As early reviews for Lionsgate's new Power Rangers film appear on news and entertainment sites, fans of the franchise are also learning new details about the film. We now know that one of the Rangers will be the first gay superhero featured in a blockbuster film. And there's more: reviews also revealed that the story of another Ranger has a unique aspect. Billy, the Blue Ranger, is on the Autism Spectrum.
The Blue Ranger, played by R.J. Cyler, is part of a cast that represents viewers from a more broad spectrum of life than most big-budget films, with Asian, African-American, and Latina leads.
In the original TV show, the Blue Ranger was not written as autistic. The revelation that Lionsgate's screen adaptation has added that depth to his character demonstrates the film is headed for a more grounded approach than the show, and is not taking its influence on young adults lightly.
Cyler, speaking with Screen Rant, explains why he was dedicated to bringing truth to Billy and his experience with autism in the film:
I actually sat down and shut my mouth and actually just listened and accepted every bit of information with no judgement… I knew that it was my job to show that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people, literally, just how we talk, how me and Becky [Becky G, Yellow Ranger] talk, they feel the same way, they have the same emotions, they wanna be loved, that want people to love, they want relationships they want, you know, connections, and it’s just like I was really excited to be able to play that ’cause I know it means so much to so many people, ’cause all of us are affected by it.
This, unexpectedly, comes about just as Sesame Street also introduces a new character with autism.
In 2016 Autism Speaks reported that 1 in every 68 children are on the Autism Spectrum in the United States. With that figure in mind, you can see how rarely entertainment reflects those on the spectrum, and how many people have no one to relate to on TV or in flm.
Here's a great example. A young woman took her younger brother, who is on the Autism Spectrum, to see Guardians of the Galaxy. She left overjoyed. Her brother found that he and the character Drax were very much alike, in that they had trouble understanding and interpreting metaphors. Her brother was inspired by Drax, and began to talk about how people with autism could be superheroes, too. Director James Gunn even shared the post along with his profound adoration and respect for the boy and the unique qualities he shared with Drax.
For young adults, heck, for everyone, Power Rangers could be a game-changing film. Slowly but steadily we are seeing inclusiveness in entertainment from characters who suffer from depression and anxiety to those born with down syndrome and cerebral palsy. As the Blue Ranger himself said, they just want to be loved and accepted the same as everyone else. There is nothing unique to people with special needs about that; it's just humanity, the same thing we all share. Why shouldn't we all be represented equally in entertainment?
The news of both the Blue and Yellow Ranger helping bring otherwise rarely represented people to the big screen only makes me more excited to see the film this Friday. Go Go Power Rangers!
'Power Rangers' hits Theaters on March 24th, 2017