Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 37: Clean-Up Club



Teenager Engages In Cultural Appropriation While Recycling
Magic Horse Destroys Environment









The 90's were a really glorious time to be alive. We had bowl cuts, Snick, and a limited understanding on how to broach serious topics through our media. Today's episode is a beautiful time capsule into that period of naiveté, where the way to solve problems was with a real can-do attitude and a montage where everyone does flips for no reason.

The students of Angel Grove High School are piling into their seats as Ms. Applebee talks about a video project she's assigning the class. She can't get more than three words out before Bulk and Skull mongoloid their way into the classroom. Skull's filming Bulk for the film project entitled "Bulk: The World's Greatest Guy." They were going to call it "Falling Down", but Schumacher already beat them to the punch.

Bulk hams it up in front of the camera, which comes quite naturally to him.  He talks about how much Miss Applebee loves him and is a lovely teacher. If Bulk's supposed to be this huge bully why is he making documentaries about how he's such a huge kiss ass? Wouldn't someone like Bulk be making documentaries about beating up nerds and doing sweet tricks on his stepdad's motorcycle? Basically I want them to write Bulk like he's Mac from Always Sunny.

Why is he wearing Judy Funny's beret?

Skull disrupts the class by giving Bulk horrible direction so that he looks better on camera. It's actually a funny scene since Narvy and Schrier are funny enough actors to carry ridiculous shit like this. It takes a talented man to make you laugh by falling out of a high school chair, but by God Paul Schrier pulls it off.

Now that we've gotten a laugh or two out of the way, it's time for reality to hit like a truck. Trini is the first to present her video project to the class, and it's on the topic of pollution in Angel Grove. Her video shows various environmental problems like barrels leaking sludge into the water and a bunch of dead fish. The video is met with some maudlin shots of the Ranger Teens so that the audience knows that even some totally tubular karate flips won't be able to solve this problem! 

Trini's video goes on to say that we can't destroy nature's balance or harm the wildlife. Then the Sarah McLaughlin music comes on and we're all asked to donate to Greenpeace. The video ends as Billy starts blurting out how pollution really burns his biscuits. You're not fooling anyone Billy you just want to score points with Trini. Since the Ranger Teens are all generic good kids, they want to do something about those dying fish! Trini proposes a "clean-up club" where the members can count animals and work on recycling. Trini's first proposal is sending a show to Fox Kids that's made out of fifty percent recycled footage.

Speaking of recycled footage, Rita becomes overjoyed at the idea of polluting the planet to mess with the Rangers. She orders her crew to unleash Finster's newest monster, the Polluticorn. As you can obviously tell, the Polluticorn is a magical unicorn monster able to pollute the Earth by flying around and wrecking shit. Rita was never much one for subtlety. The Moon witch commands Scorpina and Goldar to guide her unicorn to Earth, while demanding Squatt and Baboo stand in the background and make quips while remaining irrelevant.

At the Youth Center, a gaggle of high schoolers are helping set up a recycling drive while we hear some ridiculous karate noises being made. I honestly assumed these faux Bruce Lee sounds were coming from Bulk, but we cut to Jason performing them. For someone whose entire life is based on karate, why is Jason acting like an asshole about it? It's such a weird nothing moment of Jason spewing racist sounding kung-fu noises before a very lackluster attempt at recycling.

It's Jason's Me So Solly bit.

Zack follows suit by stomping a can after coming out of a mantis stance. Nobody is even watching you two act like assholes, why are you dicking around to smash a grand total of three cans? I'm all for having fun while you work, but at least keep things moving. Not everything in your lives has to center around karate you jack offs.

Billy's collected recyclables inside of some containers that he's painted using a mixture of reused organic chemicals. So you painted them with piss and weed, got it. Kimberly gives Ernie tedious instructions on how to organize some recycling bins so that they can look nice while people throw garbage in them. The Ranger Teens leave to do some cleaning in the park while Bulk and Skull rush into the Youth Center to do some more filming for their project.

