This Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Episode 16
Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel has a lot of issues. You could point to many in this episode that continue issues seen throughout the season. Victor and Monty basically being cartoons characters, the poorly laid out set up for future episodes (the Rangers just happen to leave behind a star, really?), the dialogue which feels the need to repeat what we’ve already seen, but that’s just more of the same.
What this episode demonstrated is that Super Ninja Steel has an agenda. Now of course all media has various types of agendas. The biggest one of Power Rangers is of course buy a lot of toys. But there’s a deeper and more troubling agenda that’s been slowly revealing itself over the past few episodes.
Have you caught it? Look at some of the plots as of late. In “Fan Frenzy” Levi was chastised for simply wanting some space from an overzealous fan. In “Sheriff Skyfire” the team was told to respect lawmakers, no matter how tone deaf their requests are. In today’s episode? Even if your dream has come true you better stay in school.
This all adds up to the worrying message that if you don’t conform to socital norms? You will be punished.
Levi felt responsible for the fan who put himself in danger, even if he had nothing to do with it. Hayley felt the need to make it up to the security guard, even through she’s never done anything anywhere near as bad as Victor or Monty. Calvin is made to feel like crap even though his dream is fairly simple.
These episodes paint the picture that simply submitting to what’s expected of you, no matter how wrong it is, would have made you happier. If Levi had done everything the fan had asked he would have avoided all that trouble. Hayley wouldn’t have been punished if she had just shut up and done what the security guard said (the most worrying lesson of all, as I discussed in that review). Calvin should go to college and learn something much more respectable than just being a mechanic. Then he’ll be happy.
It’s pretty odd these episodes are some of the few times there’s actually been even a small amount of conflict on the team. Most other times everyone’s friendly and never have problems with one another. But if one of them dares to think for themselves or speak out against what society expects of them? NOPE. They are punished by the plot and made to learn a lesson even through they were totally in the right.
Look, the Ninja Steel Rangers worrying about Calvin dropping out of school isn’t the worst plot decision. Any reasonable teenager would question why their friend is dropping out. But again, this is the team that is nice to each other on the daily, who brushed aside worries about Brody’s soon to be revealed as robot brother because FRIENDSHIP or whatever. Now they all express concern and question Calvin’s actions? This is the time we finally introduce conflict?
If the episode were better handled the Rangers would had questioned Calvin’s decision but ultimately chose to accept it. Just because he isn’t following their path in life doesn’t make it wrong. Plus, he’s still able to be a Ranger! But no, we’re instead treated to Mick’s inane lesson that “well I stayed in school and I can fix alien spaceships!”
Calvin has never expressed a desire to learn how to fix alien tech. At the top of this episode he seemed perfectly happy fixing regular ol’ human cars. Even if his boss wasn’t as excited about it, that doesn’t mean the job was bad.
Why is Calvin made to feel he has to finish school when he admits it’s very tough for him? Why can’t we celebrate teens that have aspirations that don’t involve college? Lest we forget, we had a whole episode with Sarah worrying about getting into college and that was treated with respect.
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But no, if you’re content with working in a perfectly viable (and much needed!) job as a mechanic, you’re not good enough. It’s not seen as worthy. Why not? People with trade skills are just as valuable as anyone else. Is this another agenda for the series? Seeing trade workers as “lower class” and not something to aspire to? Calvin got his dream and the Rangers don’t support him. They feign it, but it’s not genuine.
Super Ninja Steel is obsessed with wrapping up any kind of character arc in the span of twenty-two minutes so of course we weren’t going to get this spread out over multiple episodes. We were never going to actually explore an issue a real teenager might face and one that would be helpful for a kid to see. That’s not surprising, but it’s still disappointing.
At best this speaks to an unconscious bias in the series’ executive staff. Perhaps they come from a place of privilege and don’t see the value in people with trade skills. At worst it’s a blatant agenda to instill in children’s minds that if you aren’t striving to submit to what society expects of you, you’re worthless.
That’s dangerous. That’s damaging to the young minds this series is for. I’m sure many of you are going, “you’re thinking too much about this. It’s just a kids show.” No. Kids pick up on things. This kind of bias sets into their brains early.
Power Ranger’s long running axiom (often used to excuse its lack of quality in recent years) is that it’s “for kids.” Instead of using that as an excuse for poor writing and stupidly cartoonish plots, it should instead be using that as a call to arms to find the best moral lessons to instill in children instead of poisoning their minds with this blatant call for conformity.