Captain Planet would somehow materialise out of the earth, or the ocean, or the air, or somewhere like that, with the grammatically ridiculous sentence, 'By your special powers combined, I am Captain Planet!'
Captain Planet was a shit. He had a smarmy American accent: not a real American accent, like a rolling Missouri drawl or a sharp Bronx twang, but the sort that lobotomised news presenters are trained to use*. He was always doing goody-goody things like cleaning up junk and litter and stopping bad guys from doing polluting, and stuff like that. More often than not, this required a bit of biff; and he always smiled and cracked jokes while doing this, as if he were very pleased with himself. Ever heard the expression 'too good to be true'? Well, Captain Planet was neither good nor true; he was an arrogant, smarmy bastard. And he had blue skin.
Captain Planet's best enemy was a guy called 'Captain Pollution'. Captain Pollution was really cool. As his name suggests, he was the absolute opposite of Captain Planet. Except he came out of five magic rings too, although these magic rings were 'polluting' magic rings. Captain Pollution had the slogan 'By your five polluting powers combined, I am Captain PoLUUUUUUUtion!'. It was a witty reference to Captain Planet's slogan, you see. Or at least as close as this show came to wit. Anyway, one cool thing about Captain Pollution was the way he spoke. He made it clear from the start that polluting was his job, and he absolutely and utterly loved his job. He was perfect; his accent was a mixture of melodramatic bad-guy growl, obnoxious schoolboy mocking, and Californian surfer. He had personality, and he actually believed in something. True, it was something bad and nasty and evil, like destroying the planet earth, but it was one thing more than Captain Planet believed in. Captain Planet was all pose; Pollution was real. Plus, Captain Pollution was the only guy who was ever able to kick Captain Planet's arse. Which he did twice, thanks to the efforts of the polluting villains and the scriptwriters (who by the end of the second season must have been running out of ideas anyway.)
So there you go; Captain Planet and the Planeteers, one of the shittier shows to burst onto Australian television screens. I wouldn't mind seeing a spin-off, though: maybe a sitcom called 'Captain Pollution in Hawaii', or 'Captain Pollution Does Something Bad', or something like that.
*Sorry to American readers if I got this bit about accents wrong; I actually don't know a great deal about American accents, so I'm only going on my very brief experience with Americans I've met and TV shows.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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