Bulk talks about how he loves going to the gym and getting his pump on, assuming that the only people who partake in this movie will be blind. Skull gets really upset when he realizes Bulk won't let him be in the one scene he wanted to be a part of. Bulk begrudgingly asks Ernie to film the twos work out sesh, to which Ernie mocks the idea of their physical fitness. Now as much as I give Bulk grief for being a giant slob, Ernie ain't no spring chicken himself. Are you abrasive to all your overweight customers who come in trying to lose weight Ernie? How does this guy stay in business? Oh right, all the indentured servants he makes out of teenagers.

The Ranger Teens find that the park is in complete shambles with garbage all over the place. There's something that rings really hollow about this scene, mostly because you know the crew are the people who threw all this garbage everywhere. We're not seeing a real garbage filled park, but a dumbed down version made by the production team who were given a garbage bag full of shredded paper and ten minutes to make a reasonably dirty looking park. I'm not asking them to go out and find the dirtiest sleaziest place in America to film the actors in; but doesn't it sort of defeat the purpose of your environmental episode if you go out of your way to dump a bunch of shit all over the ground and decry it?

Billy takes a soil sample and places it inside a test tube he has on him at all times. His scientific expertise concludes that the ground is "completely polluted." It's true that soil can be polluted by litter, so that's acceptable science even if it's horrendously simplified. However please take a look at the park that has reached critical pollution mass and tell me how bad it looks.

Someone was having a pretty bitchin' Dr. Pepper party in one corner of the park.

This is maybe an hour's worth of cleaning and you're telling me this has completely contaminated the entire park's ecosystem? You can see the point in the distance where the set dresser stopped polluting the goddamned park. A bunch of shredded tax forms aren't going to completely dismantle the ecosystem you clods, it's just going to make it look shitty. Billy your dumbass science has fucked us all.

So what is it that a bunch of typical average kids can do to solve this pollution problem? Well it seems pretty obvious. How about a KICKIN' RAD MONTAGE?!!?!?





The absolute stupidest moment in this entire episode is when Billy tests the soil after the Ranger Teens pick up the garbage. He starts grinning as if to imply that they've managed to fix the soil problem. Okay, you can tell me that litter will have negative ramifications on the park's soil and you're technically correct. The best kind of correct. However don't bullshit the audience and act like picking up some trash will have an immediate effect on the ecosystem you fucking hacks.

This is the moment I hit a crossroads with Power Rangers. Yeah, the episode with the polluting horse lost me. You can have your episode about how cleaning up the community is a super jammin' thing to do, but don't lie to kids about the impact that they're having by implying cleaning up trash will immediately fix the problem. Don't make kids think that doing an hour of flips and karate chopping pop cans is going to offer a magic cure to mother Earth. Just have the teens picking up trash and show the audience how much better it looks. 

Enough soapboxing, the teens have more miracles to create by picking up some stray beer cans. As the Ranger Teens depart, Bulk emerges from underneath the pile of garbage bags they left sitting in the park. The Ranger Teens must have mistaken him for a garbage can. Bulk intends to use all the trash as a photo op for his video project to act as though he's a good Samaritan.  There isn't a more adept summary of Bulk then a shot of him popping out of garbage bags saying "This is going to make me look good." God bless you ya big oaf.

The Ranger Teens fix up another section of the park when Billy notices Putties and calls them "pollutants." We surveyed a hundred people, top five answers on the board, name a word that can't be made to sound threatening. Pollutants IS our number one answer. Coincidentally, the second is "Polluticorn." The Rangers spar with the Putty Patrol while Billy of all people starts busting out flips and kicking the shit out of them. This must have been the point the writers decided he's had enough of a character arc and should just be good at karate now. Honestly it's been nearly 40 episodes, that's good enough for me.

After sacking the Putties, the Rangers congratulate themselves on beating Rita's helpless gray footie pajama wearing chickenshits. They aren't out of the woods yet though, Rita's Polluticorn shows up ready to take on the Power Rangers. Boy howdy, he looks like a real night mare!

Polluticorn
This guy has some serious horse power.

The Teens morph and try to take on the Polluticorn. He blitzes through the Rangers with his wings, blasts them with energy from his horn, and blows them away with wind from his wings. He knocks them around like they're on a carousel, and Trini tells her friends they need to stop this monster before he pollutes everything they just cleaned up. Yeah Trini that's the real issue here. You might have to do more work after getting shithoused by this big ass horse.

