There is something I’ve been thinking about since seeing the new Power Rangers movie that I think is a little fucked up. It’s not as fucked up as, say, the movie Passengers (have you seen that movie? Totally fucked up). There will be MAJOR SPOILERS discussed below. I encourage everyone to see the movie before reading this. I also just plain encourage everyone to go see the movie, regardless. It’s actually pretty great. Probably the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Force Awakens, and the most feels I’ve had at the movies since Lilo & Stitch.
So, in the Power Rangers movie, the 5 “teenagers with attitude” are mostly screw-ups and social outcasts, even ones who seem like they should be doing well socially (Jason was the star quarterback of the high school football team until he fled a prank gone awry and got into a major traffic accident, Kimberly was a cheerleader). Three of them meet in Saturday detention (a la The Breakfast Club), which I guess is still a thing? Jason and Kimberly meet there, even though he’s a football star and she’s a cheerleader, both at a high school in a fairly small town (in the original series, Angel Grove was a slightly fictionalized version of Los Angeles, even using stock forage of LA for establishing shots. In the new movie, it’s a tiny shit-burg). It seems a little unlikely that they’d have no interaction whatsoever prior to this, but, whatever.
Jason’s there because of the prank thing, which also lost him any shot at a football scholarship to college. What’s cheerleader Kimberly doing there? As we learn when two of her friends confront her in the lady’s room, she apparently punched a guy’s tooth out. Her friends tell her that she’s out of their group, literally cutting her out of a photo of the three of them.
But why did Kimberly punch a guy’s tooth out? Glad you asked, because this is where it gets fucked up. Deep into the second act, Kimberly confesses to Jason that the reason she punched the guy was that he called her “the meanest person in the world.” Or maybe “the meanest person he’d ever met.” Honestly, I’m working from memory here on a movie I’ve only seen once, so some of these quotes (all of these quotes) are really more like paraphrases. The reason he called her the “meanest person” was because Kimberly, for reasons not entirely clear, had a nude selfie of one of her friends, who wanted to go out with the guy, and forwarded it to him with a caption that said, “Is this really the kind of girl you want to take home to your mom?”
I think Kimberly also used to date the guy. Not sure how it works for the ladies, but for dudes, you don’t mess around with your buddy’s ex. That is not an excuse, just a little aside.
Yeah, Kimberly was involved in a cyberbullying/sexting scandal. When confronted about how terrible of a thing it was to do, she punched the guy who confronted her. Kimberly quickly realized that what she’d done was terrible and now wants to be a much better person than that.
The actual forwarding of the photo was messed up enough, but things get a little more messed up later, which is what I believe pushes the situation over into the realm of being fucked up. Up until this revelation, the girls who cut Kimberly out of their social circle were presented as the mean girls, the bullies. Finding out the truth really changes the picture (no pun intended). We now realize Kimberly was in the wrong, and probably deserved what she got and worse, even if she is now trying to make up for it.
During the final conflict between the Rangers and the villainous Rita, along with the monstrous Goldar and her mindless Putty minions, some of the destroyed Putty parts rain down on the town of Angel Grove. Some of the pieces land on the hood of the car of Kimberly’s former friends, and she has a little smile and says, “That’s what you get.” And the audience has a little laugh along with her, because she’s one of our heroes.
Right, that’s what they get because those two were mean to Kimberly throughout the movie, and seeing them get their car wrecked by stone golem debris is a stone cold helping of poetic justice.
Except, wait, why were they mean to Kimberly again? Oh, right, for something she did that was extremely wrong and deserving of what they gave her.
That angle is never explored, though. The Rangers just go about their world-saving business, and the last we see of the two girls is them sitting in their wrecked car, which a boy who bullied Billy pre-Ranger takes refuge in the back of.
The Rangers save the world, and all is well. Except that a laugh is had at the expense of a girl who was a victim of revenge porn. Or maybe it wasn’t really revenge porn, because the girl and Kimberly weren’t even on the outs when the picture was forwarded, and Kim seemed to act like they should still be friends after. But it’s still a sexual-based crime. And why did Kim have that photo, anyway?
I think it was a bold choice to make one of the Rangers to be someone who actually had done something terrible and was now trying to be better. Jason pulled a prank and messed up badly fleeing the scene. Billy had an experiment in his lunchbox that he didn’t realize would explode in his locker (though, you’re seriously telling me that in a post-Columbine, post-9/11 world, someone who detonated an explosive in school, even if unintentionally, would get detention, not expulsion/prosecution? I can tell you they wouldn’t, because it happened at my high school in the late 90’s in a fairly small town, and the kid responsible was booted out of school and arrested). Trini’s family moves too often for her to make any real social connections during her formative teen years, and her family is not accepting of her sexuality (I really think she has a crush on Kimberly, to be honest). Zack just has no fucks to give and barely shows up for school. All four of them are just misfits, or youngsters who made an honest mistake. But Kimberly did something horrible to someone who was supposed to be her friend. The film acknowledges this, and a big part of Kimberly’s arc is trying to be the person she wants to be, rather than still being the girl who betrayed a friend.
And then she, and the audience, cheers at the misfortune of her victim. That final note just sits wrong with me.