Goldar and Scorpina flip onto the scene and prepare to fight alongside the Polluticorn for the mane event. Before they attack the Rangers, the Polluticorn tells them to stand down because he's more than enough to take care of these schmucks. This unicorn is one cocky asshole. Maybe he wouldn't be so proud if he realized he's the last of his kin. Good luck propagating the species you dickhead horse.

Goldar comments, rather hoarsely, that he likes the Polluticorn's style. As dumb as it is that Goldar and Scorpina showed up for no reason but to stand around in the footage, I do like the bit of rapport he has with Polluticorn here. Giving monsters personalities other than "I FIRE LASER BEAMS OUT OF MY EYES" helps make them more memorable. The Polluticorn being a hot headed asshole is more fun than him just being a big horse who loves global warming.

The Rangers try knocking Polluticorn around but their attacks don't faze him at all. They punch him in his giant head but he doesn't even flinch before knocking them to the dirt. Billy concludes that the Rangers attacks can't harm the monster and they need to formulate a new strategy. The monster blasts them with energy beams from his eyes while saying how stoked he is to destroy their stupid planet. Remember when I made fun of monsters firing eyebeams and being vaguely threatening? Polluticorn managed to fill that quota out instantly. I swear that happened completely by accident. This show is a bunch of horseshit.

The Rangers hoof it back to the Command Center where Zordon informs them this monster may prove difficult to defeat. Expert analysis Zordon, I thought most monsters were able to shrug off punches. Billy helps Alpha figure out a solution to trampling the Polluticorn while Zordon shows the rest of the Rangers how unstable this creature really is. The monster is terrorizing a recycling plant downtown and plans on polluting the Earth to the point it can never be cleaned again. The Rangers prepare to prove Zordon wrong with a montage, but Alpha brings some levity by acting annoying.

What a horrible waste of paper. What's this episode about again? Who cares.

Billy's analysis shows that the Polluticorn's power comes from its horn. The horn that's been glowing throughout the fight every time the Rangers try to hit the monster. It sounds just crazy enough to be right, so the Rangers get back in the saddle to take on the Polluticorn. At the recycling plant, the Rangers are ambushed by Goldar and Scorpina while the Polluticorn gets ready to give Angel Grove a polluticornicopia. Jason tells the rest of the Rangers to fight Goldar and Scorpina while he assures them he'll put the horse down himself.

None of the Rangers are able to put up a decent fight against the trio. Jason gets cribbed by Polluticorn while his friends get demolished by Scorpina and Goldar. The Polluticorn prepares to defeat Jason but stops when he realizes he's got a recycling plant to destroy. The monster get its horsecock in a tizzy at the idea of polluting the planet, but Jason leaps into action with his Power Sword to try and hack off the monster's horn. The monster continues to no sell Jason's attacks, while wiping the peanut butter off of his lips and mocking the Red Ranger.

Goldar and Scorpina manage to ground the other four Rangers while Jason realizes he needs to finish this fight now. He calls for the Dragon Shield and Dragon Dagger to give him an extra boost of energy. The monster tries to keep up by blasting energy balls from its horn, but Jason shows the monster what's what.

Stay golden Ponyboy

Rita is pissed that her monster horse got maimed, but insteed of giving up she makes the monster grow. The Rangers bring out the Megazord to fight this bucking bronco and make themselves a nice new batch of glue. Even without his horn, the Polluticorn manages to put up a decent fight against the Dinozords. He flies through the air and slashes the Megazord with his wings, while most definitely littering the city with horse feathers.

The Rangers get sick of being kicked around by this doofy ass horse, so they summon the Power Sword to even the playing field. Inexplicably the Megazord leaps into the air and flies at the monster before slashing him into horse meat. Would you feel comfortable eating that on your burger? Personally I say neigh.

Back at the Youth Center, the Rangers take time away from their clean-up club duties to watch a news report on how great the Power Rangers are for murdering giant farm animals that attack their city. It's nice to see the producers of the show believe in recycling as well, because this exact same news report footage has already been used twice before.

The Rangers finish up the work at the recycling drive while piling up a whole bunch of cans, bottles, and newspapers. Kim notes that all the plastic that's been collected can be used to make, like, SO many credit cards. I thought that valley girl garbage was just a phase Kim, who are you trying to impress? Bulk and Skull waddle into the Youth Center, and we're treated to one of the best pratfalls Bulk's had all season.

There are men who were put on this planet solely to fall down.

The next day in class, Bulk and Skull have to present their finished video project. Skull barges in with the tape, having just finished editing it, and gives it to Ms. Applebee. Skull promises that in spite of a few glitches, the tape will look fantastic. Bulk is clearly excited to see the video, but is shocked to watch as the tape is cut so poorly that it makes Bulk say humiliating things such as  "THAT MISS APPLEBEE. CAN'T TEACH" and "IM A STUPID MORON WITH AN UGLY FACE AND A BIG BUTT AND MY BUTT SMELLS AND I LIKE TO KISS MY OWN BUTT." The episode ends as everyone cackles at how stupid Bulk is, no doubt because of all his horsin' around.




Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Monsters with Personalities



Personal Thoughts:


This episode really surprised me. When I was a kid I didn't have this episode recorded, but I vaguely knew about it having a unicorn monster and being about recycling. Why this made me want to watch it I'm not sure, but as it stands it's not that great. There's only one thing I really liked about the episode, but it definitely wasn't the show's tepid attempt at addressing real world issues.

Not because the show was being preachy about recycling or whatever. This is a show for children that's trying to teach them about a real threat without terrifying them into nihilism, I can handle if they hit the nail a bit too on the head. My problem is that you can't make recycling exciting. I'm sorry, but you can surround it with as many flips and karate chops as you want, but at the end of the day you're just stacking bottles.

I was hoping to get excited about the fight with the Polluticorn as well, but even that didn't really pump me up very much either. Jason chopping his horn off is fun, but the Megazord fight does absolutely nothing for me. Possibly because the editors cut a chunk of it out, but I'll explain that in a moment. What kept me interested in this episode were all of the Bulk and Skull scenes.

I haven't hidden my love for these two by any means, but today's episode is absolutely their time to shine. Usually we get a scene or two of them assholing around, but this week we get no less than four separate scenes of them embarrassing themselves. At no point did I find myself tired of seeing them, and I kept getting giddy whenever they popped back up.

The through line of Bulk thinking he's going to look really cool in this video while being woefully ill equipped to do so is just funny to watch. When this silly ass show from the early 90's can get a genuine laugh out of me, I'm pretty impressed. If you have any desire to check this episode out just fast forward through the discussion on pollution and watch the Bulk and Skull scenes. Or just jerk off and take a nap. Both are pretty fulfilling ways to spend an afternoon.

During the Putty fight, the choreographer did something I found really cool. The Ranger Teens do an unmorphed version of the Tower Formation. Assuming you don't remember what that is, let me catch you up to speed.



What I like about this is it helps sell you on the idea that the Ranger Teens are actually the superheroes inside those suits. It helps you ignore the fact that you're clearly watching a Sentai series and blends the American footage with the Japanese footage in a nice way.

Another comparison that can be made was how the Japanese counterpart of this episode also had a plot dealing with pollution. The episode was about a little boy who attacked people who he saw polluting because they were messing up the planet. As a matter of fact all the footage in Trini's video project comes from the Zyuranger episode! Did the writers want to do an episode about pollution or did they just feel lazy and saw they could cram in some more Japanese footage to pad the runtime?

The Zord fight against Polluticorn in Zyuranger originally had the Rangers summon Titanus to carry the Megazord into battle against the monster. Why this was cut I really can't say, but it makes the Megazord's leap into the sky a lot more nonsensical.Originally the Megazord was using Titanus as a boost to launch itself into the sky to catch the monster off guard. Here the Megazord just decided to jump really high.

The U.S. production crew didn't have the Polluticorn costume on hand for filming, or it could have been received in too poor of condition to use. I'm more inclined to believe the latter, because during the fight with the Red Ranger you can see that the costume is tearing. Just look underneath the monster's left leg and you'll see what I mean.





1 comment:

  1. I totally misread "After sacking the Putties" as "After sucking the Putties".

    The pyramid bit was awesome, and I love how Kim and Trini look at each other - as if saying "Yeah, we're such badasses. LET'S DO THIS!"

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